Council reverses decisions on arenas

·2 min read

Not all decisions are final.

Chatham-Kent councillors voted in favour of reversing a previous decision to repurpose two arenas temporarily.

With 83 percent support, council voted to keep the ice at the Bothwell Arena, and with 94 percent support, they kept the ice at Erickson Arena in Chatham.

The decision was reversed from the original decision made during a Nov. 9 meeting. During that meeting, council approved a staff recommendation that Erickson Arena and Bothwell Arena be converted into multi-purpose facilities from December to March 2021, with the possibility of extending that trial period.

The decision to repurpose the arenas is said to save around $164,000 in decreased operational costs.

The goal of the decision was to provide an opportunity for more indoor activities, such as pickleball and indoor soccer, given the greater demand due to snowbirds staying home this winter season.

Only a member of the prevailing side can bring forward a motion to reconsider. Councillor Michael Bondy, who originally voted to convert both arenas into multi-purpose complexes, opted to revisit the issue.

“We didn’t have enough information when we made this decision. We didn’t do this correctly in the first place,” said Bondy.

A two-thirds majority was needed to discuss the motion without prior notice, and the same margin was needed to revisit the motion. Both passed, with opposition from only councillors Doug Sulman and Joe Faas.

East Kent Councillor Steve Pinsonneault said the report blindsided the Bothwell community.

“So you can imagine their surprise and frustration when the report to move the ice out had come with no consultation whatsoever to them,” said Pinsonneault.

Pinsonneault called small-town arenas a big draw for young families, adding the council chambers would have been filled to capacity were it not for COVID-19 restrictions.

“The community really feels they got blindsided by this one,” said Pinsonneault. “Arenas, libraries, theatres all require some sort of a subsidy, but they add a quality of life in each community that they’re in.”

He added while it is easy to say people only have to drive 25 minutes to another rink, it’s “flat out not easy to a lot of the users.”

The surface in Bothwell Arena and Erikson Arena will remain from December 2020 to March 2021.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News