Huron East Council pulls ice from arenas
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
While Huron East Council’s decision to remove the ice from its two community centres was disappointing for both councillors and user groups, most agree it was the right thing to do.
While council was due to discuss the move at its Jan. 19 meeting, when the provincial government announced the extension of its stay-at-home order and province-wide lockdown, several councillors took the opportunity to raise the subject at a recent committee meeting.
The municipality’s water and sewer committee had met prior to the Jan. 19 meeting and, with five councillors in attendance, they discussed the issue, making the decision to remove the ice from community centres in Brussels and Seaforth.
Mayor Bernie MacLellan said at council’s Jan. 19 meeting, which was held virtually via Zoom, that after the decision to remove the ice was made, news quickly circulated on Facebook before some user groups could be officially notified.
In speaking with a representative of the Seaforth Minor Hockey Association, MacLellan said the representative was not happy, but understood the municipality’s decision. Despite no activities in the centres during the lockdown, simply keeping the ice cold enough was costing the municipality approximately $500 per day, MacLellan said.
Before the final decision had been made, the association had sent a letter to Huron East Council requesting that council retract any decision that would remove the ice from local community centres.
“We are requesting you retract... your decision to remove the ice Jan. 18 and have open dialogue with ourselves and the other user groups,” stated a letter written by the Seaforth Minor Hockey Executive. “We have 120 kids that are currently stuck at home and we would appreciate the opportunity to hopefully continue their season in February.”
The letter also stated that because many of the area’s young hockey players had already gone over 10 months without being able to play organized hockey, another two-and-a-half weeks wouldn’t have made a huge impact.
Chief Administrative Officer Brad Knight also weighed in, saying staff had conferred with other nearby municipalities and many were making the same decision to remove the ice from their arenas, including North Huron, Perth East, Mitchell and Goderich, among others. He then said he sent correspondence to the user groups to notify them of the decision.
In his letter, Knight said the decision has been made not just with the best information available at the time, but also including the projections for the coming weeks.
“I would suggest that we are fortunate to live in Huron-Perth as we are not deemed one of the ‘hot’ spots of the province,” he said. “In times of a pandemic like COVID-19 we are fortunate to have open spaces and other amenities that we can enjoy without the high population concentrations. Unfortunately, for the province as a whole, COVID-19 is going to be with us for a number of months yet and based on the information we have available to us, we do not anticipate that indoor recreation facilities will reopen in the immediate future.”
At a meeting earlier in January, council had discussed possibly removing the ice from the municipality’s arenas. With no playoffs, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, seasons would end in very early March, staff said. That meant that if the stay-at-home order was to be extended into mid-February or further, that would leave just two or three weeks of ice time for local teams if the order wasn’t extended once again.
“On behalf of Huron East Council, I hope that you can appreciate the decisions that have been made in these unprecedented times. We look forward to a return to more normal indoor recreation activities in the fall of 2021,” Knight concluded his letter.