© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Terra Lennox-Zepp is seen with the handbill she’s been distributing to encourage members of the public to show up for the Monday, May 12, city council meeting to show support for downtown’s Margo Fournier Centre.
Speculation that the city has been considering closing the Margo Fournier is confirmed.
User groups have been cautioned that they might be asked to leave the building by the end of the year -- an early warning intended to prepare them for the possibility.
With zero city council discussion or public consultation on the matter, facility user Terra Lennox-Zepp said that she was taken aback by the news, which she received from user groups.
“It’s a proposal from Mayor (Greg) Dionne … and administration is taking action, but … it has not been voted at city council whether to close it,” she said.
Lennox-Zepp has already found a great deal of public support in the city maintaining its ownership and management of the Margo Fournier Centre, with 150 names filling out her petition so far -- primarily users of the facility, she said.
She hopes to see these people band together for the May 12 city council meeting to let the city’s elected officials know where they stand on the matter.
At Monday’s executive committee meeting of council, Lennox Zepp gave a condensed version of her upcoming presentation.
Built in 1966, there’s still plenty of life in the Margo Fournier Centre building, Lennox-Zepp explained to the Daily Herald prior to Monday’s meeting.
“I think it’s disrespectful to the people who came before me to do the fundraising and did organizing, and the city councils that came before me, and the mayor of that time -- to simply close the building after 48 years of service,” she asserted.
“I hope after all the fundraising we did for the Alfred Jenkins (Field House) that we aren’t closing it 48 years from now.”
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Greg Dionne said that the fate of the Margo Fournier Center was determined four years ago with the construction of the Alfred Jenkins Field House.
“It was always the plan when we built the Alfred Jenkins (Field House) to close the Margo Fournier (Centre),” Dionne said. “That’s why we added a gym to the facility, that’s why we moved all the weight equipment out and relocated it there -- that was the plan.”
Four years later, the Margo Fournier Centre is still being used by many user groups Lennox-Zepp countered, noting that there appears to be room in a city of this size for both facilities.
“I do yoga class and noon-hour aerobics class here at the Margo Fournier Centre,” she said. “I work at the McIntosh Mall, so it’s the most convenient location to get exercise during the day.”
I think it’s disrespectful to the people who came before me to do the fundraising and did organizing, and the city councils that came before me, and the mayor of that time -- to simply close the building after 48 years of service. Terra Lennox-Zepp
The building has various other uses throughout the year, including seniors’ fitness classes and various room and gymnasium bookings.
The Prince Albert outreach and Youth Activity Centre is in the building, housing various programs such as an anti-gang program, leadership and skateboarding, with about 60 youth attending five evenings a week.
The Won Ska School is in the building – an alternative learning school that helps youth obtain their Grade 12 diplomas.
The Seniors Heritage Centre is located in the Margo Fournier Centre’s west-side. Although the centre could be detached from the main structure, the two buildings share a boiler system, so additional renovations would need to take place.
Admitting that he’s “in a quandary, here,” Coun. Mark Tweidt argued that the facility might face closure due to a desire for lower taxes.
Within this year’s city budget, $204,530 has been budgeted toward the Margo Fournier Centre -- a figure that does not factor in add-ons such as capital projects.
“Nobody wants their taxes to go up -- anybody who I’ve met, anyway,” Tweidt said. “We’re told that we have to cut back all the time, and do all these things, so we’ve sat here for probably eight or nine different meetings going through everything trying to figure out a way to reduce taxes, reduces overhead and all those types of thing.”
Tweidt added that he’s not sure which way he’s voting, but that the cost of running the centre is an important factor.
Although city council has mulled over the possibility of divesting the city of the Margo Fournier Centre and passing it on to other organizations to control, Lennox-Zepp countered by stating that civic control is a more desirable option due to its stability.
Council’s debate over the Margo Fournier Centre’s future is expected to continue at the Monday, May 12, city council meeting scheduled to start in council chambers at 5 p.m.
Lennox-Zepp is encouraging anyone in support of the city maintaining ownership and management of the Margo Fournier Centre to attend the meeting as a show of solidarity.