WEATHER ALERT

City urged to give councillors more say in closing facilities

A city councillor wants to raise the threshold required to close city pools, arenas, and libraries, just as council considers options to shutter some of those public amenities to help balance its books.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/02/2020 (1030 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A city councillor wants to raise the threshold required to close city pools, arenas, and libraries, just as council considers options to shutter some of those public amenities to help balance its books.

Possible changes to public facilities

A budget proposal from Winnipeg’s community services department aims to meet a 0.5 per cent cap on annual spending hikes by making the following changes to public facilities:

A budget proposal from Winnipeg’s community services department aims to meet a 0.5 per cent cap on annual spending hikes by making the following changes to public facilities:

●  Reduce hours at the Margaret Grant, St. James Civic and Seven Oaks pools.

● Reduce free/ drop-in rec programs by 25 per cent of 2019 levels.

● Reduce leisure guide programming by 50 per cent, excluding swimming lessons.

● Close Peguis Trail Health and Fitness Centre.

● Reduce the number of wading pools from 81 to 43.

● Close the Happyland, Windsor Park, Kinsmen Sherbrook, Transcona Centennial and Eldon Ross pools.

● Close the Sargent Park, Bertrand, Charles A. Barbour and Maginot arenas.

● Keep the Terry Sawchuk arena closed.

● Close the West Kildonan, Fort Garry and Westwood libraries.

● Cut some library evening and Sunday hours.

Source: City of Winnipeg budget documents

Coun. Kevin Klein’s motion calls for the public service to explore a possible bylaw amendment that would require a two-thirds council vote to approve closing any such public facilities. This would also apply to community clubs.

Coun. Kevin Klein wants a bylaw amendment that would require a two-thirds council vote to approve closing any public facilities, including community clubs. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) said it should take more than a simple majority of councillors to shut those key public spaces and the votes should be considered separately from the approval of the city budget.

“When you’re impacting a community with a library, for example, you have to consider all factors around that … (The current system) doesn’t allow you to have input on that (specific item),” he said.

Klein argues it would be more democratic to allow each ward councillor to weigh in on each potential closure on behalf of their constituents.

“I think if we’re going to start closing libraries or arenas and community centres, that all residents deserve a voice,” he said.

Klein’s motion calls on the governance committee to order a public service report on the idea.

City staff recently provided councillors with a series of controversial options to cap each department’s annual spending increases at between zero per cent and two per cent over the next four years, which they’ve been directed to do.

Options to meet community services’ 0.5 per cent new spending cap include the closures of dozens of wading pools, five full-sized pools, four arenas and three libraries.

Barret Miller, who opposes the possible closure of the Kinsmen Sherbrook pool, welcomed the idea of an increased threshold to approve each closure. He’d also like to see each councillor’s vote on a closure reported publicly.

About 40 community members attended a rally on Saturday to keep the Westwood Library open. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I think the transparency and accountability to the citizens who elected them … is paramount,” said Miller, who chairs Friends of Sherbrook Pool.

He said that transparency is critical, since he believes the Sherbrook pool is a key city amenity, whose future could sway how some Winnipeggers vote for their next city council.

Alison Schroeder, who is lobbying against the possible closure of the Fort Garry Library, also supports the idea.

“I think there needs to be clearer lines drawn in the sand. I don’t think one person swaying (the vote) one way or the other is a clear enough indication of what we should be doing,” she said.

Klein’s motion was approved in a 2-1 vote at an Assiniboia community committee meeting this week but it may not be able to secure final council approval.

Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James), the city’s finance chair, voted against the change. In an email, Gillingham said facilities sometimes require a quick closure by city staff, who shouldn’t need to wait for a council vote.

“Many of the city’s arenas, libraries, pools and other facilities are aged and require substantial capital investment to keep open,” wrote Gillingham. “There may be circumstances related to health and safety or mechanical failure that require city staff to close a facility.”

Friends of Sherbrook Pool chairman Barret Miller (centre) supports Klein's idea and would like to see each councillor’s vote reported publicly. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Gillingham believes council’s key focus should be ensuring city services are accessible to the community, rather than keeping one specific building open.

“Decisions related to city amenities should be based on sound analysis and strategic investment, not just on what may be politically popular,” he wrote.

joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

TIMELINE FOR CITY BUDGET

The City of Winnipeg has released a timeline for when all of its tough budget decisions will finally be made.

The 2020-2023 budget schedule notes council’s executive policy committee will table final budget recommendations at a special meeting on March 20, while council will cast the final vote on the financial blueprint on March 25.

So far, city departments have proposed a series of controversial potential cuts that could be made to meet strict spending targets, including the possible closure of pools, libraries and arenas.

Those proposals came after Mayor Brian Bowman announced city departments must follow annual caps on new spending over the next four years, which range from 0 per cent to two per cent.

Every possible cut is still far from final at this point.

As the mayor previously announced, the preliminary budget is set to be released on March 6.

Those who wish to speak at council or a council committee about the budget can call 311 to sign up.

Committee budget meetings are slated for the following dates:

● Property and development, heritage, and downtown development: March 11 at 9:30 a.m.

● Infrastructure renewal and public works: March 12 at 1 p.m.

● Protection, community services and parks: March 13 at 9:30 a.m.

● Winnipeg Police Board: March 13 at 1 p.m.

● Innovation and economic development: March 16 at 9:30 a.m.

● Water and waste, riverbank management and the environment: March 18 at 9:30 a.m.

● Executive policy committee (to hear delegations): March 19 at 9 a.m.

Report Error Submit a Tip