The Harry Jerome reconstruction project was on the books at the time of the last municipal election, and each candidate promised a resolution. Three years later, there is still no solution, no budget, no funding model, not even a firm design to consider. Three years, and despite all the promises, nothing what-so-ever has been done.
The Harry Jerome service model requires re-examination in it’s entirety. The questions which we need to answer are:
- The size of the pool, 25 meters or 50 meters (olympic size); and
- Do we continue to provide space for the Flicka gymnastics program, or do we suggest they find a new location; and
- Do we keep the single sheet of ice attached to the Harry Jerome service model, or split off the ice-rink offering to a separate multi-sheet facility, at a wholly separate location, such as the Lucas Centre Lands; and
- If we split off the ice to a multi-sheet location, similar in fashion to the District’s Ice Sports facility offering, do we entertain or pursue a p-3 solution to fund this offering; and
- Do we build an all new gym of sufficient size to allow closure of both the 23rd and St, Georges “Memorial” Gym, as well as the 23rd St. Mickey McDougall Gym, combining these two facilities into the all new Harry Jerome facility, absent an ice sheet; or
- Do we maintain either or both the Memorial and the Mickey McDougall gym facilities, and leave a new gym completely out of the Harry Jerome project ?
These are just some of the questions that must be answered before the solution to Harry Jerome can be determined, costed, put to a public hearing, settled, and built. Then of course there is the issue of how we pay for it?
Should the solution to Harry Jerome include residential tower density as an amenity trade-off with developers in order to secure some or all of the building for free, or at a reduced cost to taxpayers ? And if so, how tall should the building be constructed ?
Harry Jerome, if paid in full by City taxpayers, is anticipated to cost $80 to $90 million. This will mean that the City will spend the last of its saving, and go into public debt for the first time since we emerged from bankruptcy back in the early 1900’s. On this point I am very concerned that our current tax and spend mentality, of burning up our bank savings and selling-off our land assets will soon leave us without an insurance policy upon which to rely if the current economic bubble bursts, as it did in 2008.
I have a personal preference that we should pursue an Ice-Sports model, and that we should consider putting this multi-rink solution at the Lucas Centre Lands, now declared excess by SD #44. But this option will create issues for the residents in that area in respect of traffic and congestion, and so I would need to be convinced that the local area residents will support this option over the residential density currently being proposed by the SD #44 planning process. I think the first group that needs to come out in favour of such a solution is the residential neighbourhoods immediately adjacent to the Lucas Centre Lands. If they don’t support a multi-sheet ice rink facility in place of the Lucas Centre school structure, then nor will I.
What is certain is that a decision and solution to Harry Jerome has dragged on long enough. It is time to speed the process up and act on a solution. And this solution should take financial precedent over City finances versus any other capital project under consideration (i.e: Disney North”).
IT IS MY POSITION THAT a reconstruction and design decision should be completed within 24 months of the election, and construction on the new Harry Jerome replacement solution should be underway within three years of the upcoming municipal election, if not sooner. Accordingly;
- I will support a public design and input process to determine the right design for Harry Jerome; and
- I will support a financial modelling process to determine the least cost solution, or combination of financial solutions to acquiring the funds to pay-for Harry Jerome in the form decided; and
- I will support the commencement of construction within 30 months of the upcoming municipal election; and
- I will support putting the Harry Jerome reconstruction project at the top of the infrastructure replacement que, ensuring this projects proceeds first before any and all other major investment initiatives.
When I find myself in a position to apply these policies and principals as set out above, they will guide my decision-making.