By J.W. Schnarr
For the Sunny South News
The Coaldale Minor Hockey Association has been selected as the organization to run a non-competitive recreational hockey program after they were the lone group to submit a proposal to council. The decision to award the program to the CMHA did not sit well with some members of council or with some local residents in attendance at council’s regular meeting on May 30.
The RFI came as a result of some recent reshuffling of prime ice time at the arena in an effort to maximize local use.
In particular, the town was trying to ensure local non-profit groups received the lion’s share of weekly primetime ice available. For years, a non-contact hockey league has been run locally through Coaldale Rec Hockey, but the organization failed to submit a proposal by the deadline and thus were not awarded the program.
Coun. Jack Van Rijn said his understanding was there may have been some conflicts within Coaldale Rec Hockey that might have caused their proposal to fail to be completed, but it was not necessary to punish the entire group for the actions of a few. He said it was inappropriate for Coaldale Minor Hockey to run a rec hockey program, as the philosophies and coaching of the two programs were very different. He also said he felt the RFI parameters were uneven for those involved.
“To me, the way the RFI was written, Coaldale Rec Hockey was put at a disadvantage,” he said.
“As a result, most likely would not have been able to meet the criteria outlined. Parents don’t care if there is another rec hockey program provided. They want their rec hockey program, which has served the needs of the community for the past 28 years.”
Coun. Bill Martens said the general feeling he got from those he spoke to was parents did not express a preference for who was running the rec hockey program, as long as there was one. He noted with a proposal submitted that fulfilled all the criteria requested, there was no good reason to deny the program to CMHA.
“I do not see how we can withdraw their application,” he said. “It fits all the criteria.”
Coun. Jacen Abrey said he had received information the town moved forward with the RFI because of conflicts with a member of the Coaldale Rec Hockey management.
“That really bothers me we’re making a decision because we’re tired of dealing with somebody,” said Abrey.
“As a municipality, we should be treating everybody fairly, and everybody the same. It doesn’t matter if they are difficult to deal with or not. We still have to respect them as a town.”
Later in the discussion, CAO Kalen Hastings told council any personal conflicts were not part of any formal discussions held by council or administration.
“If that was said, I apologize,” he said. “That did not form any of the principles or discussions leading up to the decision either with myself or at the council table.”
Coun. Roger Hohm said turning down a qualified RFI application would put council in a difficult position.
“Why are we denying this one if it meets all the criteria?” he asked. He said he would like to see CMHA pull their application voluntarily, in order to provide an opportunity for council to delay any decision by a year and see if the two groups could work something out to their mutual benefit.
Martens said because the proposal from the CMHA was public record, they would be at a great disadvantage for any extensions allotted to Coaldale Rec Hockey. He also said since all groups had the same amount of time to submit a proposal, it would be unfair to CMHA to allow more time.
Coun. Bill Chapman apologized for not returning any of the e-mails or phone calls he received, but stated he had read them and found them to be passionate about sports with little discussion about politics.
“I think the fact being they did not really understand what was going on behind the scenes, that Coaldale Rec Hockey was not taking things as seriously as they should have, puts council in a bad spot,” he said.
“The chances and opportunities were given. If that group was not going to take it seriously, council has to take another action.”
Mayor Kim Craig said he heard from many parents who were operating under false impressions. He said a letter received by Coaldale Rec Hockey parents contained a number of inaccuracies.
“Regrettably, the RFI deadline was there, and there was a lot of energy put in to some very good, high quality letter writing. My heart breaks at the fact energy wasn’t put into the front end when asked for the RFI.” He added a second proposal would have allowed council to carefully weigh both programs.
“Because the deadline was missed, that opportunity was lost,” he said.
“Rec hockey is not going to be eliminated,” said Martens.
“It’s still going to be there. If we accept this, it will have a different provider. And hopefully it will be just as good, because if it’s not, we can re-evaluate it within a year.”
An initial motion to withdraw the RFI stalled on a 3-3 vote, as Coun. Sherrie Duda had recused herself prior to discussion. A second motion was then made to accept the proposal submitted by the CMHA, which passed by a 4-2 margin.