Last week’s meeting for La Nation’s sports complex project highlighted the gap between what community members want and what the municipality is willing to spend.
It was the first public meeting since the municipality terminated its original deal with Saint Joseph’s Property Management in late March.
Francis Brière, Ward 4 councillor, opened the meeting by telling the 60 or so attendees that he and Mayor François St. Amour were there to gather all wants and needs—as long as it fits within the $320,000 yearly budget.
He quickly added, “I feel strongly that we have to temper people’s expectations.”
So what are people’s expectation?
Vicky Perry is one of the newer arrivals in Limoges. She moved to the community about two years ago and now works as a dental hygienist at the Limoges Dental Centre.
“I believe this town deserves a sports complex that includes gym facilities, aerobics and yoga studio, and an indoor swimming pool,” she said. Originally from Châteauguay, she added that she worked in one such facility called the Polydium.
Making the case for the pool, she said it was important for seniors to maintain mobility, important for pregnant women and new moms to “recover their bodies properly” and important for young families to teach their kids to swim. She added those swimming classes could be taught by local teens.
The idea of a pool popped up time and again, but was dismissed by Brière, saying it was much too expensive for the current budget. He said La Nation has comparable project from which they can draw figures. For example, he said, a pool could cost $8-$10 million to build and about $600,000 to operate.
That’s a far cry from the current plan to put $320,000 every year for 20 years into this project—including capital and operating expenses.
Community gets the last say
But what does that amount of money actually get you? That’s where some attendees felt lost.
One community member highlighted the dilemma created by the Paradox of Choice, where given too much choice, a decision becomes harder to make.
“What I would like to know is what we can afford and then let us make the choices… rather than just throwing you whatever and letting you decide ultimately,” said the man who declined to give his name to The Review.
To be fair, the cost of a gym versus a walking track versus a yoga studio will be clarified upon further consultation with planners and engineers. But that desire for the community to make the final decision was also expressed by other attendees.
Former mayor Denis Pommainville said the municipality is working backwards by setting a budget and trying to stick within it rather than hear the community’s wants and then finding the funding afterwards.
“I’m really disappointed that you set yourself into a box with that $320,000 dollars,” he said. “Build it and they will come.”
When much of the discussion of the evening was about the already-too-high-taxes in the municipality, it’s debatable Pommainville’s approach would have yielded a better outcome.
“What we’re really missing right now is something in that 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. period especially in the winter when it’s dark,” said Richard Scott. He saw the sports complex as a possibility to fill that gap, but also urged attendees to think about how to improve the existing pieces in the community.
“Don’t think about, ‘I just want one thing’,” he said.
During the meeting, Brière announced that La Nation heard back for a possible deal including the sports complex. However, both he and the mayor said it was too early to say what that deal would include.
One community member asked how many new jobs could be expected when the complex is up and running. Mayor St. Amour said it would only be between three and five full-time jobs.
Another member asked about revenue. Overall, said Brière, the complex would be funded through taxation, but there would be some revenue created via user fees.
Finally, Brière laid out a tentative timeline of having completed consultation and planning over the next winter. That’s pending council doesn’t become lame duck with the upcoming municipal elections. Both St. Amour and Brière said they didn’t expect that to happen. If that’s the case then they’re hoping to be “shovel-ready” by spring or summer 2019.
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