Council reverses Margo Fournier order

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Erupting in applause, the more than 100 people who gathered in support of city ownership of the Margo Fournier Centre were not disappointed.

 

During Monday’s city council, the city’s elected officials unanimously reversed an order for the building’s user groups to potentially vacate the premises by Dec. 31.

“One of the positive things of this exercise was drawing attention back to the Margo Fournier (Centre),” Coun. Lee Atkinson concluded.

“It’s a bit of a paradox that we’d like to see our downtown more viable, but at the same (time) we’re thinking about taking some of the infrastructure … out of the equation.”

The centre is viable, and rather than look at the centre’s potential closure, why not look at means of making the centre even more viable, Atkinson asked.

Coun. Martin Ring mirrored this sentiment, addressing a long-standing misconception that people don’t want to come to downtown Prince Albert.

“Well, apparently people do want to come to the downtown,” he said.

Joining Coun. Charlene Miller, Ring noted that he was surprised to have learned about the order on user groups to vacate the premises by Dec. 31.

Unable to recall a motion of city council making this request, he also called to question Mayor Greg Dionne’s claim that the construction of the Alfred Jenkins Field House was intended to close the Margo Fournier Centre.

Ring asked during the previous week’s executive committee meeting to be provided a report that backed up Dionne’s claim, only to be provided a Feb. 26, 2010 report that failed to do so.

“There isn’t one word that says closure,” Ring concluded. “There is nothing hat makes reference to the Margo Fournier Centre closing down with the opening of the Alfred Jenkins Field House.”

Although Dionne responded by passing the buck back onto the Alfred Jenkins Field House building committee, he failed to rebuke Ring’s claim that city council has never discussed the Margo Fournier Centre’s closure in a public forum.

Although he voted alongside the rest of council in reversing the notice that user groups might be asked to leave the building by Dec. 31, Coun. Mark Tweidt also provided a counterpoint.

It’s a bit of a paradox that we’d like to see our downtown more viable, but at the same (time) we’re thinking about taking some of the infrastructure … out of the equation. Lee Atkinson

“We’re in a tough quandary,” he said. “The people of P.A. have loudly said they don’t want tax increases.”

“This is not an issue of taxes, I would say this is an issue of priorities,” facility user and advocate Terra Lennox-Zepp countered.

Lennox-Zepp organized Monday’s public showing of support for the centre.

Early in a string of presentations in support of the centre, Lennox-Zepp sparked the meeting’s first round of applause, noting, “We have so many supporters for the Margo Fournier Centre today, we ran out of chairs!”

Although some programming might shift to the Alfred Jenkins Field House, the Margo Fournier Centre’s central location is key to many of those who use it, Nicole Rancourt told city council.

Rancourt spoke on behalf of her experience as a registered social worker and chairperson of the Citizen Advisory Committee for Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Prince Albert Parole.

In addition to its central location, the centre’s second floor offers a stable venue for a handful of youth-centred programming, without which she concluded that “our youth fall prey to less healthy alternatives of spending their time.” 

“Within Prince Albert we have many youth who struggle with issues of poverty and addictions,” she said. “I feel that if the Margo Fournier Centre is closed we’re taking many steps backwards with our goals of fighting addictions, crime and poverty.”

After a lengthy discussion and debate, the city’s elected officials rescinded administration’s order to vacate by Dec. 31, opting instead to delve deeper into the building’s operations to hash out all options.

“Perhaps we have to take a look at the programming of the Margo Fournier Centre,” Ring noted. “Perhaps there is some more tweaking we can do to make it more viable.”

Organizations: Margo Fournier Centre, Alfred Jenkins Field House, Prince Albert Citizen Advisory Committee for Saskatchewan Penitentiary

Geographic location: P.A.

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