Op-Ed: Whexit

MP Scott Brison and former West Hants councillors Randy Matheson and Shirley Pineo tour the new Newport and District rink in Aug 2016. The event was used to announce just over a million dollars for the facility cost-shared by the federal and provincial governments. [Desveaux]

Thoughts about WHEXIT

You’ve heard of Brexit. Now Nova Scotia has its own break-up – albeit much, much less complicated than what’s in front of the UK –  after West Hants announced on Tuesday it is leaving the inter-municipal agreement to build an arena they signed with the Town of Windsor last year.

But during a special meeting on Monday (Jan 29) night the council voted to keep its financial commitment to the Town of Windsor of $1 million dollars over five years “in the interest of moving the hockey heritage arena project forward,” said a press release issued on Tuesday.

That’s quite a generous offer. It’s more than the municipality initially offered the Newport and District Rink Society  – in West Hants – for their rebuild even though the rink’s ice plant went back in. It was included in the municipality’s insurance policy at an in-kind value of $742,900.

However, the decision means West Hants won’t have any ongoing ownership liability for capital costs in construction or operational losses going forward. (It would have been 50/50 between the two municipal units).

Similar to the provincial promise of $3 million dollars toward Windsor’s hockey heritage arena made in January 2016, the Newport and District society also received about $3 million dollars in insurance money from when its roof collapsed in April 2015.

Initially costed as a $4.5 million project, the price tag went up to $5.2 million after contractors – Roscoe Construction –  smoothed out the finer details before quickly getting to work.

Then in August 2016, a government cost-share announcement added just under a million to the pot on top of the approximately $60,000 volunteers had raised. A federal share of $520,000 from ACOA’s Canada 150 fund for community infrastructure was added to $442,000 from the province.

The facility opened in October that year and the Cogmagun landfill operator Green For Life (GFL) has since backed it for about $300,000 to become the rink’s largest corporate sponsor, most recently donating $200,000 and getting naming rights. It’s now called the GFL-Newport Recreation Centre.

April 1 will mark the three year anniversary of the old rink’s roof collapse. Everything that needs to be done for the Brooklyn rink is almost done.

And residents of Brooklyn and surrounding communities couldn’t be prouder.

There’s something to be learned here: perhaps the council of the day did the right thing in the end by keeping its nose out of the Brooklyn project in its early days and leaving it down the rink society to be the ones in charge to get ‘er done.

With two short months before the province’s  $3 million offer for Windsor arena project expires – also on April 1 –  it’s a good move for the West Hants municipal council to take themselves out to help uncomplicate matters.

A good way to keep politics out of a project is to keep politicians out of the process until it is absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, with the clock ticking to time out, that might be hard for the Town of Windsor unless it can pull off a hat- trick.

– HPD

Editor’s note: an earlier version posted stated 2016 investment was just over a million but numbers provided added to under $1M. The municipality was expected to add an amount later during budget deliberations to bump that up to over $1M, but that number isn’t known at the present time.

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