At their Jan. 20 meeting, Thompson city council approved the purchase of a 48-foot folding wall that will make it possible to physically separate the Thompson Regional Community Centre (TRCC) lobby from the University College of the North (UCN) Thompson campus.
The cost of the wall is $17,400 plus applicable taxes.
“We’re finding there are times when we do need to close off UCN if we’re having a special event and people are roaming over into their property, their section, wandering through their building and it’s difficult to control so that’s what this is for,” said recreation director Carol Taylor prior to council voting.
Coun. Judy Kolada asked if UCN had been approached to share the cost of the equipment.
“I don’t think we’d be out of line at all to request them to cost share it or at least have discussions,” Kolada said.
“We did have discussions with UCN and they were not interested in cost sharing this with us,” Taylor said.
That answer was disappointing to Coun. Jeff Fountain.
“Given that this structure not only provides a safety barrier for our recreation staff but also does the same for UCN staff, I feel strongly that they should have been a partner in this,” he said.
Coun. Duncan Wong asked for a recorded vote after apologizing at the request of deputy mayor Les Ellsworth, who chaired part of the meeting for Mayor Colleen Smook's, for calling the design “stupid.”
“Now we have to spend taxpayer money for whatever thousand dollars to put up an addition in between,” said Wong. “I will not support this to spend taxpayer money for some mistake made by previous people, whoever designed that.”
On the principle that good fences make good neighbours, Coun. Kathy Valentino said the need to occasionally divide the conjoined buildings didn’t mean the city wants to shut UCN out.
“UCN sits at the rec committee as a member and this almost makes it sound like we’re putting a gate up against them but we work very well with them as a partner in the use of that facility and they are a good member at the recreation committee meetings,” Valentino said. “The way it’s worded makes it sound like we’re blocking off from them but we’re not. They’re a great partner.”
Taylor said the dividing wall can help ensure TRCC staff safety.
“They can work in the rest of the building and they don’t have to worry about people coming up behind them or surprising them in any way so it is a safety issue as well,” she said.
Councillors Wong, Fountain and Kolada voted against the purchase of the wall, but they were outvoted by Ellsworth, Smook and councillors Valentino, Colbourne and Proulx, who was participating by telephone.