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Old Posted Feb 26, 2009, 2:37 PM
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Moose Jaw says yes to multiplex

REGINA -- It may only cost the average Moose Jaw taxpayer the price of a daily cup of specialty coffee to help pay for a new multiplex, but the political fallout may be more costly.

That special levy will be in place for 25 years following Wednesday’s referendum in which Moose Javians voted “yes” to the multiplex — and that has opponents of Moose Jaw’s controversial $61 million multiplex projects seeing red.

Ultimately council may pay the price at the polls in October’s municipal elections, according to one Moose Jaw councillor.

In 2006 Moose Jaw residents voted in favour of the city contributing $15 million towards a smaller-scale $36 million multiplex skating arena and curling rink with the remainder coming from government grants and fundraising.

Two years later, council unveiled a more costly plan that would include an indoor soccer facility at a separate location.

Opponents raised concerns about the downtown location, the pricetag and the tax implications. They voiced their concerns in the public arena and in the courts where they challenged council’s authority to spend more than the amount approved in the 2006 referendum.

Councillor Regina Sagal-Hendry, who support the downtown arena, expressed her frustrations with the naysayers who she said focus on doom and gloom.

Emotions on both sides of the issue have run high, said councillor Dawn Luhning, who has been at odds with “yes” supporters.

“It is a divisive mess. Friends are fighting with friends and neighbours are fighting with neighbours. People don’t respect any more that people have differing opinions and are fighting with each other, even council is divided, and it is really sad,’’ Luhning said.

What took Sagal-Hendry by surprise, she said, were the personal attacks, death threats and the fear-mongering.

Ironically people on the “no’’ side actually support the project but feel council is ramming it through without an open, transparent process, Luhning said, adding if the project gets majority support she’ll respect the wishes of the citizens and move on.

The “yes” vote in Wednesday’s referendum now enables city council to commit $34.5 million towards construction of a downtown multiplex hockey and curling arena and a separate indoor soccer facility.

A “no” vote would have scuttled the deal to replace the aging 50-year-old Civic Centre and could have resulted in Moose Jaw losing its WHL franchise team the Moose Jaw Warriors and its government funding.

“There has been some controversy with respect to this and there has been a lot of misinformation and rhetoric out there,’’ said Mayor Dale McBain.

“But this is a great opportunity for Moose Jaw to build $61 million in projects with only a $34.5 million commitment by the city.’’

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