Monday, January 5, 2009

Haldimand "Where is our Leisureplex?"

The following is an article by Karen Best in regards to a new Arena in Dunnville. I have done a bit of background on this issue and I find it very difficult to understand what has happened.

It looks like a full committee was formed (many moons ago), council had agreed in concept, there was land in place, and yet today it looks dismal for Dunnville.

I would also assume that public money had been raised as well, but the article doesn't talk about that issue. So if there is anyone that has information in regards to money please post away.

One comment by Rick Lane does seem a bit out of line. When he was asked about the Central Park wading pool he stated that:

"It's kind of like the arenas. We are operating it to failure," he said.

What responsible staff member in any community would say such a thing. I am sure that an arena would take a few years to build, so is he suggesting that we don't build until the old arena falls down?

Former mayors support new arena plans
December 2008

Two former mayors have stepped forward to support construction of a new arena in Dunnville.
Bernie Corbett, who served as town mayor from 1988 to 1991, said he supported the Dunnville Sports and Leisure Project group and will provide a cash donation.

"I support them wholeheartedly and the people doing it deserve a whole lot of respect, cooperation and support," he added.

While mayor 20 years ago, he was very supportive of the Maple Creek Leisureplex project, that included an arena.

The Dickson property, now called the Frank A. Marshall Business Park, was purchased by the former Town of Dunnville council for recreational purposes and the council of the day had arrangements to go ahead, he said. The leisureplex group had good ideas, a good design and good people on board to push it through, said Corbett, who also served 15 years as a councillor.

In 1999, Corbett was appointed to the transition board established by the Ontario government to cut the former Region of Haldimand and Norfolk into two counties. Minor issues were transferred to two new municipal councils.

"I would have thought they would have carried through with arrangements, " said Corbett. "It was a commitment to the public and at that point in time, this was going to happen."
In his opinion, carrying on with the leisureplex fulfilled an agreement to use the land for recreation and other uses such as industrial to pay the way. Corbett said there was no sense in repairing the old arena.

Former Dunnville mayor Bob Blake also expressed support in the original sport complex.
"Like a lot of projects it was long in the making," he said. "The industrial park was the first step."

He said a sport complex was a good fit in an industrial park in Dunnville just as it was in Kitchener and other urban areas. Blake served as a councillor from 1973 to 1985. From 1991 to 1999, he was mayor.

In a Kitchener industrial area, a driveway between two houses led to a sport complex where factory employees spent their lunch hours kicking soccer balls and playing volleyball, he said.

While Blake was mayor a road was built into the 45-acre property on Broad Street to facilitate development of the leisureplex. Now he supports the current group's efforts to build an arena and other facilities on this property. To sell the concept, members must do research and prepare a strategy to convince council members, he added.

Blake and Corbett are just a few former town politicians who are prepared to demonstrate their support to Haldimand County council, said Dave Dunham. He is the chair of the Dunnville Sport and Leisure Project.

Feeling abandoned by local councillors, he and Mike Ramsey believe Ramsey Drive is still the only location for a new arena.

Twenty years ago, Dunham served on the sports advisory committee which looked at every potential property . Even after numerous studies and public meetings, the Ramsey Drive property remained the best option. It doesn't make sense to look at alternative sites, said he said.

Ramsey referred to an Oct. 1999 Dunnville council motion of an agreement in principle for a recreation facility on this property. A site plan was the only missing piece and council's position was never rescinded, he added.

SEE DUNNVILLE PROJECT At the Dec. 15 council committee meeting, Coun. Lorne Boyko told his colleagues that he suggested the group look for an alternative site as a fall back position. Because the county invested $1.9 million to service nine of 45 acres of industrial zoned land, this location is a non-starter for an arena, he added.

The business park was expected to bring in at least 135 new jobs.

Other council members said the first issue is determining if construction will go ahead. Location will be a council decision, said community services general manager Hugh Hanly.

Even with the delay and disagreement over a site, the project group remained committed to a new arena. Penny boxes are one thing and so are $100 and $500 donations but the group needs millions but can't get it until a property is secured, Ramsey also pointed out that home owners located at Briar Glen, Maplewood and Meadowbrook Crescents were promised a buffer between them and industry. What better buffer than an arena and sports complex, he said. An arena may actually kick start development in the industrial park, he added.
During his term on Dunnville's council, Ramsey said the sports complex was discussed for almost a decade. "I'm offended that this council wants to go back and start over," he said. "Enough delay."

The group has a planner, who is volunteering services, on board and a lawyer ready to look over documents and any agreements between the county and the arena fundraising group.

While the public waited for a staff review of a consultant recommendation to build arenas in Cayuga and Dunnville, community services and finance staff were looking at options. On Nov. 26, they met with council in a closed committee of the whole meeting.

In a memo tabled at the Dec. 15 committee meeting, Hanly said staff will analyze options with respect to base service levels in arenas and building audits to look at immediate and mid term needs in the two arenas. As well, a framework work for community partnerships will be devised.

At the meeting, Hanly said a draft report was not yet written and that recommendations or decisions were not yet devised. The Dunnville group was told about the lengthy process to designate the Ramsey Drive lands as industrial, he added.

Boyko asked his colleagues if they were willing to reevaluate the industrial park for a permanent recreation facility. It was premature to comment on a site because a determination has not been made on construction, replied Coun. Buck Sloat.

After council's discussion, Hanly said it was prudent to weigh arena construction against other financial issues. An $8 million arena will have a huge impact on the tax supported budget and would include debt financing, he added. Meanwhile council is not finished with its review of the capital budget and has not made decisions on debt, he added.

Hanly planned to finish his report in early spring before council begins deliberations on the tax supported budget.

In a later session on the capital budget, leisure services manager Rick Lane was asked about the Central Park wading pool and timing of its replacement.

"It's kind of like the arenas. We are operating it to failure," he said.

Later Lane said even if a decision is made to build, repairs to both arenas will be necessary. Boyko said he understood sensitivities and the potential for tough recommendations but wanted the future of the two arenas addressed once and for all.


  1. IMO opinion our whole county is ruuning to failure. $50,000 dollars of our tax money was spent on a consultant for the arenas in Dunnville and Cayuga, and we are no further ahead today then we were 20 odd years ago.

    I was around at the time when this committee was working toward a new leisureplex. I can tell you there was money raised by the public and I think that the money was in the capable hands of the county. As far as where has the money gone and how much was raised I am not sure, but I am sure that someone will know the answer.

    The way I look at it is Dunnville has always done things without the county, gives us our land back and any money plus interest and we will do the rest ourselves!

  2. Considering that Mayor Trainer won her first mayoral election (against Edith Fuller in 1991)based on her opposition to the Caledonia Leisureplex, I find it laughable that this council would consider using local tax payer money to fund this for Dunnville. Once again, the career politicians that occupy seats on Haldimand County council are doing what they do best.....protecting their cushy jobs and political appointments. When will the voters of this county wake up and realize that these career politicians are only interested in self-preservation?

  3. I am sick and tired of this county that constantly hires consultants. These consultants are paid from our tax dollars. What good has come out of any of them?

    Let's visit a few; arena study, $50,000 dollars a few years work and now nothing! Parking study $25,000 two years to complete and now nothing! Fire Station study, I think that cost around $10,000 and now nothing! Haldimand County Hydro consultants blunder...cost half a million, nothing! And the list goes on..........

    When are the residents of Haldimand County going to realize that our council gives the okay for all of this and for what? Well maybe it is just making it look like they are doing something! We are not that stupid, or are we?

    Oh and we can't forget just recently a shared cost with Norfolk County for $5,000 on a study to support Bruce Power and their endeaver into a Nuclear Plant! In fact this study that you and I paid for is being used by Bruce Power a "private" company, and if I am not mistaken wasn't a very good legal decision from our council.

    I agree with the poster that states these councillors are only proctecting their cushy jobs.

  4. That's exactly what career politicians do.....they hire consultants to protect themselves from being accused of making bad decisions. I see a direct co-relation between governments that have a large number of career politicians on board, and high consulting fees. Politicians that put their constituents first will make decisions themselves, then live by the consequences. Where did we get off the track?

  5. Staff and politicians in Dunnville need to get off their high horses. Karen Best should have asked Boyko about the arena he was on council then, in fact all of the current council members are fully aware that they are other council members are going to be held liable for both the land and the money. Ramsey may have said that they only want the land back, but many will not even donate money because they already did prior and the county has spent it on something else, like the Caledonia Arena! This needs to go to a court of law.

  6. Hanly planned to finish his report in early spring before council begins deliberations on the tax supported budget.

    What exactly takes staff so long? The consultant did his job. I went to the meeting in April of 2008 and heard his review. He then went to council I believe in May of 2008? And now staff will not have this report done until spring of 2009? Hanly gets paid over $100,000.00 dollars a year, maybe he is not the person for the job if a simple report takes him a year to do.

    Staff and politicians in Haldimand are going to get bit on the ass very soon. It looks like issues are starting to collide, much to do, much already paid for, no results!