Citizens group “disappointed”with decision to demo rink

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The Stellarton Memorial Rink Citizens Group is disappointed it will not be acquiring the rink after all.

Speaking on behalf of the group following Stellarton Town Council’s decision last week to demolish the rink, Darren Stroud said, “I see this as a missed opportunity to save our town money while building community morale and preserving our especially unique war memoriam.”

The decision was made during a Stellarton Town Council meeting, hosted through Zoom in keeping with Public Health directives, and then uploaded to the town’s YouTube channel.

Solicitor Gerald Green, on behalf of the citizens group, had sent an email to the town’s solicitor Craig Clarke prior to the council meeting confirming the non-profit group — to be known as Stellarton Memorial Community Centre Association — “is prepared to exercise the option to purchase the Stellarton Memorial Rink building from the Town of Stellaton for $1 with the intent to turn it into a community centre, all as contemplated by the motion passed at the March 9 meeting of town council.”

The group was prepared to do this in either of three ways: (1) a purchase of the building only with a land lease to ensure access; (2) a purchase of the land and building; or (3) lease of the building only.

A letter from Craig Clarke indicated the first option does not work for the town. “It is really a purchase with a buy-back, a lease or another option.”

A previous motion included several parts: permanently cease operations of the rink immediately; staff investigate the cost of demo and cleanup which was estimated at $85,000; or offer the citizens group the rink for $1.

Mayor Danny MacGillivray said last week, “Council made the offer in good faith, but the devil’s in the details. Once the lawyers became involved … it became clear to council that we could not just sell the building but had to sell the land as well, which was not the original intention of council.”

The options became to sell the land with the building, lease the building to the group or proceed with demolition.

Coun. Simon Lawand made a motion to lease the building to the group which was supported by Deputy Mayor Susan Campbell. Councillors Garry Pentz and Bryan Knight were against Lawand’s motion and MacGillivray broke the tie by not supporting the motion.

Pentz followed up by making a motion that council proceed with shutting off power and water to prepare the building for demolition, which was supported by Knight.

MacGillivray said he was not comfortable with selling the land for $1 because it is worth more money than that to the taxpayer. “I don’t believe to enter into any type of lease agreement is in the best interest of the taxpayer. We don’t want the taxpayer in the Town of Stellarton holding any potential future liability for the building.”

So that leaves demolition for the 73-year-old building. This time, Campbell and Lawand voted against the motion for demolition while Knight and Pentz supported it. MacGillivray cast the tie breaking vote to begin demolition.

MacGillivray thanked the members of the citizens group for working to save the building. “You put your heart and soul into it and never gave up.”

Commenting after the meeting Stroud noted. “We would expect our elected officials to jump with delight at a volunteer group stepping forward and showing this level of community support, organization and aptitude. Many would read the events of the past year to indicate that no level of community support or effort on the part of this group would have persuaded a majority of our currently sitting council.

“In the final analysis, the citizens group is pleased with its effort and will respect the decision of Council. As in any meaningful exchange, this opportunity required a willing partner and we didn’t have it. I send a big thanks to all who joined us with their interest, time, and effort along the way.”