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Windsor council commits $1 million over five years for new West Hants arena project

<p lang="en-US">The newly sworn in Windsor town council pose for a photo following the ceremony on Oct. 25, 2016. Pictured are, from left, Laurie Murley, John Bregante, Mayor Anna Allen, Shelley Bibby, and Jim Ivey.</p>
Windsor Town Council backs the West Hants arena project with a $1 million grant spread out over five years.

WINDSOR, N.S. – Windsor town council has voted to support the West Hants arena project to the tune of $1 million spread out over five years.

The funds will come from the operational reserve account ($800,000) and capital reserve ($200,000).

Money will begin flowing once the project breaks ground.

During a packed special meeting of council on Aug. 23, which included several members of West Hants council in the audience, Windsor councillors agreed that a new ice surface is necessary for the recreational needs of the region, despite some discomfort with the lack of detail in the proposal.

West Hants’ arena project is estimated to cost $10.5 million in total, which includes the 44,000 square foot facility, parking lot, HST, land purchase from the Windsor Agricultural Society, and a 20 per cent contingency.

Now the question remains where West Hants will get the remaining funds to offset its financial commitment for the project, be it through community fundraising or corporate sponsorship.

The facility would be subject to town property tax, as it sits within town limits, unless West Hants council requests a tax exemption from the town and the town approves.

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Before council approved the grant, councillors discussed what the best way to deliver those funds would be, eventually settling on $1 million over five years for financial confidence.

“I would be more confident in spreading that (funding) as the project evolves,” Mayor Anna Allen said. “Instead of a million out front, this allows us an opportunity to support the hockey heritage projects.”

Chief Administrative Officer Louis Coutinho noted that the proposal plan lacks details, but given the tight deadline to meet the Small Communities Fund deadline, that was to be expected.

Coun. Jim Ivey wanted to see the town's contribution spread out over three years, but council stuck with five.

A previous motion to allocate $1 million in funding towards hockey heritage initiatives was rescinded.

Coun. Shelley Bibby began to cry as she read a prepared statement during discussions, highlighting the division in the community as the debate over the arena project took its toll over the past four years.

“I will comment that the journey of this project has been a demonstration of everything that can possibly go wrong with a community endeavour,” Bibby said.

“What started as an idea from what I believe to be some sincere and well-intentioned citizens then became a collaborative community effort but somehow morphed into a battle of winners and losers, he said/she said and bitter and nasty statements…,” she continued.

“But I will tell you that there have been times that I am embarrassed to admit that I am an elected official in this community,” she added.

Bibby said that she would support $1 million going towards the rink project as long as something is done to acknowledge and support the hockey heritage at Long Pond and other sites.

A new motion was put on the books, asking the CAO to find ways to identify hockey heritage options around the Long Pond site in collaboration with the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society.

“Thank you West Hants and good luck on your project,” Allen said after the motion was approved.

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