City council has approved a new youth centre in principle but not without concerns from neighbours and frustrations from some councillors.
Only two councillors, Coun. Trevor Giertuga and Coun. Larry Hebert, opposed the plan to partner with the Indian Friendship Centre and transform the former Port Arthur Prosvita into the 50-year-old centre's new home and house a new youth centre for the city. The city would provide $2.5 million to renovate the building and spend $300,000 a year in operating costs. Giertuga said he's concerned that the city would spend that much on a much-needed youth centre without considering any other options for locations. He said it's important that he tell the public that all options were considered.
"I don't think that I can say that right now," he said. "I haven't seen any alternatives."
The city's portion, which would include provincial and federal funding that has yet to be approved, would come from Renew Thunder Bay. Coun. Larry Hebert was concerned that the fund can't support everything the city wants to do with it, such as fund the proposed events centre.
But council was told that the centre approached the city with the partnership idea. A youth centre is something that council has said it wanted and this is a good opportunity to make it happen.
"We would be throwing an opportunity away that may not come back for a long time,” Coun. Paul Pugh said.
“This is about the future of our city and we shouldn't lose sight of that.”
Michael Lemesani, who lives in the area and has raised concerns about the idea, told council that there might be more crime in the area if the city did approve the plan. But he was told that the centre would actually have programs, such as youth removing graffiti in the area, that would help reduce acts like vandalism.
He was also concerned that the centre would be difficult to find and youth might have trouble accessing. Coun. Ken Boshcoff said the youth of today are pretty resourceful when it comes to finding locations.
"If a young person wants to go somewhere, they’ll Google it,” he said.
As for access issues, the centre's Matthew Thompson said there are five bus routes that pass near the building.
Concerns that the youth centre would be for First Nations only, another of Lemesani's concerns, is also something that needs to be cleared Coun. Andrew Foulds said.
"Some of that narrative is 'us versus them',” he said. "Instead of simply 'us'."
As for parking, environmental and infrastructure concerns, city infrastructure and operations manager Darrell Matson said anything that did come up could be handled.
"We do not have any significant issues with those that have been raised,” he said.