A back-up plan is taking shape now that the concept of an all-Norfolk recreational hub in Simcoe has reached a dead end.
Norfolk council has recommended that the county move on from the hub concept and focus instead on improving its current recreational assets. The strategy includes hiring a specialist on a three-year contract to co-ordinate the process.
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The YMCA and the Grand Erie District School Board will also be engaged in negotiations for the expansion and conversion of the gymnasium at Delhi District Secondary School into a multi-use sports facility available to students and the community.
“It wasn’t critically analyzed very well,” CAO Jason Burgess said of the $50-million hub proposal Norfolk submitted to the province in 2019. “How we did that last application — we can’t do that again.”
Norfolk’s plan to build a multi-use recreational hub at the corner of Ireland Decou roads was contingent on receiving $30 million or so from the province and the federal government. In terms of flaws, Burgess cited as an example a proposal to build a 50-metre swimming pool when other municipalities are not taking on projects this costly or this ambitious.
Some on council maintain that the hub concept continues to have great potential. Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin has been outspoken in her support and wants to reconvene Norfolk’s recreation facilities advisory board to come up with an alternative approach.
Deputy clerk Kevin Klingenberg said that would be complicated because RFAB has been decommissioned. In its place, council last year approved a recreation advisory committee with a different mandate and different terms-of-reference, prompting Klingenberg to say RFAB “is dead.” Martin asked for a deferal of staff’s recommendations but a majority of council chose to move on.
Despite the passing of RFAB, community consultation will be an aspect of the process going forward.
“Community engagement and consultation would be a core component throughout the complete process,” Norfolk recreation director Nikki Slote said in her report. “Collaboration and consultation with the recreation advisory committee would also be key. This proposed review would be undertaken to evaluate both existing facilities as well as future recreational facility needs.”
Norfolk Mayor Kristal Chopp has been a proponent of public-private partnerships wherever they might benefit the municipality. She said it would be unwise to reconstitute the hub process now that the YMCA and GEDSB have stepped forward as potential partners for recreational programming in Delhi. Further delay, Chopp said, may prompt them to withdraw their offer and devote their energies elsewhere.
Council on June 8 approved $360,000 in funding to cover the cost of a recreation re-development co-ordinator for three years. Council also approved $150,000 for a consultant’s report on improving the Annaleise Carr Aquatic Centre in Simcoe and the conversion of the Simcoe Recreation Centre – which includes the aquatic centre – into a year-round multi-use facility for indoor sports.
During the county’s hub deliberations in 2019, strong demand for recreational basketball, indoor soccer, volleyball, badminton, lacrosse, indoor baseball training, rock climbing and walking tracks was identified. The re-development co-ordinator and consultants will be asked to firm up options in this area and present recommendations on how they might be apportioned between the improved gymnasium at DDSS and re-purposed spaces at the Simcoe Recreation Centre.