British Columbia

Construction of new Surrey rink put on ice in proposed new budget

Surrey council's move to balance its new budget by freezing spending on various community projects, including a new ice rink, has a lot of residents upset.

Spending delay on several community projects sparks opposition

Concerned parents and their children rallied outside Surrey city hall Tuesday to protest a stop to the construction of various community projects around the city. (Meera Bains/CBC)

Surrey council's move to balance its new budget by freezing spending on various community projects, including a new ice rink, has a lot of residents upset.

Tuesday saw a number of them show up at city hall to speak against the new draft budget which puts the future of the Cloverdale Sport and Ice Complex, the Performance Arts Space, and the Grandview Heights Community Centre and Library in limbo.

The city says the project delays are necessary in order to save money.

On Tuesday, the city's finance committee approved the contentious draft budget five to four, but to come into effect, it still needs final approval during the city council meeting Monday, Dec 17.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum announced a capital spending freeze in the face of a projected city debt of $514 million, saying city residents "need to live within our means."

McCallum said the idea of building a new ice arena in Cloverdale — something parents in the area are keen on — could be revisited next year, but for now, Surrey residents need to tighten their belts.

Cloverdale's existing arena is in an aging building and has only one sheet of ice. Surrey hockey parents often have to drive their children to arenas in other municipalities when the space is in use. Land for the new arena has already been approved and set aside.

Mike Bola, with the Cloverdale Community Association said his group is upset by Tuesday's budget approval.

"We are deeply concerned with the direction our mayor and council are headed when it comes to public amenities and our children," said Bola.

Cindy Dalglish, a former school trustee candidate in Surrey, who has a daughter who skates at the current Cloverdale arena, She says ice at the current arena is removed during the spring and summer months and that a new complex would make a huge difference for children in the neighbourhood.

"Effectively, there is no ice arena in Cloverdale once spring session starts," said Dalglish.

Dalglish said the mayor and council are being opaque when expressing what the projected debt actually is, and disagrees with the $514 million number.

CBC News has confirmed the actual debt-load found in the city's Dec. 7 financial report is $267 million or about $500 per resident.

The mayor's office issued a statement saying, "the $514 million figure is actually the projected debt the city would incur under the current five year financial plan ..."

'We're not stopping'

Dagliesh said she suspects that the capital spending freeze was brought in to free up funds for a new municipal police force in Surrey.

"I think he's trying to find pockets of money to pay for the move to a municipal police force," said Dalglish. "In doing so ... he's going to stop the projects our city desperately needs."

Dalglish argues that as Surrey grows, its infrastructure must also grow with it, and that libraries and art spaces are crucial tools in the healthy engagement of youth.

Not deterred, Dalglish said the next step is to try and get some city councillors to flip on the issue, before the final vote on Monday.

"I don't know what else we can possibly do," said Dalglish. "We're not stopping. The community will have an even bigger groundswell than it already has on this."

With files from Meera Bains and The Early Edition

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