Alberton residents ask for referendum on new hall

Alberton residents want a referendum before council there goes ahead with plans to build a new community hall.
About 35 residents attended a public meeting in the municipal office last Thursday night to voice their concerns about building the new hall–and most seemed to be opposed to the idea.
“I’ve lived in this community more than most people have and I don’t see why we should put more money into a hall. We’re too close to Fort Frances,” said Bob Gadd, who noted residents no longer are interested in working to maintain community buildings.
“It doesn’t matter what kind of facility you have, it takes volunteers. The days of volunteers is gone . . . those days are gone forever,” he argued. “We can’t even get people to clean the rink.”
Many residents agreed there wasn’t enough community interest to warrant building a new hall. Yvonne Chambers has served on the recreation committee and said getting the community to take on the project would be unsuccessful.
“We’ve tried it, more than once we’ve tried it, and it just doesn’t work,” she said.
Alberton council has been allotted $94,000 from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.–providing the money is used by Sept. 1. Because the existing hall must undergo constant renovations, council has proposed the money be spent on a new, larger hall along Highway 11/71 near the municipal office.
“What really hits home to me is when you look at that building, it was under-built,” said building official Frank Berg. “There has been water damage causing things like boards to rot and a little bit of fry rot.”
But before an individual proposal is considered, residents requested they be asked whether a hall is necessary at all.
“Why would you give it 10 cents if you won’t use it for anything,” said Gadd. “I’d like to have a motion we have a referendum on this to see if the general public wants a new hall.”
The suggestion will be addressed by council at its next meeting and could be included on the ballot for the municipal election this fall.
“The premise now is we either do or we don’t,” said Coun. Barb Cournoyer, who presented the proposal to the public at last week’s meeting.
In the meantime, council will have to ask the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines for an extension on the $94,000 grant.
Only one resident at the meeting voiced approval for a new hall.
“I think the [current] hall is in tough shape, the community has grown, and we need a new hall,” said Louis Byma.
A number of people also suggested adding a new facility onto the Alberton school.
“I think if you’re going to do anything at all, it should be hooked onto our school. To put another hall in our community . . . it’s not feasible,” said Chambers, who was applauded by several of those on hand.