At last night's council meeting, Estevan City Council listened to a presentation from a group of Civic users. Led by Warren Waldegger who made a presentation, the group argued in favour of keeping the Civic open with regular maintenance and routine inspections.
"I thought it was a good presentation," said Mayor Roy Ludwig after the meeting. "Obviously Warren did his homework. He put a lot of work into his presentation and those who helped him are to be commended."
"We appreciate the presentation and we appreciate the number of people who showed up tonight and appreciate their passion for keeping the Civic Auditorium open."
He added that council is still waiting on some reports to come in.
"But it does help us understand perhaps if we can get around the liability issues and take of the mainly structural issues that we're concerned about, to keep the Civic open, I think you will see Council do that. But again, there are a lot of concerns out there after that report. We're talking high priority, medium and longer term meaning five years, around $5 million."
Ludwig noted that he understood when Mr. Waldegger said that some of the findings in the report were exaggerated, but he feels that perhaps, the report could be under stating the damages.
"Because once you start digging in, and doing the work, sometimes these costs can get out of control. So we have to be cognizant of that as well."
"But we're willing to wait now, do some more investigation. We've got the Fire Chief, we've got MuniCode, we haven't heard back from them yet, SaskEnergy, SaskPower. And then we'll be able to meet at our next open meeting and then hopefully come out with a more definite course of action."
Ludwig also noted that there are many arguments to be made for and against closing the Civic.
"Do we need another ice surface? That's an argument. Do we maybe need a field-house instead? There are many options to look at. And perhaps moving forward we need a plebiscite which would cost us $10,000 but would get the opinion of the people moving forward, if the Civic is shut down, what is the best route moving forward. Would you rather have a field-house? Would you rather have an ice surface? Maybe we're at the juncture now with three years left in our mandate, with this being a heavy item, an expensive item, whichever way we turn, to maybe have a plebiscite and ask our community to help us decide. What do the people of our community feel is important. Because either way we go moving forward, is big dollars."
There was a question raised during Mr. Waldegger's presentation that perhaps the City had intentionally neglected the Civic in order to pursue their own agenda. However, council and the Mayor both immediately shot down those rumors.
"I can honestly say that when we built Affinity, and I was the chairman on that board, but the building of Affinity Place was truly a community effort and everyone came together and they realized a need that we had with the aged Civic. They knew we had to replace it. But at the time, which was 2011, the thought process at that time was that we would either turn the Civic into a field-house for soccer or lacrosse or take a hard look at what we would do with that building including demolition."
He added that with the flood and other issues that arose, the decision on the fate of the Civic was placed on the back-burner.
"We really didn't sit down and have a heart to heart about the Civic. Now we were looking at putting considerable money into the Civic because we knew there were heating issues, insulation issues, a host of issues were coming up and maybe we were a little bit past taking a real hard look, but not that much. I don't think it's a case that we were avoiding it or purposely running it into the ground. I absolutely would argue those comments that this was a plan to run it into the ground so we could close it. I can say with certainty that it is absolutely not the case and in fact this council was looking at putting in around $300,000 into it this year had the structural of the report come back positive."
He also reiterated that council is not taking this decision lightly.
"We have some tough decisions to make. Will we keep it open? I can't answer that. We've got a few more reports to come and until those reports are here, we'll keep it closed and we'll be looking at other alternatives but I can assure you as well, council is not taking this decision easily. This is not an offhanded answer. We have had many discussions and lots of back and forth on this issue because it is a landmark of our city and it's been a huge part of our city for 60 years. We don't take that lightly."
He concluded by saying that no decision will be made before December 4th when we have received all the reports and there is another open City Council meeting.
"We may not make a decision even if all these reports come in, if other things come to light. And we're looking at other options, it may keep going until we can either afford to fix in a timely fashion or we make the other decision of shutting it down and demolition."