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Public meeting on future Elbow facility a 'mixed bag'

Depending on who you spoke with following a public meeting held in Elbow concerning the community's future Line 19 Multiplex, the informational gathering may have been something of a mixed bag.

Depending on who you spoke with following a public meeting held in Elbow concerning the community's future Line 19 Multiplex, the informational gathering may have been something of a mixed bag.

Held on Saturday morning, June 19 at the village's rodeo grounds, the meeting was organized as a session to learn all the facts from those who have been key behind the scenes in trying to raise and secure funds for the multipurpose facility, which is being designed as an all-in-one building to suit any number of events.  Set to be the first of several public meetings, information booklets that provided answers to a multitude of questions on the proposed project were handed out prior to the meeting.

But emotions on the would-be project ran the gamut as a handful of those in attendance applauded as the specifics of a recent petition were brought up during the Q&A portion.  The petition, which went to the Village of Elbow's council on April 12, requested more information on the facility and asked for a public vote that would ask ratepayers if they were in favor of such a facility.  However, at the time, it was said that council was under a gag order and could not respond to inquiries about the project build due to the grant application that was being reviewed.  At the time that the petition was presented, it was said that petitioners were "not speaking against the Line 19 Multiplex, we simply want the opportunity to exercise our democratic right."

The petition, which had collected close to 200 signatures, was found by Elbow's village administrator to be insufficient and didn't meet the requirements of The Municipalties Act.

Kim Trew, who worked on the petition, spoke during the meeting and said there has been "silence" from those involved with the project on the high number of names that signed the document.  It was said that Elbow's council is not against holding a vote on anything, but that it's hard to hold a vote when not all the information is known about such a substantial project.

Others, such as Shawn Graham, said they're more than happy to donate to the project, but didn't want to also be taxed.  He also noted that he was "flabberghasted" that Elbow council wouldn't hold a referendum.

"We don't want to take this to a vote before we have all the info," countered Joanne Brochu, an Elbow councillor and the village's deputy mayor.

It was said that a vote could very well be possible in the future, but not until all the information on the facility is publicly known.

Others at the meeting spoke highly of the possibilities that a future facility could hold for not only Elbow, but all the communities that dot the landscape along Highway 19, including Hawarden, Strongfield, Loreburn, and Mistusinne, hence the 'Line 19' portion of the name.

Shantel Bristow spoke about the family connection that the building would hold for her, as her father dreamed of such a facility that enveloped the entire community area.

"This is a project very near and dear to our family," she said, tearing up.  "Yes, it's in Elbow, but it's for everyone.  Nothing would make my dad prouder than to see this."

Public meeting on future Elbow facility a 'mixed bag'_0
Shantel Bristow's father dreamed of a facility like the one being planned in Elbow. - Derek Ruttle

As far as the dollars and cents go, it's said that the community is responsible for 27% of the project, with $480,000 already set aside.  Elbow also has the opportunity to use provincial and federal financial grant funding totaling a whopping $4.77 million to build the facility, which has been calculated to carry a current budget of $6.5 million.  Research done by village officials has indicated that it is "very likely" that Elbow will spend less money to operate one multipurpose facility rather than the three independent buildings that it is intended to replace - the library, the rink, and the Civic Centre.

These three buildings operate at an annual deficit of over $36,000 per year, but it's said that they require hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades in order to make the buildings functional for maybe another five or ten years down the road.  It's said that in order to keep the Elbow rink operational for the long term, it would cost in the millions to address the building's structural issues.

The community has the support of the RM of Loreburn to build the facility, with the RM agreeing to donate $100,000 to the cost of the build a number of years ago.  More recently, they were asked for a larger contribution, but while the RM shared their support for the project, it was said they would wait to provide further monetary support until the ICIP grant funding was publicly announced.

As for any ratepayer vote on the project, it's said that once Elbow village council and the Line 19 Multiplex Committee have received the public funding announcement from the government, they will be able to move forward on the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  After this process of providing ratepayers with all the factual information is complete, the Elbow council will assess the situation and consider taking the matter to a vote on the future of the Multiplex and the $4.77 million grant monies.