CBRM to Host Canada’s First Arena/Casino/Library?

A gentleman of my acquaintance can’t watch CTV’s Steve Murphy deliver the news without yelling at the television screen. I have a similar relationship with The Cape Breton Post.

I don’t necessarily yell, often I simply ask it questions, questions I think its reporters should ask but don’t.

Take that December 27th interview with Mayor Cecil Clarke about the new CBRM library. I’ve reprinted it below with all the questions that occurred to me as I read it:

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has a new option for the new central library in downtown Sydney. (Q. I thought we’d formed a committee that spent months consulting and considering the matter before presenting you with three options for the new library — was all that work in vain?)

The municipality is looking at the option of building a new library, to replace the aging McConnell Library, near the Centre 200 facility. (Q. Who proposed this option for the library?)

Although nothing is set in stone, Mayor Cecil Clarke said the municipality is considering the option. (Q. When you say, “the municipality,” who, exactly, are you referring to, given that this proposal has not gone before council?)

“We have to bring all of our options forward so that we can properly assess what our budgetary ability is,” he said. “The challenge we face with the library is the capital cost of a new standalone library (Q. You mean, like the $5.5 million one Antigonish County, population 19,589, has been able to afford? The one that was declared one of Canada’s Great Public Spaces in 2014?) and the capital cost of one that will be connected to CBRM-owned and operated buildings, said Clarke. (Q. What do you mean “connected?” I thought you said “near?”)

“Right now Centre 200 produces access heat that we provide in part over to the casino area.” (Q. I assume that’s “excess” heat?)

In March, the municipality unveiled three potential locations for the new library, all proposed at 40,000 square feet. The capital cost ranged from a low of about $18 million if the former retail space, most recently home to Target, was retrofitted, to $28 million for two new building concepts, both on CBRM-owned property, one across from the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion and the second at the site of the fire station on the Esplanade. (Q. Why wasn’t Centre 200 presented as an option then?)

“We are working through that as an option, our building officials are taking a look at that, as well as Centre 200’s staff,” Clarke said. (Q. That sounds like your building officials are looking at Centre 200’s staff but I know what you mean. Do any of these people know much about library design?)

“We have had other interest around development around the Centre 200 general site (Q. What other development around the Centre 200 site? Development that would be suitable in the vicinity of a library? Development that would add even more vehicle traffic to that area?) and that’s a positive move forward, so if we bring all these pieces together it could be a win-win and it keeps the potential brand new library in the downtown core.” said Clarke. (Q. Are you considering a location other than the downtown core? Also, have you ever approached Centre 200 as a pedestrian, because I have and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, especially not a senior or a child after dark on a night when the Screaming Eagles are playing.)

If the new library was connected to a CBRM-owned building, operating costs, aside from energy efficiency, like maintenance, clearing, electrical, and mechanical are already part of the municipalities [sic] operation budget. (Q. Presumably, the operating costs for a standalone library are also already in the municipal budget, since we already have a standalone library. Also, why is there no mention of making the new building green? The Antigonish library has lots of green features and according to Efficiency Nova Scotia, it costs $12,700 less per year to operate than the same building built to the national code.)

Clarke said his focus and commitment has always been the recognition that renovating the McConnell Library is not money well spent. (Q. Which is why you asked the library committee to look into possible new locations, no? Why are you saying this like it’s news?)

“Building a new facility or having a modern facility available to a library is where our goal is and that it is the central library — it’s not a Sydney library, it’s in Sydney, but it serves all of CBRM and Victoria County for library services and programing,” he said. “It itself is needed, but as we go forward working with members of Parliament and the province, we also need to have it affordable, too. (Q. “Members” of Parliament? Are you planning to put the new library in Rodger Cuzner’s riding?)

“Everyone agrees the cost of renovating would be significant and the life-cycle value of it would not be worth the millions of dollars at this time, so going to what would be a reasonable accommodation, but with a long-term solution in place is what we are trying to find that balance on now.” (Q. What does “going to what would be a reasonable accommodation, but with a long-term solution in place is what we are trying to find that balance on now” mean?)

Depending on what other decisions are taken, Clarke said the waterfront library option is very unlikely. (Q. What other decisions?) The former Target building has since been redeveloped and wouldn’t likely be a possibility. (Q. “Wouldn’t likely” be a possibility? Hasn’t the former Target site been cut in half to accommodate a call center? Under what circumstances could it still be a possibility?)

Clarke said a central library is an anchor for a valued regional service. (Q. Agreed, but out of curiosity, when was the last time you went to the library?)

“Libraries have not waned — interest in libraries, in an information technology age, has increased and the use of them for other programming and community initiatives has been a very big plus in the wider-community,” he said. “Literacy is a very important thing in all communities and a role libraries play are a great part in.

“If you want to do and provide a better service for the future, having the right building in place is a priority.” (Q. And you think a rink/casino is the right building?)

Clarke said the recreation master plan will be presented initially in January with probable further consideration in February and March. (Q. So, the library has become part of the recreation master plan?)




I asked Pat Bates, who headed the Library Committee, about the possible locations for the new structure and the origin of the Centre 200 option. He told me, via email:

1.    Concerning choosing locations, two waterfront sites were recommended by the Library Committee with a lot of support from library patrons.

2.    The former Zellers site was suggested by the consultants as a comparative or benchmark property.

3.    Two other sites have been suggested for consideration.  One is a section of the New Dawn, former Holy Angels property, an idea advanced by New Dawn.

The other is a block of land at the corner of George and Pitt Streets backing onto the Highland Arts Theatre property.  This idea came from city planning staff.

No decision has been taken on either site.

The Centre 200 suggestion, as far as I know, is the Mayor’s idea.

I also asked Mayor Clarke’s spokesperson, Christina Lamey, if she knew where the Centre 200 proposal had originated, but she has yet to get back to me.





Slot machine in feature photo by Marco Verch (Slot Machine Las Vegas)CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons



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