Council backs arena projects

PORT HOOD: Council will give its support to arena groups applying for provincial funding.

During its Nov. 2 regular monthly meeting, Inverness Municipal Council decided to see what applications come from groups representing arenas before committing funding for a request from the group overseeing the Al MacInnis Sports Centre in Port Hood.

Inverness Recreation Director Melanie Beaton told council the Department of Communities Culture and Heritage has unveiled a new Rink Revitalization Fund.

In previous years, when arenas applied for provincial funding to upgrade fixed furnishings and equipment, the only avenue was the Recreation Facility Development Fund, which offered one-third of funding, up to $150,000, and closes in January or February Beaton noted.

“However, when an arena would apply, they would be in competition every other recreation facility, so that’s playgrounds, tennis courts, ballfields,” she said.

Under this new program, Beaton said applicants can still apply for one-third of the project cost, to a maximum of $150,000. To assess applications, she said the province looks at community benefit and impact, need, and project planning, through the lens of equity, safety, accessibility, and inclusion, as well as viability, sustainability, and project funding and partnerships.

“This is for items of permanent, durable capital nature; so large permanent furnishings and equipment, like ice resurfacing, ice plant components, boards, score clocks, canteen upgrades, energy efficiency upgrades. Pieces that are integral to the functioning or operation of the facility, as well as capital conservation work involving repair and/or replacement needs of any major components directly related to a facility’s structural or operational integrity,” she stated.

Along with Charlotte MacDonald, Beaton met with the North Inverness Recreation Centre Association in Chéticamp, the Mabou and District Athletic Centre, the Dr. Bernie MacLean Cultural and Recreation Centre in Inverness, and the Al MacInnis Sports Centre.

Unfortunately, the deadline to apply for this new fund is Nov. 15, which Beaton called a “small window.” Because of the limited time, she said any municipal approval for each project would have to take place after the fact.

“All four organizations are planning to put applications in,” Beaton told council. “It’s a really difficult time to collect estimates.”

As of last week’s meeting, Beaton said the only application the municipality received was from the Port Hood facility requesting a new Zamboni to replace the current vehicle which dates back to 1994. She said the price tag is $154,662 and the group is asking Inverness County for a contribution of $31,381. They’re looking for $51,545 under the provincial program, and is planning to contribute $51,554, in addition to fundraising the remaining $20,173, she noted.

“It is posing quite a risk to them, in terms of operation and maintenance,” she said.

As far as Recreation Facility Grants, Beaton told council there’s $30,512.50 remaining in that fund. To provide context, she said council approved $48,848 in 2019, and another $10,000 in 2020 for the Al MacInnis Sports Centre. In 2020, Inverness County gave $27,932 to the arena in Chéticamp, and that same year greenlit $13,975 to the facility in Inverness.

“With your current budget allocation, (council) does not have the capacity to fund up to a third of the funding for asks from all four arenas,” she said.

District 5 Councillor Lynn Chisholm said the Zamboni is in bad shape and the Al MacInnis Sports Centre “needs something.”

“This application is sitting here, it’s waiting,” she said. “They need a Zamboni.”

Worrying that council might be penalizing the Port Hood group which did its due diligence and got their application submitted on time, in favour of funding possible projects from the other groups, District 6 Councillor Catherine Gillis wanted to verify the plans of the other groups. She noted that the Port Hood facility is used by players from around the municipality.

“I’d like to support all of them, to be fair,” she said. “You don’t want to hold up somebody else’s application because others weren’t quite prepared.”

Warden Laurie Cranton said he can’t spare money from his district fund since it helps organizations in his area, and suggested it would be best to wait to see if other groups are seeking funding.

Beaton said groups can apply in the new year under the Recreation Facility Development Fund.

“We would be expending the Recreation Facility Grant that you have in its entirety now, so any ask that would come in between now and March 31, wouldn’t tap that particular stream of funding,” she noted.

Municipal support isn’t a requirement to be approved for this program, but Beaton suggested it does strengthen applications.

“We can send letters of support on all four applications from the municipality. Ultimately, when the funding is confirmed they can update the file,” she added.

Council agreed to direct staff to send letters of support for each current and future application.