It divided council, but in the end, city staffers will not be looking into the installation of a synthetic ice rink in Civic Square.
Despite staff recommending to trash the idea, the issue – a pet project for Councillor John Neal – was starting to gain support in council.
Councillor John Shields joined Neal as one of the vocal proponents for moving ahead with the project. According to a city report, the synthetic surface could come with an initial cost of $120,000, along with an estimated $52,000 annual cost thereafter. The annual costs would come in the form of maintenance and cleaning ($5,000), additional staff supervision and security ($25,000), transportation, set-up and take-down and other miscellaneous costs ($8,000), and an additional $14,000 for snow removal.
“The cost associated with this is nothing compared to the types of events we can create around it and bringing people to Civic Square in the winter months,” Shields said, noting staff had not looked into the possibility of finding corporate sponsors to help offset the cost.
However, other councillors were convinced the negatives clearly outweighed the positives – first and foremost, after staff consulted with their counterparts in Pickering, which owns a similar surface, it was found the surface was not well used.
Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki noted it would not be wise to move ahead on the assumption that the surface would be a hit.
“I think we just take staff’s advice and let this go at this point in time,” he said at the recent meeting of the community services committee.
At the committee level, a motion to table the report until after the summer recess and prevent the project from being quashed, was defeated on a tie with Councillors Pidwerbecki and Bob Chapman joined by Mayor John Henry in voting against Councillors Neal, Shields and Rick Kerr.
Following that, a motion to not move ahead with the project lost on the same tie, causing the report to head to the council chambers without a recommendation.
At the final meeting before the summer recess on June 27, the issue ignited further debate among councillors.
This time, the security issues seemed top of mind, with several councillors worried about vandalism.
The meeting also saw Kerr moving sides and voting against the project, noting if the usage numbers do not support the project, it will not work.
“None of that matters if you go back to the original thing, if people are going to use it when you put it in,” he said.
Chapman took the chance to liken the potential project to another spending fiasco in Oshawa’s history.
“We don’t want to turn this into a Cullen Garden miniatures,” he said, referring to a $250,000 purchase of a 180-piece miniature village in 2007 without planning a place to set up the models, before selling it in 2012 for a fraction of the cost.
“I don’t think it’s a wise spending of our money.”
A final vote saw the project defeated with Councillors Neal and Shields joined by Doug Sanders and Amy McQuaid-England in favour.