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Regina city council to discuss catalyst projects, accessible waterslides during lengthy agenda

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A long list of Regina residents once again voiced their opposition to a downtown arena at a council meeting on Wednesday.

Some delegates, including Florence Stratton, wore white shirts with the phrase ‘no more war on the core’ as they outlined reasons for council to scrap its idea of a downtown multi-purpose event centre.

“Let’s do something different this time and make solving houselessness a catalyst project,” Stratton said.

Stratton, among other delegates, spoke against the need for a new arena, especially one located downtown. Many residents told council the money would be better spent tackling homelessness issues, replacing the city’s lead pipes and improving para-transit.

Council previously approved the new aquatic centre proposed at the current site of the Lawson Aquatic Centre. However, they pressed pause on the other recommendations after deciding more public consultation was needed for the proposed downtown arena project.

The city hosted a public survey from March 9 to 19 to assess the need for and potential downtown location of a new multi-purpose event centre. This project is the fourth priority on the list of catalyst projects.

Several businesses and organizations expressed concerns about the downtown arena demolishing or changing the makeup of their neighbourhood.

Co-owners of The Cure, Regina Farmers Market representatives and Regina Folk Festival (RFF) organizations told council they were not consulted about the potential impacts a downtown arena could have on business.

“Situating a large event space downtown would deeply impact our ability to operate our festival in Victoria Park,” said RFF organizer Amber Goodwyn.

“It would impact our fire safety exists and supplier servicing points like garbage and recycling pickup. Quite simply, we would not be able to host the festival in Victoria Park under such circumstances.”

Other residents and downtown organizations, including the Globe Theatre, are in favour of a downtown event centre and arena.

“Like many cities, our downtown is struggling,” said Globe Theatre executive director Jaime Boldt.

“By removing the multi-purpose facility, we close a door to opportunity. Let’s keep those doors open.”

The Catalyst Committee’s first priority project is a connected non-vehicular trail system that would join the city’s various districts in the downtown core. The second project is the new aquatic centre. A new downtown central library is listed as the committee’s third priority.

Leasa Gibbons, executive director of Regina’s Warehouse Improvement District, supports all of the catalyst projects, although she is disappointed that the Warehouse District was not chosen as a primary location for any of the projects.

“We’re investing in the future of our city,” she said.

“Investing in our greater downtown is key to creating vibrancy.”

Gibbons believes it is in the best interest of the city to keep the arena within the downtown and greater downtown core. She said if a new multi-purpose arena moves to the REAL District, it would draw visitors away from businesses in the Warehouse District.

Council is expected to debate the catalyst committee recommendations at a special council meeting scheduled for Thursday morning.

USER-FRIENDLY WATERSLIDES

After offering unanimous support at an executive committee meeting last week, councillors once again voted 11-0 in favour of installing an outdoor elevator at the new Wascana Pool.

Coun. Terina Nelson, who has a personal and professional connection in the matter, became emotional once the final vote was read aloud.

“[I felt] absolute happiness, just sheer joy,” Nelson said.

“Today was a day that the City of Regina came together, all my peers came together and said, ‘You know what? We can do better and we are going to do better.’”

Nelson’s daughter has mobility challenges due to a disability. She would have to carry her daughter up the stairs when she was younger in order to go on a waterslide.

Under the current design, Wascana Pool's tall waterslides are only accessible by stairs, while the small waterslide is wheelchair-friendly.

It will cost $555,000 to install the elevator and another $27,000 annually to operate.

Advocates, including Nelson, believe it is a small price to pay to ensure the waterslides are 100 per cent accessible.

“It is a huge win for the disability community,” Nelson said.

“This is something that I’ve been wanting, and you always have that vision that you work towards, whether it’s a better community for our businesses, whether it’s a better community for our children, whether it’s a better community for our Indigenous people.”

The renewed Wascana Pool is on track to open this year. It would take another 12 months to install the elevator. The city manager previously told councilors the elevator would be in operation no later than 2025.

COUNCIL CONTINUES SEARCH FOR CSIR BOARD MEMBER

Council has voted to go back to the drawing board in its efforts to find a replacement for the inaugural Community and Social Impact Regina (CSIR) board of directors, after they voted to remove coun. Dan LeBlanc in February.

Executive committee recommended coun. Bob Hawkins as his replacement. However, council voted against it 6-5 at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Three delegates spoke in opposition of Hawkins as a replacement, citing his previous decisions to vote against certain social wellbeing and social injustice issues—the types of issues that the CSIR board is tasked with addressing.

North Central resident Kelly Miller believes LeBlanc was “punished for advocating too strongly” for people experiencing homelessness and she would like to see the councilor reinstated as a CSIR board member.

“I do not feel he (Bob Hawkins) will represent our inner-city community to the same degree as Dan LeBlanc would,” Miller said.

LeBlanc is one of the councillors who voted against Hawkins as the replacement. He gave four examples in the last two years where Hawkins voted against social issues including funding for a safe consumption site and the removal of the John A. MacDonald statue.

“Councillor Hawkins and I often disagree, but councillor Hawkins is very honest, he’s very forthright about what his priorities are, about what his principles are,” LeBlanc said.

“I think those quite open forthright values actually made him very well positioned to be on the catalyst committee, but make him respectfully poorly positioned to be on this committee.”

The committee’s board is made up of a council member, several community leaders and volunteers, and city manager Niki Anderson.

Mayor Sandra Masters brought forward the motion to remove LeBlanc from the board after his involvement in a lawsuit against the city manager last year over homelessness funding.

Masters previously said the removal of LeBlanc would create a safer space for discussions amongst board members.

However, a number of advocacy groups believe it is critical to have LeBlanc on the board as he represents the Heritage Neighbourhood in Ward 6 and is a strong voice for social justice issues and homelessness resolutions.

The group Rally Around Homelessness posted to social media to encourage residents to speak out against Hawkins’ being selected as the replacement.

Some groups believe a councilor that represents either North Central or the Heritage Neighbourhood needs to be on the board.

Hawkins represents Albert Park and Harbour Landing in Ward 2.

Executive committee will now recommend a new replacement for council to vote on.

The councillor that is chosen will sit as a non-voting member on the board of directors effective immediately. Their term would last until the end of 2023.

DAYCARE EXPANSION APPROVED

City council approved a daycare expansion in Harbour Landing despite a number of safety and traffic concerns brought up during a debate.

City administration recommended that council deny the discretionary use application as the development, “does not comply with the applicable parking requirements” and “is not reasonably compatible with neighbouring uses at the proposed location.”

“It will adversely impact adjacent properties due to the nature of the development resulting in traffic congestion and parking issues,” according to a city report.

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