Two recent events underscore the continuing agony facing Terrace city council’s problem of how to build a second sheet of ice.
The first concerns money, specifically the $450,000 or so in donations and commitments made by individuals, businesses and community groups. By coincidence, that amount about matches what the city has spent so far commissioning drawings and architectural plans over the years as the project has shrunk in scope in hopes of eventually coming up with a design that is affordable. Now there’s no way council could ever give the impression the donations and commitments were used for drawings and plans that so far are gathering dust.
So it passes a motion to deduct that expenditure from the $1 million grant it received from the province last year for the second sheet of ice. It’s a tidy political solution for it preserves the notion that local donations and commitments remain intact.
But it also lays bare the reality that about half a million bucks has been spent so far with nothing to show for it. And that $500,000 is still taxpayers money no matter how you look at it.
The second event is a motion introduced at a downtown Terrace Rotary Club meeting last month to put the brakes on its $50,000 commitment to the project and ask that its past donations be returned.
When Rotarians express reservations, people listen. Should they press their case, the result could be a tidal wave of opposition to any new council plan to build a second sheet of ice. Mayor Jack Talstra and former city councillor Stew Christensen, both are Rotarians, have managed to park that motion for a bit. Mr. Talstra now concedes he and his council have perhaps, just perhaps, not done a very good job of keeping people informed. That’s an understatement if there ever was one.
Delaying that Rotary motion and the artful political move to preserve local donations and commitments have given council the precious gift of time to convince the public that what it is doing is correct.
But this gift is of limited duration. It’ll run out soon. Mr. Talstra and his council need to act fast and convincingly to build public trust. The sooner Mr. Talstra and council open up public debate on whether or not a second sheet of ice is viable, the better it will be for all concerned.