The community has spoken: the Beaver Lake welcome centre will remain open for at least one more year.
During budget deliberations on Tuesday, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini brought forward a resolution for reconsideration, regarding the welcome centre in Beaver Lake.
At a recent meeting of the finance committee, councillors voted to shutter the welcome centres at Beaver Lake and in Coniston, saving the city about $30,000 annually in maintenance costs. Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer had introduced the motion.
While Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh said it was not a problem in Coniston, as there is a Tim Hortons just a few minutes away, Vagnini tried hard to convince his colleagues to keep the Ward 2 centre available. But he was unsuccessful.
Vagnini said it is approximately 50 km from the Beaver Lake welcome centre to the next location, in Lively along Municpal Road 24, where residents and tourists can stretch their legs and powder their noses.
Shortly after that mid-March meeting, Stan and Judy Strato came forward and said they were prepared to donate the money required to keep the centre operational for another year.
“If they can hire eight firemen and that’ll add more than $1 million to the budget, why can’t they come up with $12,000 to make strangers coming into Sudbury feel welcome?” Strato asked.
As Vagnini pointed out, the Strato donation, as well as a smaller contribution totalling $15,000, meant there would be no impact to taxpayers or the tax levy.
Sizer said for $15,000 he would sell the community the building “and let them take care of it.”
Despite the quip, council voted to keep the welcome centre open using the private donations.
Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, McIntosh, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo and Sizer voted against it.
Vagnini said Wednesday he was pleased his colleagues voted in favour of the donation. He noted the welcome centre is more of a gathering space for residents of the Beaver Lake community. It is also a busy location along Highway 17, with as many as 200 vehicles stopping per day, the councillor noted.
“It’s right beside the fire hall; when we were going through optimization, we had a lot of outdoor meetings in that area; it’s also a transfer spot for medical vehicles that are serving the island — that’s where they meet and transfer the patients; it goes on and on,” Vagnini said. “It’s always been used to its fullest extent.”
While the money will only sustain the centre for one year — from May 1 through to October — Vagnini said members of the Beaver Lake community are working with senior levels of government to “do something different.” But he would not divulge details.
“We know we’re under the gun to get this done, but we want to continue using that space as a beacon for the Beaver Lake community,” Vagnini said.
He said the “coolest thing about it” is that members of the community come together to garden, weed and maintain the welcome centre.
“You will see the people come out and working as a community to plant the flowers and shrubbery,” Vagnini commented.
It really is an important part of the Beaver Lake area.
“There’s something out there within every little community that people go to. It becomes a flagship in the sense that the people of the community take pride in it,” Vagnini concluded. “They take pride in this little centre. How many times do we see people come out when the city is closing a facility and they bring all the money together in order to maintain it and keep it open? I find that very community-oriented.”
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