WEST HANTS, N.S. — When it comes to moving the hockey heritage centre forward, West Hants councillors want answers — and they all want to be in the know.
At the last committee of the whole meeting of 2017, West Hants councillors reviewed a request from the Town of Windsor to form a joint subcommittee to discuss the arena feasibility study.
It was an idea that was struck down rather quickly.
“Something of this magnitude and of this importance, I think both councils should sit down before you strike some subcommittee to push this thing along,” said Warden Abraham Zebian Nov. 28, starting off a council conversation that lasted about 25 minutes.
“It's not a small thing to push along. We're talking (an) eight to 14 — maybe more — million-dollar project,” he said.
Windsor's proposal recommended two councillors from each municipal unit sit on the subcommittee plus the mayor and warden and the two chief administrative officers.
Such a committee, the warden said, would mean West Hants is “leaving out 80 per cent of council that represents 80 per cent of our municipality.”
That notion didn't sit well with most of the councillors who weighed in during the meeting.
Coun. Jennifer Daniels agreed with the warden and said she wanted to see citizen members involved if a committee is formed. It was a sentiment shared by many.
“Public engagement is crucial to how this project moves forward,” said Coun. Rupert Jannasch.
“We need citizens' opinion,” said Coun. Debbie Francis.
“It concerns all of us. We're the ones that represent the people,” said Coun. David Keith. “There's two locations and we have to listen to the public and make the proper decision to the best of our ability where this location is going to be.”
Earlier this year, the provincial and federal governments commissioned a feasibility study so that councils could see the pros and cons of the two locations they are considering for a state-of-the-art arena/hockey heritage museum. The report was released in early November. The sites in question are near Long Pond and King’s-Edgehill School, where some hockey buffs says the sport was born, and at the Hants Exhibition Arena in Windsor, where the current arena is located.
Keith stressed that the hockey heritage centre must be done correctly right from the get-go.
“We have to go to the taxpayers. We're the politicians that get elected. This is not a mobile home on wheels. Once we make a decision where it's going, that's where it's going to be for 70 or 80 years. It's a big decision,” said Keith.
Coun. Robbie Zwicker said he wouldn't support such a subcommittee and questioned who is driving the project forward.
“This is just a cart way in front of the horse,” said Zwicker. “We need to get a community group together with some money to partner up to get into this thing. I can't believe how we've been led down the merry path.”
Coun. Tanya Leopold said due to the size and scope of the project, all councillors should be privy to any and all discussions concerning the arena.
“It is also the first project that we are endeavouring with our neighbour,” said Leopold. “It is obviously a sizeable financial contribution, as the warden mentioned, and I do think it deserves the attention of the entire council because this is millions of dollars.”
She said to “interject a subcommittee” into the process now would be unnecessary. She said councillors have questions about the project and all bring different interests and skills to the table.
“Why stop now – we're up to our knees in it?” she asked.
West Hants councillors voted in favour of requesting a joint council meeting to discuss the findings of the feasibility study so that the next steps can be taken. West Hants indicated the meeting should be open to the public – but CAO Cathie Osborne advised that the Town of Windsor would also have to agree to not go in camera.
The date and time of the special meeting has yet to be set.