I read with interest MLA Steve Nordick’s recent open letter to the public expressing his ‘personal’ view that Dawson should receive a brand new recreation complex.
I think almost everyone would agree that a shiny new recreation centre is something we all deserve. Especially when taxpayers in the rest of Canada are obliged to pay for it, as they do for all other infrastructure in the Territory.
Let’s step back and get a reality check on the Art & Margie Fry Centre in the context of recent Dawson history.
It wasn’t that long ago that our municipality was under the control of an appointed trustee. Eventually a new mayor and council was elected, bolstered by a promise from our Territorial Government – that has since been fulfilled, to pay off Dawson’s crippling debt, inject some stimulus cash into the system and help improve the ailing AMF recreation centre, not to mention other outstanding issues like the pending waste water treatment court order, for example.
In other words, in 2006 our new council inherited a ‘rat’s nest’ of unresolved problems and issues, not the least of which was the recreation centre. For those of us who stepped up to the municipal plate, it was a challenge to successfully thread our way through this maze of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
With the help of Community Services Minister of the day, Glenn Hart, we undertook engineering studies to obtain a clear picture of the building. It was revealed that the superstructure was ‘sound as a pound’ and apart from a few relatively minor seismic issues, this recreation centre wasn’t going to fall over any time soon, the foundations were not moving one iota.
Of course there’s more to it than just a stable superstructure. The skating rink had problems which we improved upon from year to year, allowing us to improve the facility to a level that was satisfactory to most hockey players and other users.
Mr. Nordick refers to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city and the Territorial Government. It set the terms and conditions based on an offer that was made by Minister Hart to address seismic deficiencies as well as open up the vast unused space upstairs.
The last point is important because during the trusteeship period, Dawson’s Youth Centre was shut down and the building liquidated, forcing many directionless teenagers onto the street. Therefore it was always my hope that we could use that dormant area on the second floor for youth activities as well as other community purposes. As far as I know, that work is still being pursued by the oversight committee.
Mr. Nordick’s suggestion that the past council rejected any possibility of artificial ice is not entirely accurate. Even though there was no provision for it in the MOU, the potential for an ice plant was not completely off the radar. Last year, the Territorial Government was increasingly receptive to the idea of providing funding for this enhancement, especially with the knowledge that newer and less costly technologies were being developed.
Ultimately, all parties recognized that making improvements to the partially finished Recreation Centre was not simply a case of ‘throwing good money after bad.’
Even if a new facility was built elsewhere in Dawson, the existing structure could be transformed into badly needed office space, a convention centre or even an addition to Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. It certainly would not be abandoned or condemned.
All of this was in keeping with my view as mayor, that prudence and common sense should prevail when prioritizing costly projects for the citizens of Dawson. A virtually new recreation facility just didn’t make sense within the context of other pressing issues facing us at the time. We needed to show fiscal responsibility and restraint rather than whine about not having the ‘perfect’ recreation complex.
The obvious purpose of Mr. Nordick’s public appeal, trumpeting his ‘personal’ wish for a sparkling new facility is to garner some support in that direction from the electorate.
Like I said, who wouldn’t want a beautiful recreational complex with all the bells and whistles? Mayor Jenkins is rattling the bars, agitating for a new one.
Is it realistic?
Dawson serves approximately 1,800 citizens in and around the town. We are in the process of spending $25 million for a wastewater treatment plant, a new health facility for another $25 million, and the Dawson Yukon College Campus for $5 million plus, and another cool $6 million or so for a new Yukon Housing apartment building. Further, what will a new and improved recreation complex cost, $40 million perhaps?
The golden rule that almost every elected politician understands is; to win the hearts of the electorate, pave their roads. So we can add another $6 million to the tab for the Front Street resurfacing that was done last summer.
If we tally the total, including the estimate for a new rec centre we are contemplating over $100 million or, roughly $55,000 per citizen. Not bad!
So, next time you are in Toronto, be sure to thank passersby for keeping us in the style to which we have become accustomed.