Chelsea, Quebec arena meeting scrubbed

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by Mark Burgess on September 9, 2010

Chelsea, Quebec council at the last minute cancelled an information session scheduled for Sept. 2 where it planned to explain the decision to drop the arena from the Meredith Centre plans.

After meeting with a group advocating for the arena’s reinsertion and Chelsea Foundation board members Aug. 25, Mayor Caryl Green decided to the new proposal needed to be examined more thoroughly before she could present anything to the community.

Sept. 8 Front page

Sept. 8 Front page

“I think we just felt there’s so much speculation that it would be better to go forward with solid information,” Green said from Wolfville, N.S., where she was braving Hurricane Earl to drop off her son John at Acadia University. “We really wanted to go to the public feeling confident about what we were presenting.”

Green went to the Chelsea Community Centre Sept. 2 to personally inform five people who showed up and hadn’t received notification the meeting that night had been cancelled and would be re-scheduled for a later date.

The meeting intended to present the reasons for scrubbing the arena and going ahead with a community centre and double gym, with consultant Clem Pelot on hand to explain his validation of the new plan.

After receiving the latest rink proposal, Green worried the meeting would lack focus while council and the foundation board examined it.

“There’s a groundswell of support for (the arena) but it really comes down to numbers,” she said.

Foundation member Warren Major told the Low Down last month that a project with a full-sized rink and triple basketball court was under construction in another Quebec community for $5 million – far less than the $8-million price tag Coun. Marcel Gauvreau put on an arena alone.

When asked about the discrepancy, Green said it comes down to environmental and architectural requirements, including aligning the structure with Chelsea’s P.I.I.A architectural bylaw: building an arena that uses green technology and isn’t a blight on the centre village landscape costs more.

Major said there is “a very brief window” to consider changing the Meredith Centre’s plan for a second time.

“Hanging over our heads is the reality that we have to complete the project before the expiry of the grants,” he said.

Chelsea received an extension until June 30, 2011 to complete the project, although Green is confident they can extend that until the end of next year.

Another hurdle is the Request For Proposals for the centre’s design-build contract, with  five pre-qualified companies currently working on their submissions which are due at the end of the month. Green said she wasn’t sure about the legality of abandoning the plan for which the companies are currently bidding.

Major said the people who presented the new arena proposal aren’t “a group in the commonly-used sense of the word” in that there is no leader, structure or overarching policy, but a rather “a handful of community leaders” who thought the plan deserved a second look.

Last month, a group of eight Chelsea Foundation members requested a special meeting to discuss the board’s decision to eliminate the rink from the Meredith Centre. Signatories to the letter included the foundation’s founding president, Marc Allain, former treasurer Jim Kyte, former board member Chris Mick, founding member and former secretary Serge Larouche, and Camp Fortune co-owner Peter Sudermann.