Market Square opens after two years of discontent

It was heartwarming that some 250 citizens recently attended the official opening of the Market Square, the oddly named area on Carden Street that fronts City Hall and the provincial courthouse.

The occasion was poignant when members of his family and young hockey players remembered Nicholas Lambden, who died as a result of being hit on the head by a puck while playing on an outdoor rink.  Through the Nicholas Lambden Children’s Foundation, the family raised $400,000 for the Market Square rink.

While it is a feather in the cap of Mayor Karen Farbridge, it remains the artful use of political legerdemain to deflect any criticism after two years of destruction of business optimism in the area.

The rink and wading pool costs come to mind. Originally priced at $2.1 million, the project grew like topsy as a pavilion was added plus public washrooms and a parking garage for the Zamboni.

Enter the Rink Rats who volunteered to raise more than a million dollars toward the rink cum reflective pool. Spearheaded by the Mayor’s friend, Ken Hammill, the group unveiled a “donor appreciation window” during the occasion.

We wonder if the amount included the $400,000 that was pledged by the Downtown Business Improvement Area members whose board of directors approved the donation without approval of the members. Many of these same businesses suffered while the Market Square was being developed.

The Provincial and Federal government tossed in $500,000 each, their share of the stimulus funding for the rink project.

The irony is that the city staff estimated it would cost more than $1.2 million a year just to maintain the facility. The original staff proposal was to equip the rink with two Zambonii. Now the new garage is almost too tight to fit the resident Zamboni. You know whose pocket all this will be coming from.

Comingled with this project financing was the rebuilding of Carden Street with paving stones imported from the U.S. plus street-scaping and the usual digging to replace pipes and conduits.

While the work is essentially complete, there remains a bitter taste by many downtowners. Most feel the city management bungled the project.  Remember at the height of the construction the saga of the city managers in charge being called the three stooges and the uproar that followed? Threatening a lawsuit by the city solicitor, cooler heads prevailed.

The handling of this and other projects in the past three years by the city has left a legacy of suspicion and non-confidence on the part of the public.

By the way Mayor Farbridge, how much did the rink and environs really cost?

Will that be one Zamboni or two?

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