Chelsea, Quebec morally obligated to hold new referendum on Meredith Centre

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by admin on August 11, 2010

The Editor,

Re: Jeanne Gallagher’s Valley Voices article, Aug. 4 edition:

The “lack of reader reaction” to the Meredith Centre’s transformation from a community arena to a (questionable) business venture in Chelsea, Quebec may simply be due to the collective stunned disbelief that such a profound change may be made without further public consultation.

Like many in our community, I understood the “Meredith Centre” referred to in the June ballot to be the centre as described by the “Appel D’Offres” dated June 2009 available on the municipality’s website. That is, a community centre comprising a covered ice rink, multi-use rooms, and soccer fields.

I did not understand the Meredith Centre to be a for-profit conference centre and rental space in the middle of a field in Chelsea. I did not understand that the Meredith Centre would be entirely under the control of an independent foundation which is not accountable to the taxpayers whose money it is spending.

Also, I never expected the Meredith Centre to turn around and threaten the livelihood of Chelsea businesses by proposing to compete directly with those businesses. This may have made some sense years ago when the Centre was planned as a private enterprise, but makes no sense now that it is owned and paid for by the municipality.

While the municipality may argue that the vague wording of the referendum question covers the Meredith Centre’s newest incarnation, the fact remains that the new proposal is not what the voters agreed to.

Regardless of its legal obligations, the municipality has a moral obligation to ensure that the community supports the new proposal before it spends our money. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I sincerely hope that the mayor and the council will recognize this moral obligation and call a new referendum promptly.

Isabel J. Raasch

Chelsea, Quebec