LETTER: Let the public decide on DDC idea 

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Editor: Katherine Budd raises some very good points about the Downtown Chatham Centre proposal that stands before the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in her letter in the July 7 Chatham Voice titled “Not time to buy DCC.”

In general, she is asking whether this is really what C-K needs, is the timing right and can we afford it?

Her points about the library and increasing its footprint in a new facility are spot-on when you consider the trend towards digital and online media and literature, especially when the current and smaller facility is under-utilized.

She also questions the proposed 4,000 seat entertainment complex, as do I. Yes, you might argue that a new arena would be nice, but are we really going to fill those 4,000 seats on a regular basis? Minor hockey sure won’t. And the Maroons team we already have never fills a much lower capacity Memorial Arena.

The Capitol Theatre is grossly underused.

And is a higher tier Junior hockey team a sustainable reality, or a pipe dream?

What do we need a new entertainment complex for?

That leaves us with some new digs for the mayor and municipal staff as the only certainty when it comes to utilization of the proposed facilities in the new Downtown Community Hub.

Straight up, I would love to see something other than empty space in the DCC just as much as anyone else would. And it’s easy to get excited about Chatham moving up in the world when it comes to public venues and facilities. But just because some well-known local investors/businessmen have chosen to roll the dice on an out-dated community centrepiece (that never lived up to its billing) and are proposing a sexy new community hub that just so happens to hit the hotspots of a few groups looking for tax dollars to make their wishes come, true doesn’t mean this is something we should endorse or build.

How convenient that this project could be one that unifies these small but separate voices into one larger force, and delivers a nice payday for the hopeful investors.

You can’t really fault these entrepreneurs for wanting to make a buck and being wise enough to package their project as a public one.

This is a huge decision for Chatham-Kent and its economic and financial future. Unfortunately we don’t have a good track record when it comes to decisions of this magnitude. And if you went by the hype and hoopla and excitement that resulted from the initial announcements about the projects, this would be a done deal already.

We can’t let hype and hoopla cloud our judgment. Facts, figures and logic must go into the development of a sound business case – which is what C-K is supposedly preparing – and then a decision needs to be made.

But that decision should not be left in the hands of the current municipal leadership and administration.

For one, they have an objectivity issue given the impact of new municipal offices on their everyday lives. Who wouldn’t want brand new offices?

Two, the current administrative leadership has just undergone significant change and we have an upcoming municipal election. The current council is not the one that will be directing this project – it will be the next one that gets elected that will steer the ship, if the ship gets launched.

Lastly, it will be municipal taxes that are paying for this project – for many, many years to come – and so any decision should come directly (not indirectly) from the people paying those taxes. Therefore, the right thing to do is to add the question of the DCC project to the November election ballot as a referendum.

We have heard all the hype and hoopla and excitement from the investors/developers and municipal leaders. We know what they want. It’s the public – the people that will own this project – that we need to hear from. Let the public directly voice their position on the DCC project this November.

 

Rick Youlton

Chatham-Kent

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