Expectations face off with financial reality at Meredith Centre in Chelsea, Quebec

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by admin on August 18, 2010

By Marcel Gauvreau

I campaigned in Chelsea, Quebec on a platform of fiscal responsibility, efficient management and common sense during the municipal elections last November. Once in office, I was committed to having the Meredith Centre (MC) see the light of day while respecting two core priorities:

1. The community centre component will be the centrepiece of the complex;

2. The MC will not go over budget.

Last November, I became a member of the Meredith Centre Construction Committee (MCCC), a volunteer group dedicated to seeing the facility reflect a unified vision of what Chelsea residents wanted our community centre to be. Not long after, a consultation process with the public began.

The MCCC, Fondation Chelsea Foundation (CFC) and council listened attentively to what residents and groups had to say, and translating this information into a workable blueprint began. It soon became painfully obvious, however, that we were facing a crunch in square footage versus budget considerations.

After fine-tuning the original three components, but more precisely, bringing the arena up to an adequately modern standard, CFC and council found that to build the MC – as envisaged, in the heart of our village with an intended look that would capture Chelsea’s character and architectural image – would have pushed the construction budget considerably over the projected envelope.

It would have essentially become a financial strain Chelsea could simply not afford. Moreover, consultations overwhelmingly demonstrated a preference to a strong, widely-used and modern community centre component and gymnasium able to offer a wide range of services and activities to a multitude of residents and groups throughout our community.

This left council with little choice but to make the difficult decision to forego the arena at this time.

The next step was to determine if the new complex would be financially viable. In light of new developments, council and CFC decided it would be prudent to hire an impartial third-party consultant to evaluate the feasibility of the MC with its remaining components: the community centre and gymnasium. The results of this study reinforced the original findings of the first business plan, assuring us of the commercial strength of the new MC.

Personally, I found the ultimate decision painful as I have three boys playing hockey and will be leaving, again this winter, a considerably large carbon footprint in transporting them distances to play. Nevertheless, CFC and council needed to look to the future and to what this centre would mean to Chelsea: a complex which will offer our community a host of services that have, as yet, not been available.

We will now have the facilities to offer activities for our young and adolescent residents, it will allow artists to create, provide seniors a place to meet, and furnish halls for associations to congregate and for community groups to organize fund-raising activities.

The list goes on but, in all honesty, the MC will offer our community a place to gather while benefiting the thousands of users which will walk through its doors every year.

Please join the CF and council at the community centre in Old Chelsea on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m., where we will provide residents with answers to any questions they may have.

Marcel Gauvreau is the Chelsea Ward 2 municipal councillor and President of the Committee for Sports, Leisure and Community Life