Township will pay for construction drawings of proposed expansion of Sunderland arena

Brock Township will foot the bill for construction drawings related to the proposed expansion of the Sunderland Memorial Arena.

At Monday’s (Sept. 18) meeting, members of council voted unanimously in favour of a motion from Regional Councillor Ted Smith that called for the municipality to assume the cost of having the drawings prepared.

“I think this is a logical move after quite a bit of preparation. There is interest from the Sunderland Lions in providing us with some funding for the renovation and updating of the Sunderland Arena,” says Coun. Smith, noting that the drawings would be required if the Township was to apply for funding for the project from the provincial or federal governments.

Ward 5 Councillor Lynn Campbell, who seconded the motion, called this a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the township.

Coun. Smith’s notice of motion was put forth following a presentation from the Sunderland Lions this past July.

The presentation was about recommended improvements to the Sunderland Arena, as well as the Lions Club’s commitment to assisting with the project. While the Lions did commit to a financial contribution of $500,000 as well as a contribution of $200,000 worth of in-kind labour, the Lions indicated they would not be willing to pay the cost of the construction drawings.

As for what the exact cost would be, that has yet to be determined.

Although the original estimated cost of the drawings was approximately $150,000, Township CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby noted Monday that for less than $50,000, they could potentially complete drawings detailed enough to file a grant application to the federal government.

Those drawings, according to Gettinby, would provide enough detail to develop a more fulsome financial cost estimate for the works to be used in the grant application.

Regardless of the exact number, Coun. Smith says it’s a necessary step to take if the Township hopes to proceed with any work to the arena.

“We can’t apply for grants without the drawings. We’ve been waiting for this window to open,” he says.

“It’ll be extremely difficult to move ahead without the drawings.”

During their July presentation, the Lions pointed out the federal government had just announced a second phase of their infrastructure program.

“We think it makes sense to pursue every grant opportunity we can,” said Don Gordon.

“We’re hoping with the provincial election next year, there will be more motivation for cost-sharing.”

Although the drawings are expected to increase the likelihood of grants, a chance remains that outside funding will not become available for the Township. If that happens in this case, Coun. Smith says the Township will need to decide whether to borrow the money or put the project on hold until another grant opportunity presents itself.

In a letter to council, Walter Schummer asked for all councillors to seriously consider the matter and its possible implications.

“This work is an integral requirement to any possible progress of this project and therefore the Sunderland Lions Club should be expected to contribute to it.  If the Sunderland Lions Club wishes to be the ‘owners’ of this project, while contributing a minority of the construction costs, then the least they can do is take some degree of ‘ownership’ of this critical and needed process and the associated costs,” writes Schummer.

He says “it is bad enough that Council is considering moving ahead on this project without knowing how the majority of the project will be funded” and that the Sunderland Lions should shoulder a “substantial portion of this cost.”

He also explains what he thinks approving this motion could mean for the Township.

“This will surely open The Township up to valid requests by other groups and organizations who wish to do improvement work in the Township.  It will be only fair that these other organizations who have valid projects and requests can expect the Township to cover the costs of detailed design work even if the project is only conceptual in nature,” he writes.

“To fund such work for one group and not others will demonstrate a very obvious prejudice which surely will not be productive and will possible cause significant expenditures for future Councils.”

Ward 4 Councillor Therese Miller denounced this notion of possible prejudice as she spoke in favour of the motion and of the proposed renovation.

The Lions Club also wrote a letter to council, further explaining their proposal.

“Brock Council has made a decision to continue to operate three arenas and it is now time to invest in the renewal of those facilities.  We believe this to be more viable financially that building a new complex,” reads the letter, in part.

“Finally, we wish to remind Council that, insofar as the Sunderland arena project is concerned, the existing structure was designed and constructed in the 1970s so that the ice pad could be expanded in both length and width in the future.  This was done in recognition of the fact that the ice pad was significantly undersized compared to virtually all of the new arenas built in the area at that time.  The logical time to do that would be when the old concrete pad and in-floor piping system needs to be replaced.  That time is now.”