After what may have amounted to a bit of political theatre at council on Monday, it’s going to be fascinating to see what unfolds next on the Margo Fournier Centre.
In case you missed it, more than 100 people gathered in support of city ownership of the facility that evening during council’s regular meeting at City Hall.
The city’s elected officials unanimously reversed an order for the building’s user groups to potentially vacate the premises by Dec. 31.
But if you dissect what actually went on, this is a war that’s far from over.
While notice to tenants to evacuate would signal that council had made up its mind on the building, the decision to withdraw that first step could mean that council is just kicking the can down the road a bit.
There was nothing in Monday’s decision that prevents it from returning anytime.
They simply said they would study it more, which could mean anything from they are completely abandoning it to exploring other permanent options such as a sale.
The discussion at council on Monday included a somewhat cryptic exchange in which some council members said they were surprised to have learned about the order on user groups to vacate the premises by Dec. 31. That in turn seemed to catch Mayor Greg Dionne off guard, which makes one wonder what was said to whom, when and under what circumstance.
It isn’t a good look for council when they have sharply different recollections of big issues.
Regardless of Monday’s decision, the fate of the building remains very much up in the air, a point that hasn’t eluded Terra Lennox-Zepp, the woman who organized much of the protest against the potential eviction of users.
She told Daily Herald reporter Tyler Clarke on Thursday that she continues to work to keep the building open.
“We are planning to do three types of action. The first is to stay in contact with our city councillors regarding this issue.
“Secondly, to attend any public consultations that come up regarding the Margo Fournier or any other recreation facilities.
“The third is to keep the user groups of the Margo Fournier Centre up to date on what is happening.”
Coun. Rick Orr also spoke to Tyler Clarke for the story and admitted that council is in a bind.
“We are concerned about the downtown and the viability and having a facility like the Margo Fournier is important but there are some other aspects that we have to look at.
“We have been charged by the citizens of Prince Albert to be frugal and see how we can same money and look at what’s the best for the future … What’s best for the taxpayer?”
Orr suggested that there are countless options that need to be looked at, which include everything from reinvigorating the building’s current functionality to selling the land.
One of those potential solutions could have the facility’s supporters throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
If it’s a matter of raising fees to make the Margo Fournier Centre more self-sufficient, you get the sense that the facility’s user groups can only pay so much. At a certain point, you might as well head to another place because it’s no more expensive.
Orr’s suggestion that the building could change hands is interesting from a budget perspective but could also lead to rent being dramatically increased.
Keep your eyes peeled on this one. There’s more drama to come.
Prince Albert Daily Herald