SEC: fortune or folly?

By Alderman Wayne Rothe
I recently blogged on the biggest issues council candidates have been getting at the doorstep in this election campaign. That article is found here:

The sport and event centre is the dominant issue I’m hearing while door knocking to meet residents. Three weeks ago I met candidate Erin Stevenson at one doorstep as the resident said, “Wayne, I’d like five minutes with you.” Erin politely excused herself and “Don” began hammering me on the sport and event centre (SEC).

Don’s son played sports so he appreciates sport facilities but he thought this arena is foolish. He also slammed the event centre component. I told Don that he had an ally in me.

The SEC, in my opinion, is risky, and too much money for the wrong facilities.

Our indoor recreation facility study, I told Don, identified five priority items – only one of which (ice surfaces) is partly addressed by the SEC. I’ve studied the financials and believe that the SEC – as currently proposed – would result in a tax increase of 7.79%, which represents $177 per year for the average taxpayer.

This is city council’s biggest decision ever and we have to get this one right. That’s why I believe that the first year after this election will be the most important in Spruce Grove’s history. Proponents say that it will be an economic driver while opponents argue that it’s expensive and will saddle us with a lot of debt.

I’ve talked with several minor sports groups and none of them support this proposal. You’d think that minor hockey would endorse a new arena. They want more ice but don’t believe this is the way to get it.

If you support the library and culture, sports groups like minor hockey and soccer, if your family uses the pool at the Tri Leisure Centre or if you want more social programs and affordable housing, this plan should worry you. I believe that the required debt along with the other capital projects in our five-year plan – a total of $86 million not including the SEC – will make it hard for us to afford things that we actually need.

There has been no opportunity for residents to attend a town hall-style meeting to ask questions and have a say. That must happen before any decision is made.

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