Stripped-down version of Chelsea, Quebec’s Meredith Centre bears rethinking

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by admin on August 25, 2010

The Editor,

If a promise of fiscal responsibility, efficient management and common sense got Marcel Gauvreau elected to Chelsea, Quebec council, it’s time he did some soul-searching, especially with regard to the Meredith Centre.

Is it fiscally responsible to throw money, even when a significant share is a grant from  other levels of government, at a project that has no chance of breaking even?

To support his profitability forecast, Coun. Gauvreau cites the Clem Pelot report, which rubber-stamps the original MC business plan findings and paints a rosy picture of profitability in only three years.

I’ll say it again: the original business plan and the Pelot report assertions are superficial and unsupported by any marketing studies. I stake my reputation as a chartered accountant, a university professor and my 27 years experience as an international financial expert to say that these claims are unrealistic.

If my credentials aren’t enough, consider the reality of recreation in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, where mega-facilities with everything from Olympic hockey rinks to wave pools to sports medicine clinics abound.

The City of Ottawa, as would Coun. Gauvreau, bases its recreational services on general principles, the foremost of which is fiscal responsibility. Yet these facilities only survive because they are subsidized by about 50 per cent.

If council truly wants to respond to its needs, it cannot ignore the wishes of citizens as expressed in the Low Down poll about the “stripped-down” version of the Meredith Centre.

The response has been overwhelmingly negative, with 195 “no” votes compared with 22 “yes” votes (as of Aug. 23). The numbers surely should give Coun. Gavreau cause to reconsider his claim that this bare-bones version of a community centre reflects the citizens’ wishes.

It’s time to go back to the people and let them decide what they want, as they will have to live with the financial consequences for a lifetime. We elected our municipal government to manage our interests efficiently. Let’s go back and find out what they are!

A second referendum on the Meredith Centre doesn’t cost much and the good will it will generate is priceless.

Sheldon Weatherstone

President, Chelsea Citizens’ Association