North-end rink to remain closed but intact

Duane Hicks

The north-end rink will not re-open this winter but the boards will stay up in case town council decides to change its mind in the future.
During its initial budget meeting yesterday afternoon, council discussed a request from local resident Randy Thoms to re-open the rink, which was closed at the end of the 2017 season as a budget-cutting measure.
Both the rink and shack were slated for demolition last year but that ended up being deferred to this year due to lack of manpower.
After determining that not only was the rink not well-utilized prior to being shut down (one of the reasons for closing it in the first place), along with cutting its nearly $4,400 operating cost from that year’s tight budget, but that the rink shack needs to be rebuilt (which would cost at least $45,000), council agreed to deny Thoms’ request.
However, some members of council felt that while it was advisable to level the old shack, the rink boards should be left up for now.
This is with the understanding that if council does opt to re-open the north-end rink in the future, a new shack would have to be built there.
“I am not sure if we should re-open it this year but I’d hate to see it demolished because once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Coun. Michael Behan.
“If the mill starts up, 300 jobs, more families, then all of the sudden we’re looking to build rinks,” he reasoned.
He added that perhaps the lack of manpower last year, which spared the rink from being dismantled, could be seen as “a stroke of luck” and the demolition now be held off for another year.
Mayor June Caul, who lives on Portage Avenue across from the rink, noted its usage had decreased in recent years and that was factored into the decision to close it in 2017.
“But living across from the rink, I also see that there are more younger families moving in now,” she noted.
“Demographics changes in every area and I feel the same as Mike.
“I would never want to see it taken down completely right now,” she remarked.
“I do understand that the building [the rink shack] is not in great shape,” Mayor Caul added. “The building would need to be replaced, and lighting and so on would have to be inspected and checked and everything.
“If we decide not to open it this, for sure I would not want to see that rink torn down and everything go a big, open field.”
The next town budget meeting is set for Feb. 19 at 4 p.m.