Russell seeks feedback on multi-phase recreational complex

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

EMBRUN — Starting tomorrow (March 3) potential users are being invited to provide suggestions and opinions on a multi-phased Russell Recreation Complex which among early amenities will include a park dedicated to the famous Butterfly Boy.

To contain accessible play structures and seniors’ exercise equipment, Jonathan Pitre Park to be completed this fall will memorialize the young Russell resident who died in 2018 after gaining national awareness for the blistering genetic mutation he suffered from. His mother Tina Boileau carries on the campaign in Jonathan’s name.

Also planned in Phase 1 this year are two tennis courts, two basketball courts and design for a “snow hill” to be constructed later that would double as a summer amphitheatre. Total cost will be about $500,000 which is included in the 2021 Russell Township budget, said Mayor Pierre Leroux.

All amenities will be located alongside the existing Sports Dome as Russell council pursues its goal of centralizing township recreation opportunities.

The English complex consultations on Zoom are at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 3) and at the same time March 10 in French. The discussions will be led by township staff, said Leroux, adding that he’ll be listening in.

Meanwhile, an online survey of ratepayer preferences will continue through March 12. The survey asks respondents to rate indoor and outdoor priorities, from a swimming pool and arena(s), to various playing fields; the questions cover everything from food services to on-site skate sharpening.

Following Phase 2 consultation, the project will move into Phase 3 – financing permitting – with installation of some of the preferred big-ticket items. Phase 4 will be ongoing additions to the site depending on financing and approvals.

Understanding that the life span of aging arenas and other facilities in Embrun and Russell is shrinking – in Embrun end-of-life is estimated at about 10 years – council put a recreation master plan in place in 2015 identifying interest in one multi-purpose, centrally located facility.

Russell Kin Club started the ball rolling by fundraising for the dome now located on the chosen site. The resourceful club has pressed for an indoor swimming pool as the township’s next recreation requirement.

While a pool has indeed been identified as a priority, its level of importance will be assessed largely through the consultations, Leroux emphasized. An indoor pool alone could cost anywhere from $10 to $30 million depending on how elaborate it is, the mayor stated.

Last year, municipal government created a detailed schematic of what the site might look like with many amenities in place. Council applied for an Investing in Canada Infrastructure grant that would pay up to 75 per cent of a maximum $50 million in new recreation project costs. The application was turned down.

However, the municipality has been salting away cash for several years just for the recreation complex and has accumulated about $10 million in development fees and another $2 million or so in tax revenues.

“When you factor in our borrowing power, we could cover a $23 million complex right now,” Leroux said, explaining council prefers to phase it in seeking ratepayer input every step of the way.

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