ARICHAT: Council wants to know what projects at the Richmond Arena can be funded under a new provincial program, while it looks into rates and public health rules at the facility.

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on Oct. 25 in Arichat, Warden Amanda Mombourquette discussed the provincial Rink Revitalization Program.

The warden said she received an email from Richmond MLA Trevor Boudreau about the program, which is under the Department of Communities Culture and Heritage, for projects that can be completed between November and March. She said the grant is for large and small projects, including replacing boards, upgrading refrigeration, or improving seating or canteen spaces.

“It’s a program designed to assist groups, including municipalities, who are operating rinks, to invest in the infrastructure that will help with the sustainability of the facility,” she told council. “You can put multiple revitalization and repair projects, bundle them, into one application.”

CAO Don Marchand said the municipality has two items at the Richmond Arena included in their long-term plan, including accessibility improvements which have started. The second is the arena floor and refrigeration system, which he described as a “massive undertaking” that can only start once the ice has been removed in the spring.

“As far as some of the maintenance issues that we have at the arena, we’ve included those in our current budget,” he told council.

Council agreed to Mombourquette’s suggestion that staff clarify, with the province, when applications are due, when the work needs to be complete, and what projects might be eligible under the program.

On the subject of arena rates, District 1 Councillor Shawn Samson said residents complained to him about the cost for gentleman’s hockey.

“I know that the county runs the arena, most times at a deficit,” he said. “It costs us more than the revenue we take in when it comes to the arena and the rates. I know we’re trying to justify, but again, I was just hoping that we can have an open discussion.”

In speaking with Recreation Director Laurie Samson, Deputy Warden Melanie Sampson said there might be a misconception that rates were raised “substantially” for minor hockey. She noted there have been no increases in rates for many years.

“We did raise the rates for minor hockey as well but into the same degree as we did for gentlemen’s hockey,” she stated. “I definitely appreciate the need for recreation in the county and I hope that this does not affect the attendance of the gentlemen’s hockey league.”

District 2 Councillor Michael Diggdon said council should look at arena rates in this second term.

“It did end up affecting the turn-out for the gentlemen’s hockey league. I can personally say that some of the teams have delayed their starting date, of their pickup hockey, almost a month because of the cost,” he said. “I don’t know if raising the rate actually earned us any money or actually lost us money because the ice, even if it’s there, is not being rented out.”

With an average group of 20 people, District 2 Councillor Brent Sampson said the increase comes down to $1.50 per player.

“It’s not really all that much when you really come down to it,” he noted.

As far as public health rules at the arena, Diggdon said anyone attending minor hockey has to show proof of vaccination, but he questioned why they still have to provide contact tracing information while other facilities, like the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, do not require such information.

“Is it something that we can now move on from getting the names, and phone numbers, and everything else since you are showing proof of your vaccination?” he asked.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Marchand added he will get clarification from the recreation department on the rules at the arena.