Insinuations of ill-will and negligence far from truth

Town’s CAO reaches out with arena collapse details

E. (Betty) Osmond

E. (Betty) Osmond

Dear Editor,

As Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Sylvan Lake, I feel compelled to reach out to Sylvan Lake residents and area facility users and provide the facts, as they relate to our Sylvan Lake Arena and its collapse.

Earlier this week, certain media outlets suggested a hidden agenda, within the town organization, to hide information about the arena structure. This could be no farther from the truth.

In 2012, the Town of Sylvan Lake, through a public tendering process, commissioned the services of Cognidyn Engineering & Design, to perform a structural assessment on two of the oldest town facilities – the curling rink and the arena. This was a responsible and proactive action taken for good reason as both facilities were over 40 years old.

The final structural assessment was received in March 2012 and presented publicly to council on March 26, 2012. The Structural Assessment is available in its entirely at www.sylvanlake.ca/public-notices; however, the key findings are presented below:

Curling Rink – Conclusions & Recommendations

In the final analysis, our recommendation would be to replace the building ASAP. Spring of 2014 would be the true end of a safe occupancy for the building, but 2013 would be better. A very close monitoring of the building should be done if it is to be kept open, and the above noted snow removal program, done is a roof-friendly yet OH&S approved manner, is mandatory. If the building could be replaced without any more use needed, then so much the better.

Arena – Conclusions & Recommendations

Given the evidence at hand, we are of the opinion that this facility has about 2-3 years of useful life remaining if no supplemental maintenance work is invested – conditional of course on the noted snow removal program. If the minor maintenance work is done ($300,000+), and the snow removal program is maintained, then we would give this structure 7-10 years – possibly more.

Neither council nor staff found any value in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on updates to a 42 year old building and council determined that by late 2015, the arena would come down and we would replace it with a new facility. This decision, and the allocation of funds to support it in the long-term capital plan, all occurred in a public forum and were reported by local media.

Insinuations of ill-will and negligence on the town’s behalf, as it relates specifically to the arena, and that we have hidden the results of our Structural Assessment from the public, are far from truth. The assessment document was provided to the Curling Club well before this incident. The Town’s Director of Community Services repeatedly referenced the Structural Assessment throughout our conversations with the media in the aftermath of our arena collapse. Though the assessment itself has long been replaced on the front page of our website, the report to council is still available online through our Civic Web system and will again be placed on our ‘What’s Happening’ page for the public to view.

I certainly understand that the public will have questions on how staff managed the monitoring and removal of snow from these two facilities, but please, do not believe for a moment that we have tried to cover up the findings of the assessment or that we have not taken any action in the two years since its inception.

In recent weeks I authorized the closure of the curling club facility on two occasions until snow could be removed from the roof. I would have had no hesitation to have closed the arena as well, had I known of the snow load situation.

We are all aware of the added pressures associated with this winter’s unusual effects, and this was certainly a considerable factor in the collapse of our arena.

I am not satisfied with simply saying that we, as an organization, followed procedure and leaving it at that. I am not okay with what happened. Town staff members are not okay with what happened. We know you, the users of the arena; we know your children. You support our initiatives and attend our events and you are our neighbours, and no one is okay with what happened.

Our immediate efforts right now are concentrated on dealing with the many issues associated with the arena collapse and the reopening of the multiplex. However, we are moving forward shortly to closely and objectively review town activities and routine procedures prior to the collapse and report back to council in a public meeting.

The ongoing maintenance of current facilities and development of our new Leisure Centre are our focus. The Town of Sylvan Lake will work with residents to ensure you are provided with safe, functional, well thought out and operated recreational facilities.

E. (Betty) Osmond,

Town of Sylvan Lake