Elliot Lake city councillor Ed Pearce was sworn into office last night and was put to the test right away when the subject of the property of the former Algo Center Mall came to the table.
Mayor Dan Marchisella made a notice of motion to purchase the property for $600,000, money he told council has been sitting in the property sales account waiting to be used for this purpose. The plan for this property is to be used to build the new multi-plex, which will hold a pool, an arena and a fitness center.
This idea did not sit well with some members of council who objected to the discussion being open to the public. Other members of council were in favour of the purchase and called the empty lot a “scar” and an “eyesore.”
“In the aftermath of the tragedy that took place at the Algo Center Mall in June 2012, 151 Ontario Avenue has remained unutilized and that 151 Ontario Avenue may be of a future economic significance,” Marchisella told council. “Through the 2017 budget committee process, funds have been identified to be available for this acquisition and that the acquisition of this property will not only benefit the community, it will economically benefit the community and it would also increase morale and community well-being.”
Marchisella said he is asking for the offer to be non-negotiable and a response will be needed in five business days after Oct. 10, meaning that a response will be needed no later than Oct. 15. Councillor Pearce seconded the motion to have this offer drawn up and presented to the sellers.
To back up his recommendation, Marchisella provided a report and background concerning the empty lot and said the lot has been top-listed for recreational development by Frank Collier’s International.
For almost three months, Marchisella said council has been going back and forth on making a final decision on what to do with the lot.
“Since August 2017, council has debated on multiple occasions in the public forum possible uses for this site, recognizing the value it has to our community,” he said. “Although the site was identified as the best location for the community hub-plex, funding is still not secure for that project at this time. If council’s wish is to locate the complex on that site, we only require the use of 40 percent of the site with a remaining 60 percent for future growth.”
Marchisella said by having the property city owned, it will help the community grow and move forward from the Algo Centre Mall roof collapse and he said he hopes that with the proposed hub-plex at this location, it will help the community’s well-being.
“Regardless of this outcome, it is in the best interest to pursue the acquisition of the property, not only for future economical activity and growth, but also for the well-being . . . of members of our community,” he explained. “The City of Elliot Lake should secure the property at 151 Ontario Avenue.”
Marchisella also explained that will this site being city owned and being the new home of the proposed hub-plex, this will help local business economically.
Because of disputes amongst councillors about the location of the hub-plex and about the acquisition of 151 Ontario Avenue, Marchisella said he’s had enough of the back and forth and wants council to make a decision about the purchase and said if the seller doesn’t believe the money is sufficient, they will carry on.
“I’m going to be very blunt and very clear here,” he began. “Normally these conversations go into closed session but because this has been in public forum, this debate back and forth for the last few months, I’m going to be blunt and honest. I want to see council make a decision one way or another. That’s why I’m putting what I know is available to work right now as non-negotiable. I don’t want to be negotiating for the property. If he says no in five days, we carry on and look elsewhere. If he says yes, we can decide in the future what we want to do with it but I would like to see it in the hands of our community once again.”
The mayor's suggestion to have the conversation in a public forum did not sit well with fellow councillor Connie Nykforak. She questioned whether Marchisella breached the terms of an in-camera session, to which the mayor responded that the discussion has always been in a public forum.
Councillor Tammy VanRoon said she too believes the discussion of the property should be in a closed session.
“I have the utmost respect for the mayor,” she stated. “I completely appreciate his position and his passion for this property but I am absolutely not willing to discuss the purchase of a property in an open session so I’m sorry but I cannot support this notice of motion.”
Pearce, who replaced outgoing councillor Candace Martin, agreed the conversation should be directed in a closed session. He also said a decision needs to be made about the property and doubts the seller will accept the offer.
“The mayor is trying very desperately to come up with a reasonable way to deal with this property that sits like a giant scar in the heart of Elliot Lake,” he said. “I think it is absolutely imperative that the city do something with that property with nothing more than plant trees on it. Right now, it is a terrible eyesore. It is a disgrace to the community and a it’s a disgrace to the memory of the people who died on that site. I highly doubt the seller will accept the offer of $600,000 let alone in five days.”
VanRoon made a motion that the conversation continue in a closed session, which was seconded by Pearce.
When more information on if the offer was made and either accepted or declined becomes available, ElliotLakeToday.com will update the story.