By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton politicians swallowed their doubts, and agreed to join with the public school board to build a $17-million recreation centre near the new Tim Hortons Field.
“The site makes sense to us for all reasons,” said Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins.
In July the majority of councillors were reluctant to partner with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to build a 60,000-square-foot recreation centre, along with a new school on the old Scott Park location. The city still had about a $7 million shortfall for the facility, and some councillors, including Brad Clark and Scott Duvall, remained adamant they didn’t want to work with the school board after experiencing past problems with educators.
But Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli, who attended his first general issues committee after experiencing a severe health issue over the summer, urged his colleagues to support the project.
He called it a “legacy” issue for the community, and a tremendous benefit to lower city residents.
Politicians still must vote on the recommendation at their Sept. 11 council meeting.
Clark reiterated his opposition to the idea, arguing there were too many “unanswered questions.”
Mountain councillor Tom Jackson said he has always supported the city constructing a recreation centre for seniors who live in the city’s lower area after Sackville Hill Senior Centre was built on the mountain. He said he promised Morelli that he would support the construction of a recreation centre for downtown seniors.
City Manager Chris Murray said, during a presentation to the Sept. 5 general issues committee, if the city were to build a recreation centre on its own, it would cost upwards of $3 million more.
He said the $17 million will come from a number of sources, including $1.2 million from a senior centre fund; $3.4 million in development charges; $500,000 from the Ward 3 budget; $2.85 from the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund, and $1.5 million from council’s strategic reserve. The remaining $7.75 million will be funded from the Hamilton Future Fund.
Earlier this year, the Future Fund board of directors rejected city staff’s request to provide the money for the recreation centre.
John Malloy, the HWDSB director said if the city didn’t partner with the board on the project, trustees would have to look at another option. He wouldn’t divulge what that alternative location would be.
The public board has received $32 million from the province to build a new high school in the lower city to replace Sir. John A Macdonald, Delta, and Parkview high schools. They are scheduled to close in 2015. The funding is contingent on the school board opening the 1,250-student school in September 2016.
The public board is also in the process of expropriating the property from a developer the board originally sold the 1.47 areas of land to when it closed Scott Park High School.
The city owns the remaining 5.21 acres, which includes parkland, an arena, Jimmy Thompson Pool, and a parking lot.