A referendum for Rocanville residents will be held on Wednesday, August 5 to determine if the town will provide $400,000 for the hall and co-sign a loan for $800,000 for the fundraising committee.
At a special meeting last Wednesday, council was approached by the planning committee for the new hall. The committee asked council if they would consider holding a referendum, and council unanimously voted in favor of one.
The referendum will be run much like an election, with ballots being cast by town of Rocanville taxpayers. According to the town, it will take some time to organize the referendum, and council intends the result of the referendum to be binding for three years.
The RM of Rocanville council has already approved $400,000 for the new hall, and a donation of $800,000 has been pledged by PotashCorp.
If the referendum results in a yes vote, Rocanville town council will go ahead and borrow $400,000, which would be the town’s commitment to the new hall. They would also co-sign a loan for $800,000, which would go to the hall fundraising committee and be paid back to the town as the funds roll in.
A public meeting was held Tuesday to report on the progress of the project. At that meeting, planning committee chair Steve Fortney told the public there had been some opposition to the new hall, and the committee thought that a referendum was the fairest way to go.
“We realize this is somewhat divisive in the community. And our purpose was to give the community what they want, and people have been trying to express their opinions one way or another,” Fortney said.
“It’s our opinion at this stage a referendum and a binding vote is the best way to proceed. That way the people speak, and that’s the way it goes through. Whether it goes through or doesn’t go through, the community has a fair say and a vote.
“We feel it’s less divisive to the community. Let’s have it out in the open where people get to say what they want and everything could proceed after that.”
At the town council meeting on May 20, two councillors—Ken Nixon and Ed English—voted against the new hall.
Mayor Daryl Fingas, who also sits on the planning committee for the hall, says he believes there is support for the project in the community, but says he knows some people are also unhappy about the hall.
“The majority of the people that we’re hearing from about the hall, we’re hearing a lot that people are in favour of it. But the people who are very vocal are the ones against it. I’ve had a few phone calls that we shouldn’t be going ahead with it, and now these people are phoning other councillors, and there’s some negativity in the community. So to do it properly, this is the way to go instead of pushing it on people.”
Fingas says it’s important for everyone in the community to come out and vote so that council can make an informed decision.
“We’ve got to encourage all the people to come out. Whether you’re against it or in favour. We need everybody’s vote,” he says.
He says there are a number of rumors around town that the new hall could cost taxpayers as much as $500 a year. Fingas says the town has not even discussed yet how they would raise their portion of the $400,000, but says a $400,000 loan is not unreasonable for a town the size of Rocanville, which is currently not carrying a high debt load.
He says if every household were charged $100 year, the hall would be paid off in 12 years—what he considers a reasonable amount of time.
Fingas is in support of the hall and says if it’s not built now, it likely won’t ever be built.
“A lot of people have asked, ‘why don’t you save some money up before you build this hall?’ We’d have to ask the taxpayers for money and put it into an account. If we took $100 from every household, it would take us 12 years and if we went ahead with it, the cost of the hall probably would double in that 12 years. Are you further ahead? No you aren’t.
“If you look at it another way, 95 per cent of the people that buy a home probably made the minimum payment and paid a mortgage for 25 years to buy a home. If those people would have waited until they had enough money to purchase a home, they wouldn’t be in a home.
“So what do you do? You go out and you do it.”
Rocanville’s new hall is in the very final planning stages. The hall is set to be 14,877-square feet and, if built, would be located between the curling rink and the pool. It would include a stage, a kitchen and bar, a meeting room, and the office of the town rec director.
The estimated cost of the project is $2.4 million with the operating cost anticipated to be $10,000 annually.
Apart from receiving an $800,000 donation from PotashCorp, the committee has also received an unexpected $35,000 donation as well.
At the meeting last week, the committee announced that they have also applied for more than $100,000 in grants already to help cover the fundraising committee’s $800,000 portion of the funds that need to be raised.
Fortney said they would consider resurrecting the Rocanville Lucky Lottery as well, as a way to raise funds. The lottery, a popular event each year, ran for years in Rocanville as a way to raise funds for the town’s rink.
Fortney said he was optimistic the fundraising committee could raise the $800,000, and pointed out that a new hall has a use for everyone in the community.
“Keep in mind that close to a million dollars was fundraised for the skating rink,” he said at the meeting last week. “So when you look at the broader appeal (of the hall) in the community—it’s not just for people with kids that want to play hockey—there are a lot of people who want to use it and, it will have a lot more appeal.”