South Peace News
After months of planning, McLennan town council is ready to meet with the public to determine future use of the iconic H.W. Fish Arena.
An open house will be held at the McLennan Elks Hall May 11 at 7 p.m. Council hopes a group of people or an organization will step forward to consider operating the arena as a recreation facility, not necessarily with ice.
Council will present the history of the arena, latest cost estimates to operate the arena, needed repairs or renovations, and a proposed sample agreement for anyone to consider.
Currently, council does not expect anyone to come forward to install ice in the arena due to cost, but the option is always open.
Last year, the former council even considered the idea of selling the arena, but it was later decided to see if a group would operate the facility.
At a special council meeting Nov. 23, 2021, council decided to explore the possibility of renting or leasing the building. Council decided to first determine its 2022 budget before informing any potential group of its contribution before taking over the arena.
“Then they [the new group] will know what they have to come up with,” said Mayor Jason Doris.
During debate, council examined the five-year expenditure report, arena usage and its history during the 1:15-minute meeting, which four members of the public attended.
The expenditure report told the story council already knew: they were incurring huge annual deficits to operate the arena, ranging from $20,293.58 in 2020-21 to $94,726.33 in 2016-17. CAO Lorraine Willier also calculated the arena used 7.45 per cent of all municipal expenditures for the Town.
The report also indicated council was using MSI [Municipal Sustain- ability Initiative] operating grant money to offset deficits at the arena. In 2019-20, for example, council spent $21,420 of MSI grant money or roughly 20 per cent of its total grant allotment from the Alberta government, and still lost $64,450.05 in operations.
Doris said council needed to explore all options before deciding the arena’s fate: shut it down, rent it, or form a society to run it.