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Rec hub gets mixed views in Ward 1

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

Norfolk Hammerheads Aquatic Club members Sean Anderson of Walsingham and Port Dover's Oliver Godelie hold a conception drawing of what a proposed recreation hub in Simcoe might look like. The two were part of a crowd that attended Monday's public consultation regarding the facility at the Port Rowan Community Centre. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

Norfolk Hammerheads Aquatic Club members Sean Anderson of Walsingham and Port Dover's Oliver Godelie hold a conception drawing of what a proposed recreation hub in Simcoe might look like. The two were part of a crowd that attended Monday's public consultation regarding the facility at the Port Rowan Community Centre. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

PORT ROWAN - 

A public consultation held in Ward 1 regarding a proposed multi-use recreation facility brought a varied mix of opinions and ideas from the 60-odd audience members.

Monday night's meeting was the third of six within Norfolk where county residents could share their thoughts on the possibility of a multi-million dollar hub located on the southeast end of Simcoe, which could contain features such as two ice pads, a walking track, seniors' centre and Olympic-sized swimming pool. The gathering was also open for ideas and comments about existing buildings such as Talbot Gardens and the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre in Simcoe.

Port Rowan's meeting was made interesting mostly due to the fact its citizens would likely be driving upwards of 40 minutes to use a new building in Simcoe, but that didn't bother a few in attendance.

“I'm totally supportive of the hub, not only for the fact we need physical activity opportunities in the community but to me, it's the best use of our tax dollars,” said Patti Moore, a Ward 1 resident. “No matter where we live in our county, all those buildings that either get fixed or (replaced) are going to come out of our pockets – along with hopefully some provincial and federal dollars - but the best use of my tax dollars is a new facility.”

As a former Norfolk County employee, Moore is familiar with buildings in question such as the Simcoe Seniors' Centre on Pond St. and the Culver Street administration building and doesn't see the point in “throwing good money after bad.”

“Let's put our dollars where we have the opportunity for the building to be energy efficient,” she added. “It's important as we go forward into the future that we meet the needs of the current and future residents of Norfolk County and we use it as an opportunity to attract people to our community.”

“Don't think because we live in Ward 1 and we're not in Simcoe that we don't support the hub.”

Olga Knocke of Simcoe, a mother of two Norfolk Hammerheads Aquatic Club swimmers, agreed despite the fact her children – ages 11 and 15 – likely wouldn't use the hub for minor sports. The county's current pool is too small to host big meets and has been closed at various times throughout the past few years due to ventilation issues among other things.

Members of the Hammerheads are accustomed to getting up at 4 a.m. for practices, which leaves them little time for negative activities that are affecting youth today, Knocke continued.

“When you put (kids) in different sports it takes them away from video gaming, from drugs – from all of this bad stuff that's everywhere in the area right now,” she said. “This is definitely a huge benefit to the area and to all of our new generations coming. This shouldn't even be a question.”

There were however, a few people with questions, most notably Ward 1 councillor Noel Haydt. He, like some others in the crowd, isn't happy with the fact Fanshawe College's Simcoe Campus – next door to the proposed hub location – hasn't pledged any funding for the project. He's also skeptical folks in Port Rowan and St. Williams will want to make the trip to Simcoe more than they already do.

Then he raised an issue of operating costs and building longevity.

“One of the big things for me is our track record, we don't have a very good one in Norfolk. Building buildings is not one of our fortes,” he said, referencing consistent issues that have plagued Norview Lodge and the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre.

“We want to build something for $45 million and have a bigger mess to clean up? I'm not really OK with that.”

Haydt also spoke about the financial strain that's been put on his residents and lack of facilities for youth in the area outside of the Port Rowan Skatepark, which was opened in 2015.

“We want a $45-million hub in Simcoe, Delhi, Port Dover – I don't care where you put it – I'd like a baseball diamond with a real infield because I don't have one right now,” he said.

“The beach is gone, the ball diamond is gone. We need some facilities here, that's what we need.”

With Norfolk having just completed its 2018 capital budget, Mayor Charlie Luke said the project would likely require help from both the federal and provincial government if it eventually gets approved. Funding, he added, would be dependant on the municipality owning the land, the hub being ready to build, corporate sponsorship, commitment from council and funding from the public.

“At this point, Norfolk County has none of those in place, but we are on the way,” he said, adding a consultant's report on the project is expected in the coming months.

“I'm very confident folks that council will make some good, solid decisions for the community. I know we won't make everybody happy. We have promised no one a hub, it is a viable option but we have not made any of those promises.”

The next meeting goes Oct. 30 at the Langton Community Centre at 7 p.m.

jrobinson@postmedia.com