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Pye vows to continue work on Sk8te Hollinger

Despite strongly worded resolution, it's full steam ahead for winter sports hub
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PyeLanders
Sk8te Hollinger founder Ken Pye (left) and City of Timmins CAO Dave Landers. Andrew Autio for TimminsToday

Ken Pye will be forging ahead with his plans for the third season of 'Sk8te Hollinger', an increasingly grandiose public skating facility in the city's central park, despite what occurred on Tuesday night.

A late addition to the evening's budget meeting agenda was a resolution which read:

"Be it resolved that council does hereby approve that all work in the Hollinger Park with respect to the Skate 8 project cease immediately unless approved by the CAO Dave Landers or his designate."

Mayor Steve Black told council it was in relation to 'e-mails from staff'.

"This resolution is to ensure that anything taking place in the park has met with all the required approvals from staff before moving forward. We had given permission to do some of the prep work, but obviously its getting ramped up into almost full gear, and staff has some concerns in some areas. So we want to make sure that before any further work continues, that it is authorized by our CAO and planning staff, and police staff, and so forth," said Black.

Pye was not present at city hall on Tuesday, and told TimminsToday after the meeting that he didn't know about the resolution.

"I'm not too worried about it," he said.

"I'm gonna keep going. I'm a volunteer."

After two very successful winters in operation, Pye is aiming to expand the facility this season to not only include the giant figure-8 loop, and an NHL-sized rink like last year, but 22 smaller rinks as well, with plans to host a massive pond hockey tournament already in the works. Additionally, there are plans for teepees, live music, a beer tent, and a fireworks display on Family Day, among others.

Pye received a $32,000 contribution from the City of Timmins last year to help with construction costs. The contribution for this year has yet to be decided, as the financial request Pye presented on November 14 totalled well over $100,000 and city staff recommended against many of the requests.

On Tuesday, Councillor Mike Doody asked about the status of the project applying for a non-profit organization status, something which Pye also mentioned on November 14, which could open up other financial opportunities. Black told him that the group doesn't have the status at this point, and that it is one of the requirements laid out by city staff in order to receive grant money.

Councillor Joe Campbell was concerned about delays for the project during the next month until council will formally decide on a contribution in the 2018 city budget.

"January 9 is a month off. Is this going to jeopardize the individual moving forward on 'Skate 8' , or should we be having a special meeting on this? To decide exactly what we're prepared to go with right now, and what we want to have time to really look at," he said.

Black jumped in and insisted that the resolution isn't to stop the project, but rather that Pye needs to 'seek approval from staff' before doing work. 

"We're delegating the authority to approve the prep work and continuation of the work to staff, but not giving that discretion to Mr. Pye to do as he pleases in the park. It needs to be run by staff, and approved by staff before it moves forward," said the Mayor.

CAO Dave Landers confirmed that the city has received a proposed site plan from Pye.

"We are going to turn around a sort of an interim agreement to make sure that we're all on the same page, but we absolutely have to manage the activity that is happening on the site because it is a city site, and it is a city project, although we've got an individual who is putting in a great deal of his own time and energy."

Landers added that there has been 'a great deal' of discussion and interaction between both parties.

The seven members of council present all voted in favour of the resolution. Councillor Rick Dubeau was not in attendance.

Pye said he is meeting today with staff from the Timmins Economic Development Corporation to assist with gaining non-profit status. Additionally, he said he has been offered some legal and clerical assistance with the process from a member of a local law firm.

Ken Pye at HollingerSk8te Hollinger's Ken Pye. Andrew Autio for TimminsToday

He estimated he spent 2,000 plus hours working on Sk8te Hollinger last winter.

"The first year, I didn't collect a single penny from a single person. Not even the city. Last year I spent more than I took in, including what the city gave me, and including the $20,000 in cash donations I got from various companies and people."

As far as the status of this year's work, Pye said all the light poles are up, and the electrical wiring has been buried again. Due to the human cattle corrals installed for last summer's Stars and Thunder festival, Pye was told he had to dig up the wiring. The wiring was also recently damaged by snowmobiles illegally operating in Hollinger Park, which also happened a year ago. However, Pye was able to take a big positive from last week's rain.

"It was perfect. All that thaw helped me get the wiring done. It couldn't have worked out better."

After the meeting, Landers spoke to reporters and reiterated the intention of the resolution.

"We don't expect work to stop. It just has to be what we agree, together."

He said that within the current budget that council is favouring for 2018, the same $32,000 contribution is included.

"So if there is anything 'more' that would be something that council will come to terms with at the next meeting. That would allow us to formalize it, finish working it out, and get final approval in January." said Landers.

Despite misconceptions, Pye said the 'heavy equipment' currently positioned in the park is the exact same machinery he's used the past two winters.

Pye will be back presenting at council on December 12. Landers said a preliminary agreement could be signed that day.