Community hub group gains support through petition
A report by Norfolk County staff says the seniors' centre on Pond Street in Simcoe requires at least $2 million in repairs and the building should not be considered for use going forward. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
If Norfolk council decides later this month to revive the idea of a multi-use recreational hub at least 4,400 people would be in favour.
That's how many have signed an online petition supporting the venture.
Founding members of the All Norfolk Community Hub group – one that's pushing for council to replace aging infrastructure with a facility that could include two ice rinks, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, walking track and seniors' centre in Simcoe – recently created a petition urging council to spend tax dollars wisely.
Within 48 hours they had more than 4,000 signatures and as of Monday, sat at just shy of 4,400.
The idea of a hub gained steam last February when it was revealed that Talbot Gardens in Simcoe had a crumbling seating area while the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre has been fraught with ventilation issues. In addition, the Simcoe Seniors' Centre has been deemed outdated and insufficient for the needs of the membership.
Rather than using public funding to repair existing building, those signing the petition want a one-stop, state-of-the-art facility.
“I just moved back to Norfolk after being away for 11 years. As I get older I want to see proper improvements for me & my family young & old,” Kathy Aucoin said in the comment section.
“A HUB would be beneficial to our community and provide activities for our young people,” Pam Purdy adds.
Simcoe lawyer Rob Kennaley, one of the local residents behind the hub idea, wasn't at all surprised by the reaction of the public.
“Not at all, and I don't think council would be frankly, because we did the town halls and our understanding is that during the town hall meetings the support for the hub concept was very strong, particularly in Port Dover, Simcoe, Waterford, and Delhi,” he added. “There was a recognition that if we were going to spend money in Simcoe on infrastructure facilities anyway, we should maximize provincial and federal dollars if possible and we should integrate the facilities to meet as many needs as possible.”
Members of Norfolk council voted down a motion that would've instructed staff to search for possible hub locations, but that could be revisited March 27. On that date, Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus will table a motion that would widen the search to include the Simcoe area and not just the Simcoe town boundary. It will need at least a two-thirds vote (6 of 9 councillors) to proceed.
Kennaley said he and his team are “optimistic” that the motion will pass.
“After that, we're going to have to have some debate about where we go from here and that's where the seniors' centre piece comes into it,” he added.
Kennaley believes some on council would like to see the Simcoe Seniors' Centre moved to the Robinson St. Administration Building, and not be part of the proposed hub.
“That is, in our view, a rather scary prospect,” Kennaley said.
In response, the support group has created an online poll asking area residents 50 or older what they would like to see going forward.
Amy Martin, a member of the group, said over 450 citizens have responded, 93 per cent of which are from Norfolk. A total of 89 per cent say they would make regular use of a hub.
“There's a large chunk of people (in Norfolk) who are seniors ... and it's hard to speak on behalf of all of them if you're just connecting with the membership base at the Simcoe Seniors' Centre,” said Martin. “We wanted to reach out farther and wider and make sure regardless of what your thoughts and views are about the hub your views can be heard.”
Whatever council decides on March 27, Kennaley said, will shape the future of the county for decades to come. He also called the chance to build a hub a “one in a generational opportunity”.
“It's now or never,” he added.
Both the petition and poll can be found by logging onto facebook.com/ALLNorfolkCommunityHub.