Council approves Simcoe hub grant application

Arenas, seniors centre, swimming pool on wish list

Norfolk council Tuesday approved details of a funding application to the federal and provincial government for a $52.7-million recreation hub in Simcoe.

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Norfolk council has approved details that will be contained in the county’s funding application for a recreational hub in Simcoe.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council approved the inclusion of two new arenas built to National Hockey League specifications (200’x85’),  a 50-metre swimming pool with eight lanes for competitive swimming, and a 15,000-square-foot space to accommodate a new Simcoe Seniors Centre as well as the Young Theatre Players and the Norfolk Potters Guild and Studio currently housed at the Adult Community Centre in Simcoe.

The application will also seek funding for a community kitchen and an innovation centre for members of the public who want to work with the latest technology while developing new ideas.

“This list is biased toward replacing existing facilities efficiently and the local area’s changing demographics,” said Paul Anderson of Walsingham, chair of Norfolk’s recreation facilities advisory board.

The estimated cost of the new infrastructure is $52.7 million.

If Norfolk’s application is successful, the federal government will provide $20 million (40 percent), the province will provide $16.5 million (33 percent) and Norfolk County would provide $13.5 million (27 percent). This funding program – announced this summer – is capped at $50 million for all applications in the absence of extenuating circumstances.

Simcoe accountant Gord Malo, a member of the advisory board, provided the economic rationale for the board’s recommendations.

In his presentation, Malo pointed out that Norfolk plans to spend about $26 million over the next 20 years on repairs and upgrades to the Adult Community Centre on Pond Street, the Simcoe Recreation Centre and Talbot Gardens.

“If Norfolk spends that money on repairs, we will be spending it on a Seniors Centre that is 125 years old,” Malo said. “We will still have a pool that is too narrow to host regional competitions. We will still have arenas that aren’t NHL size – one that can’t support half-ice hockey that 40 percent of our minor hockey players now play, and that have dressing rooms insufficient to host hockey jamborees and tournaments. There is a better plan.”

Malo said the committee’s recommendations would cost Norfolk $6.7 million over and above what the county plans to spend on repairs, maintenance and upgrades. But Malo added this doesn’t factor in what Norfolk might get for selling current facilities as surplus or what Simcoe and surrounding area will be expected to collect by way of fundraising.

“We expect the additional cost to Norfolk County to be very small,” Malo said. “And Norfolk will not just be getting replacement facilities, but larger, better, additional facilities that are modern, world-class and will serve Norfolk County for generations to come.”

The previous Norfolk council supported the hub concept provided the county receive federal and provincial funding. That condition remains in effect. The deadline for applying for this latest grant program is Nov. 12.

Community consultation revealed strong support for a double gymnasium and an indoor soccer facility as part of a recreational hub.

The advisory board remains committed to these facilities and wants allowances made for them in design work. However, due to the cost of the priority facilities, the gymnasium and soccer pitch have been relegated to a potential Phase II of construction.

“These assets have been excluded from the specific funding request, but they remain part of the vision,” Malo said.

If the grant application succeeds, the question of a recreational hub in Simcoe will return to the Norfolk council table for further consideration. An approval of the grant does not automatically move the concept to design and construction.

Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus, Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele and Langton Coun. Roger Geysens continue to offer qualified support for the project. However, the three let council know that west Norfolk will want its share of recreational upgrades in the future if funding is secured for new facilities in Simcoe.

“When you get to Houghton, that’s a long way to come to Simcoe,” Geysens said. “I would hope that something will come along later.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

 

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