Tough decisions for Minden

Minden Hills council has one final chance to decide whether the new arena project drives forward or has its brakes pulled.  The contract for the project is scheduled for discussion at a Jan. 24 meeting, after council agreed to extend the ‘validation phase’ at a Dec. 19 meeting at a cost of $140,000. The township did its best to inform and sell the community on the project at a Dec. 18 public meeting.  The project been debated relentlessly, and now we are at the final threshold. As the township prepares for this decision, the public should keep in mind that there is no perfect solution to an issue as complicated as the replacement of an arena.  There remains just cause for concern about this project and the process taken to get to this point. But to the township’s credit, they presented some fairly sound arguments to the public at the Dec. 18 meeting. The current arena is showing its age and needs work. Investing in a new arena may make more financial sense than a renovation which would last not nearly as long as a new facility.  But the costs, and everything that the new facility is not, remain major points of contention. Adding more features to the build or going forward with a pool instead could well cost much more than the current $12 million price tag which has already earned scorn.  The township has gotten plenty of flak over this proposal, but residents should be mindful of the complexity of the issue council is trying to solve. Balancing costs against the needs and wants of the community is no easy task with a project this big. There is never a way to satisfy everyone when it comes to projects of this scale, no matter what form they ultimately take.  The township does not have an easy, clear cut answer but presented a solid case for itself to build a new arena. That this kind of meeting with this level of detail did not come sooner is perhaps worthy of criticism, but better later than never.   Minden council must also be properly considerate when making its final decision. It might be easy to charge ahead based on what’s already been invested, but that alone is not sufficient. The rising costs of the project are also a major point of concern. Without the benefit of polling after the community got its clearest view of the project Dec. 18, councillors must seriously ask themselves how much public support there is for this project, especially if they expect to succeed in fundraising to help cover the costs.  The re-election of Minden Hills councillors should not be confused with necessarily having a majority of public support for this version of this arena project. The debate will not stop here and public input will be necessary even after January to try to make the facility the best it possibly can be for Minden, if it goes forward.   Minden council has a difficult decision ahead and is already grappling with questions of affordability. But any final efforts from members of the public should take into account all aspects of the decision, lest they be dismissed at this late stage.

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