The Town of Pincher Creek has received a petition against a contentious borrowing bylaw for a new curling rink, according to chief administrative officer Angie Lucas.
Lucas has 45 days to determine if the petition satisfies a host of conditions specified in the Municipal Government Act.
The petition, which calls on council to put the borrowing bylaw to a referendum, needs signatures from at least 10 per cent of town residents, which amounts to around 360 people, according to the 2021 census. Signatures must be witnessed and dated, with the names of petitioners clearly written out, among other MGA requirements.
If Lucas finds that the petition satisfies the Act, council must either drop the borrowing bylaw or put it to a referendum of town residents within 90 days.
If not, council could pass the bylaw, which would authorize council to take out a $4 million construction loan.
If the bylaw fails, council could finance the new rink through the town’s capital reserves, or through a combination of reserves and borrowed money according to a March 27 memo attached to council’s agenda.
Elizabeth Dolman, who submitted the petition on Thursday, March 30, said it received 394 signatures. Lucas confirmed that number, but said she hadn’t reviewed the petition.
Opponents of the curling rink build say the project would unduly distract from the town’s affordable housing shortage, and that council hasn’t presented enough relevant information.
Supporters say the build’s estimated $4 million price tag wouldn’t overly burden municipal taxpayers because the town will likely qualify for federal grant funding for up to 60 per cent of construction costs. Council is meanwhile working on proposed housing solutions, supporters say.
Few on either side would say the town’s aging curling rink at 837 Main St. has much more life to give. The building is visibly unsound and various engineering studies, mounted at the town’s expense, have found the building is beyond repair.
Finance director Wendy Catonio declined to speculate in an interview with Shootin’ the Breeze last week about how or if the build might affect town taxpayers.
The town is carrying an unremarkable debt load (around $3.6 million as of the new year), she said. Passing the borrowing bylaw would not instantly dump any money onto that burden. Instead, Catonio explained that it would allow council to take out a loan of up to $4 million.
The town would be on the hook for whatever amount council draws on the loan, Catonio said.
The Pincher Creek Curling Club owns and operates the Main Street curling rink at the club’s expense. The town owns the land on which the rink sits.
The club’s membership is roughly evenly split between town and MD residents, according to outgoing president Glenda Kettles.
There is no plan for what to do with the Main Street lot after the curling rink inevitably comes down, according to an FAQ page on the town’s website.