The people have spoken.

During the regular meeting of Meadow Lake city council – held April 14 via the online conferencing application, Zoom – discussion took place with regard to the results of a public survey concerning a possible multi-use facility on the city’s east side. The survey, which wrapped up recently, was conducted via the city’s official website.

“The purpose of this initial survey was to explore community opinions on amenity needs and the desire to move forward with this type of project,” noted city clerk Jessica Walters.

Results of the survey were mixed, with a number of respondents providing comments both in favour and opposed to the new facility.

“I strongly encourage the city to engage in excellent professional design for this project,” noted one respondent. “An ill-considered facility, no matter how expensive, can be merely utilitarian, and fall far short of its potential. Careful and thoughtful planning, led by an architect who specializes in such projects, can result in a facility that truly suits the needs and character of the community for the foreseeable future. I also urge extensive input (and listening to that input) from the managers and staff of current facilities… Take this opportunity to build something the community will be really proud of, and visitors will greatly admire.”

Another respondent, however, was not as enthusiastic about the project.

“Why build?” the comment reads. “People and groups cannot even afford prices already. Utilize buildings we have existing already. There are lots of empty commercial buildings around already, try using those.”

Councillor Glen Winkler, meanwhile, said he would not put much weight on a survey such as this when it comes to making a final decision.

“I don’t believe this should be one of the key factors in deciding what we build, where it would be built or why it would be built,” he said. “It’s pretty informal… I’ve never seen an important building designed by a survey.”

Mayor Merlin Seymour agreed.

“I just think this gives us a whole bunch of different ideas,” he said. “We’re not going to just slap things together… We need to do it right the first time if we are going to do it.”

Deputy-mayor Conrad Read asked what the city’s next step is, especially in light of the recent departure of recreation manager Robin Mitchell who was working to spearhead the potential project.

“We aren’t, at this point, filling Robin’s position, so I don’t know how quickly the next step will come,” city manager Diana Burton replied.

Walters, however, reiterated the survey was only the first in what will be a lot more community consultation.

“This was really the first step to start engaging what kinds of things the community is interested in in order to fine tune the next conversations, with residents, user groups and with other communities,” she said.

Later in the evening, council carried a motion in support of an application for the community centre project under the Canada Infrastructure Program’s community recreation and culture stream.

“The Government of Saskatchewan in partnership with the Government of Canada is inviting applications for infrastructure project grants under this program,” Walters noted. “This program includes multiple funding streams, one of which is the community, recreation and culture stream. The eligible project costs under this grant will be cost shared amongst the federal (40 per cent), provincial (up to 33.33 per cent) and municipal governments.”

The application deadline for this grant is May 15.

“A lot of this (project) is contingent on a rather large federal and provincial grant,” stated councillor Curtis Paylor. “I think we should continue to explore grants that are available… without a significant funding formula from those two levels of government, we’re going to have a tough time doing this. Let’s be honest. If we can get a 65 per cent grant to support this project, we definitely have to take a look at it.”

Seymour echoed this.

“Absolutely we do,” he added, “But, right now, COVID-19 has taken precedent over everything.”

The motion to apply for the grant was brought forward by Winkler and seconded by Read.

“This would be the first and most optimistic opportunity,” Winkler said. “If we don’t get this, we need to look at where we go next.”

by Phil Ambroziak