By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians have jettison the public school board as a potential partner, and will build a $17-million recreation centre in the Pan Am precinct area itself.
“This project is most needed,” said Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli, who introduced the revised motion at the Sept. 11 council meeting, which was unanimously backed by councillors.
Politicians had reluctantly agreed last week to partner with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to build the recreation centre in conjunction with a new high school on the former Scott Park property. City Manager Chris Manager warned politicians that if the city built the facility itself, it could cost upwards of $3 million extra.
He said an information report about the recreation centre project will be presented to councillors next month, butMurrayrefused to set a deadline as to when the facility could be completed.
“If we can get it done by Pan Am, that would be spectacular,” said Murray. “We are staring at 18 months. That is a short time frame.”
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board chair Tim Simmons said council’s decision was “disappointing” but the board needs to move forward and look at any new locations for a new high school. The board did have a potential alternative site for a high school, but officials have refused to reveal it.
“It sounds like we can be friends, but not roommates,” said Simmons.
He said shovels need to be in the ground by next summer for a new high school, which has to be located between Churchill and Westdale high schools.
Morelli’s motion sprang soon after last week’s meeting with the school board where a group of councillors crafted an alternative motion that would see the city pays the entire $17 million bill of the recreation centre. The money will come from development chargers, provincial funding, city reserves, and $2 million from the 2013 Hamilton Utilities Corp. dividend. The city won’t go to the Hamilton Future Fund Board for any funding unless it is necessary.
Mountain councillor Tom Jackson said he wasn’t convinced there will be a $3 million extra cost to the project, and there was some uncertainty about the public board’s plans to encroach upon the city’s 5.5-acre property to build its new high school.
“It will be a proud moment for the corporation and the neighbourhood,” said Jackson.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, citing his experiences with the public board’s suggestion to sell off a portion of Ancaster High, backed dropping the school board.
“I support disconnecting with the school board,” saidFerguson. “No question this facility is needed.”
Some councillors, even though they voted for the motion, said they were disappointed in not partnering with the school board.
“It’s an opportunity lost,” said Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead. “I will hold my nose.”
Ward 5 councillor Chad Colllins acknowledged since the construction of Sackville Hill Centre on the mountain, politicians had focused on finding the money to eventually build a similar facility in the lower city
But it was unfortunate the school board wasn’t joining with the city in the project, he said.
“I don’t know why we are abandoning this partnership,” said Collins. “I think it’s a lost opportunity and short sighted. (The school board’s) constituency is our constituency.”
Public School Board director John Malloy confirmed last week that if the city didn’t partner with the city, there was a good chance the board would look at an alternative location for a new school.
The school board has about $32 million from the provincial government to build a new school to replace Sir. John A Macdonald, Delta and Parkview high schools which are schedule to close in 2015. The new school needs to be open by September 2016.