BROCKTON – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on Brockton. But the news isn’t all bad. On this week’s council agenda is a report outlining infrastructure grant opportunities for recreation and community buildings.
“There’s a significant push from the provincial and federal governments to inject funding into communities to assist with the recovery from COVID-19,” said Mayor Chris Peabody.
Included in the report was information on Canada Healthy Communities Initiative Round Two, Green and Inclusive Community Buildings, Community Buildings Retrofit, and the Save on Energy Retrofit Program.
The staff recommendation in the report is to apply for all the infrastructure and energy retrofit programs.
Peabody said he anticipates a healthy debate on the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings item, since it includes new builds.
The report noted it is “highly likely” infrastructure funding will be curtailed once the current slate of programs ends in 2026. In addition, funding programs for recreation infrastructure are historically few and far between – most funding programs are aimed at roads, bridges, water, sewers and internet broadband.
The Durham Street Park committee, Brockton Recreation committee and Elmwood Community Centre board met recently and discussed the grant programs and recommended a number of projects.
The major project outlined in the report was construction of a new Walkerton Community Centre and Arena, with an application of up to $25 million.
Although Brockton had not planned on moving ahead with the new facility for several more years, the availability of funding now, the probability it won’t be available again for the foreseeable future, and the rapid growth of the community, make the project something that needs to be looked at by council.
What’s proposed is a new 65,000 square foot twin-pad arena and community facility, to be built in the East Ridge Business Park. The present facility would be used for other recreational purposes.
The grant funding would be for 60 per cent on the first $10 million and 50 per cent on the balance up to $25 million.
Applications were also recommended for the Durham Street (Wong) Park – up to $75,000 for materials and furnishings; Elmwood Community Centre – $150,000 application for energy efficiency and accessibility improvements; the current Walkerton Community Centre and Arena – funding for a feasibility study and capital retrofits for a reconfigured recreation facility; and several applications to convert lighting to LED at Walkerton and Cargill community centres.
Also on the council agenda was a report from the county on housing. The mayor said that so far, the county has said nothing on proposed growth for the hamlets.
“All growth is directed toward Walkerton,” Peabody said. “A piece of the (housing) puzzle is missing.”
He noted there’s a subdivision planned for Kilsyth that’s not on sewers.
“Why couldn’t we do something like that?” he wondered.
There’s a lot of potential in the hamlets, the mayor said, and they certainly have suffered with the pandemic and even before COVID. Elmwood, for example, has lost its bank, coffee shop and library.
“It’s a concern,” he said.
The COVID question on a lot of minds locally is whether schools are going to reopen. Peabody said he’d like to see students back in the classroom for four weeks in June – it would make a huge difference in their math skills and other key subjects, he said, noting there are many gaps in students’ education.
The province has to make a decision quickly – June 2 is coming, and a three-week return to the classroom wouldn’t be enough, said the mayor.
Peabody finds it unfortunate that the province appears to have abandoned its regional approach to handling the pandemic.
“I think they defaulted to erring on the side of caution,” he said. While numbers are still high in some places, “there are not the numbers in Grey-Bruce to justify keeping our kids out of their classrooms.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner