Original Published on Jul 15, 2022 at 07:45

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

BROCKTON – Council is taking a step forward in planning the future of the Walkerton arena and community centre.

Mayor Chris Peabody drew attention to reports in the agenda package for the July 12 council meeting that, in combination, serve to set future directions for the municipality.

Mark Coleman, director of community services, has prepared a report calling for preparation of conceptual drawings for a new arena, at an estimated cost of $1-$1.5 million. Such design work would be key to support future grant applications, and is important for public consultation. In addition, it could help launch a community fundraising campaign. 

The report included a reminder that the current 1972 facility is “on borrowed time.”

Peabody noted the request to move ahead with conceptual design work is “very tentative” and does not give “the green light” to a specific project.

“Mark (Coleman) is proceeding step by step,” said Peabody.

The mayor noted that he himself has supported the idea of an addition to the existing arena. He acknowledged there are flood plain and other issues with the location.

“I support staff looking into the matter (of a new arena),” he said.

Some of the ideas for a new arena call for a combined arena and municipal office. 

Peabody noted the lease on the existing office space is up for renewal. What’s proposed is an annual increase of $2,500 – just over three per cent – for five years. The rent would increase from $72,250 annually from November 2022 to October 2023, to $82,250 from November 2026 to October 2027. 

“It’s a lot less than the interest rate on $5 million for a new building,” he said. 

Peabody spoke of the numerous benefits of the current offices, including the fact heating and cooling are included in the rent, and the “good, central location. The citizens like it.”

Changes resulting from COVID, when many people started working from home at least some of the time, mean a lot of places are finding they don’t need as much office space, the mayor said.

As for council meetings, a report was on the agenda for a return to in-person meetings at the upgraded county council chamber. The report recommended the purchase of an additional $18,000 in equipment.

While many councils have returned to in-person meetings, Brockton council has not, due to a delay for the installation of audiovisual upgrades to permit “hybrid” meetings where some people attend in person and others remotely.

Peabody commented that “it’s a great use of a shared resources.” The county’s technology is excellent, he said, adding that he’s looking forward to getting that equipment purchased and going back to in-person meetings. He noted the council chamber was built in 1987 to accommodate 33 people. Then came amalgamation, and the number went down to eight. 

“It’s a wonderful facility,” he said.

Also on the agenda was the upcoming Walkerton Summer Streetfest on July 22, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., featuring music, family activities and more.

And the municipality is looking for a new director of operations – additional details will follow.

This will be a busy week for the Brockton mayor. In addition to the municipal council meeting, there’s a meeting of Bruce County council on July 14.

Among the points of interest to Peabody was ongoing work on the county’s Official Plan. He said he was pleased to see that some of Brockton’s concerns have been heard – primarily the need for commercial growth in Walkerton, as well as growth in the hamlets.

This item reprinted with permission from The Herald Times, Walkerton, Ontario