Francis Brière, councillor for Ward 4, at the June 26, 2017 council meeting where council approved the initial dome project. (Photo: Francis Tessier-Burns).

La Nation terminates sports dome deal; moving forward alone

After about two years of dealing with Saint Joseph Property Management to bring a new sports dome and community centre to Limoges, La Nation municipality terminated the agreement in late March.

While Francis Brière, ward 4 councillor, says it isn’t starting from scratch, the municipality has changed the amount of money dedicated to the project, will be hosting new consultation sessions, plans for the dome have been scrapped and the location is no longer set.

“It could very well be a dome, but we’re labelling it a sports complex and what goes within that is a blank slate,” says Brière.

More control, higher cost

Asked what prompted the municipality’s decision, Brière said, “We looked at all the numbers and the amount of control we exerted over the project, and we essentially deemed it better for the taxpayer to just take care of it on our own.”

That’s a departure from his previous position when still in talks with Saint Joseph.

“We’re only talking numbers, but we’re forgetting we’re offering services to people,” he said during a council meeting in March 2017. “We’re too caught up on the numbers part of it and the risk part of it… We’re always saying there aren’t enough programs, and now it’s an all in one package deal.”

Under the previous 25-year agreement, Saint Joseph developed the layout of the dome, and it would also have been in charge of programs and management while the municipality was paying the mortgage. It was ready to pay $250,000 a year for the first 13 years and $80,000 for the next 12 when council voted to move forward last June. At the end of those 25 years, it would’ve inherited the facility. Though earlier in the negotiation process it was told the dome would likely need to be entirely replaced by then.

Now La Nation is putting aside $320,000 for 20 years for the new complex, bringing the total cost to $6.4 million—up from the approved cost of $4.21 million. The municipality will also be in charge of layout plans, construction costs and management once it’s built.

That control saves the municipality in the event Saint Joseph would have gone out of business—a point that had been raised during last year’s discussions by councillor Marc Laflèche who was against the dome from the outset. Saint Joseph didn’t respond to The Review’s questions about the termination of the deal.

For now, Brière will be holding the first of three meetings with community stakeholders next Wednesday to get feedback for what’s to be included in the new facility. Once that’s done the municipality will package it and start an RFP process.  

Asked why this wasn’t done before initially approving the dome, Brière said, “That was one of the points of contention the way the first process was done. The design was presented to us by Saint Joseph and we sprung off of that… We’re taking a couple of steps back to take over the process and go about it the right way.”

Community needs to keep pushing 

Carolyn Bourque is the spokesperson for the Limoges Recreation Committee. She says the group was disappointed when the municipality announced it terminated the deal but that it’s still confident a new facility will take the dome’s place.

“Some people are feeling discouraged that again we’re being asked what we want… and then we start over again,” she says.

During talks with Saint Joseph, the committee sent a letter with more than 1,500 signatures in support of the project.

Once again it called on the community to show support at the latest council meeting on April 9. By then the municipality had already decided to terminate the deal and voted to move on alone.

“We were really happy with the initial dome project, it seemed finally that Limoges was going to get something special that we could call our own,” says Bourque.  

The community centre has been a shared space inside Saint-Viateur elementary school for about 20 years.

“While it saved a lot of money over the years, it’s not been able to meet the needs of the community,” she says.

Asked if the committee thought it was important that the dome or complex be managed by someone other than the municipality, she said, “To us that was very attractive because we know the municipality doesn’t have a lot of staff when it comes to recreation right now.”

The committee is one of the stakeholders invited to the meetings with Brière next week. Bourque says it’ll be bringing feedback its received from the community.

“Collectively we have a good idea what people want,” she says, which is a multi-use complex that can accommodate soccer, volleyball and basketball among other sports and a fitness area. “We also don’t want to waste time; a decision needs to be made on this,” she adds.

“I don’t want people to lose hope, we deserve this and we need to keep pushing for it.”

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