Editorial: Waiting on projects requires long-term vision

There’s a saying about things moving at the speed of government. In other words, slowly. And the truth behind that saying is evident when you look at progress regarding Thompson public safety strategy and courthouse renovations, referenced in a recent article, and the sobering centre, officially announced by the government in the first week of July, even if it had already been announced in effect by council passing a resolution related to a land transfer during a meeting in late April.

Something taking a long time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As another old saying goes, "Rome wasn’t built in a day.” But another Rome-related saying (the aphorisms should be pretty much over at this point, we promise) refers to Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

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To be clear, not all of these projects are equal. 

The sobering centre, for one, was announced more than a year after the other two, so it hasn’t taken as long to start to come to fruition. Obviously it’s not perfect and, given the choice, the city might not have chosen the old University College of the North campus at the corner of Princeton Drive and Station Road in Eastwood for it. But given the choice between spending some of the funding they got for a building, or having a building the province owned given to them and spending it on refurbishment and operations instead, the latter choice makes more sense. Besides, to name a couple of related facilities in the city, namely the homeless shelter and the Liquor Mart, it’s always easy to find a portion of people who disagree with a particular location. Are they in the best possible spot? Maybe not, depending on which businesses you own or frequent, but they are where they are and can’t be moved unilaterally, so it’s up to everyone to adapt to reality as it is, rather than how they would like to to be. 

Quicker though it may be to start moving forward, the idea of the sobering centre predates this council and the one before that and the one before that. So perhaps you can imagine why the current group of councillors opted to accept the province’s offer, rather than kick the problem down the road another couple of years after more than decade of merely wishful thinking.

The speed of the court office renovations is probably the most objectionable. Announced in June 2019, there were nine months in which to get it underway before COVID-19 hit the province. Of course, it was announced a couple of months before an election and wasn’t slated to begin for a year or two (and definitely not until after the election). So now it will be probably another year at least before the court office is modernized some more, much to the chagrin of the people who work there and those who attend in relation to civil and criminal trials.

The public safety strategy was definitely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited the holding of in-person consultations and restricted them entirely at times. It is also a multi-agency effort with more than 30 Thompson organizations taking part, which always tends to make things a little more complicated. Hopefully the time and effort pay off by producing something that actually helps improve public safety and community wellness in Thompson, though that won’t likely be known until the term of the next council has started and any effects have become noticeable.

Thankfully, however, not every big project in Thompson operates at the speed of government, even if they’re doing some of the work. The future location of the Canadian Tire Jumpstart-funded multisport court on Thompson Drive across from Giant Tiger is already undergoing site preparation, less than seven months after it was announced, with much of the time in between not suitable for outdoor work. It might not be done before the interim sobering centre opens this fall, or the public safety strategy is released. But it will probably be doing its part to keep people active and hopefully out of trouble by the time court office renovations are done.

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