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Wawa council considers putting cost-share on ice

Hot on the heels of other communities in the region, Wawa's municipal council heard a proposal from the township of Marathon regarding a possible cost-sharing opportunity.

WAWA — Fresh ice is the best ice – even when you have to share the equipment to make it.

At Wawa’s committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 6, municipal council heard a report from the director of community services and tourism, Alex Patterson, regarding a possible cost-share agreement.

This agreement would see five communities along the northshore – including Wawa – pool resources to buy a new ice resurfacer for which all communities involved would share responsibility and usage.

Wawa currently has one Olympia ice resurfacer which replaced the previous unit they sold a couple of years ago, according to Patterson.

On the other hand, Marathon’s newest ice resurfacer had battery issues that took “weeks to repair.”

While Marathon still has their new unit, the purchase of a secondary, used unit that could be shared by all communities involved in the cost-share agreement would reduce the chance of rink closures in the event of technical difficulties.  

Marathon town council drafted and sent out a proposal for a potential cost-sharing agreement to White River, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation, and Schreiber in addition to Wawa.

All of the other communities have signed the agreement.

Patterson said sharing between these communities would reduce costs significantly, among other benefits to Wawa.

“We think that this is a really advantageous agreement. It’s not a huge cost for us. It’s a local unit so it’s not like we’d have to go all the way to Almira.

"We have a bunch of spare parts for units like this so we’re able to operate it with minimal operator training, with minimal experience required to switch out parts because it’s basically the same as our old unit. And, at the end of the day, it gives us a little bit in our back pocket in terms of if we ever have some sort of breakdown during a tournament - where we could be back on-track in as little as a couple hours instead of as long as a couple of days,” Patterson said.

The upfront cost of purchasing the new unit would be about $4,300.

However, councillors raised a number of concerns about hidden costs – such as the money it would take to transport the proposed Olympia unit from Marathon to Wawa, the initial cost of purchase, and the fact that the unit is refurbished.

“I’m not sure if I’m onboard with going in on a used [unit] – and then the cost of transporting it – you’re counting on Mission Motors for transporting it and if they’re busy then you can’t get it here,” Coun. Cathy Cannon said.

Patterson pointed out that while it is true the unit they’re looking at purchasing is used, he still expects it to have a “pretty good lifespan.”

He also said Mission Motors is just one contractor he received a quote from regarding transport, but made it clear that there are other options nearby in the region.

Other questions councillors had related to the necessity of the unit itself.

Coun. Micheline Hatfield, who said that she has been using the ice at Wawa’s arena for nearly 40 years, wondered if there might be a way to finish the ice manually when the Olympia is experiencing issues.

Patterson said unfortunately, there just aren’t many alternatives.

“When it’s happened before, sometimes we’ve been able to finish the night by not flooding, depending on what things have happened. But, after about two or three different ice times it becomes unsafe and we just have to shutdown,” he said.

He added every time the ice is shutdown, the municipality loses around $1,000 to $2,500 in possible revenue.

Cannon observed that the proposed cost-sharing agreement would not necessarily account for lost revenue.

“You’re not going to make that up anyway because it’s going to cost you that to transport it from Marathon. It’s not really a win-win situation. I mean, you’re going to lose that money and if somebody else is using it or if it breaks down when we have it then we’re responsible to fix it,” Cannon said.

No final decision was reached as to whether or not Wawa will join White River, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, and Schreiber in signing the agreement. Wawa’s council agreed to vote on a by-law to ratify the matter at their next regular council meeting on Feb. 20.

Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Austin Campbell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Austin Campbell is a local journal initiative reporter covering stories in the Superior North region.
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