Recent History – 2004
April 5, 2004 – By Gary Rusak, Daily News Staff
The South Peace Community Multiplex got a resounding vote of approval throughout the Peace River Regional District on Saturday. An overwhelming majority of Peace River Regional District residents marked their ballots ‘yes’ to give the regional district the authority to borrow the $17 million needed to build the state-of-the-art 21.6 million facility that will include an aquatic centre, an event centre and an agri-centre.
“I am absolutely speechless,” said an excited Mayor Wayne Dahlen at a celebratory party at Fynnigan’s held shortly after the results were made official.
“I am so pleased and proud of the citizens of the South Peace tonight I could just jump up and kiss them all. It is just incredible.”
The results from the city of Dawson Creek were the first ones made available shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. The final tally in the city was 2,523 votes in favour and 1,109 votes against. That gave the proposal a 69 per cent approval rate in the city.
“We said right from the start ‘this will never fly if the politicians get involved’,” said Dahlen. “The people got involved, the Friends of the Multiplex got involved, staying positive, staying focused we made it happen.”
The closest call of the night came from Electoral Area ‘E’. Out of 241 cast ballots 130 were in favour and 111 were against. The 54 per cent majority was the smallest margin of any of the districts.
Because the bylaw needed the unanimous support of all four voting areas the difference between it passing and failing came down to just 19 votes.
That being said, no other district was close. The defined portion of Electoral ‘D’ had a 69 per cent majority (1,357 ‘yes’ and 599 ‘no) and the Village of Pouce Coupe, an area some officials worried might not approve it, also passed with a 69 per cent majority (167 ‘yes’ and 76 ‘no’).
“It is awesome,” said Fred Banham, administrator for the Peace River Regional District, only moments after the final 500 votes were counted. “It has been a long day and a long couple of weeks. But, now the people have spoken in favour of the design. It is a strong ‘yes’. We have a clear decision.”
The mood was buoyant at the party with many city officials and Friends of the Multiplex celebrating the victory that only months ago seemed like a long shot.
“The people of Dawson Creek, Village of Pouce Coupe and the Electoral areas of D and E made this happen,” said Bruce Endicott, a founding member of the Friends of the Multiplex who helped promote the plan by supplying ‘yes’ signs to any one who wanted them. “We just brought it to some more people’s attention.”
Garry Mah, who started the Friends of the Multiplex organization after offering up $10,000 at the first public meeting in February, was beaming on Saturday night.
“The people of the South Peace region have spoken and they said ‘lets move forward’,” he said. “I am pretty tired but I’m exhilarated. This is a huge, huge, turning point for Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe area D and area E”
Mah said that the Friends of the Multiplex group would continue its efforts to be a “public watchdog group” around the project.
“It means a great deal,” said South Peace MLA Blair Lekstrom. “It’s a pretty damn good day for the city of Dawson Creek, Peace River South- for everybody, for the North Peace, for people on the Alberta side.”
The next step will be for the two by-laws, the Grant-in-Aid Service Establishment and the South Peace Community Multiplex Loan Authorization, to be given third and fourth reading at the next regional district board meeting. Following that, more in-depth architectural plans will be drawn up before the project is put out to public tender. Construction is to begin in the spring of 2005 with completion expected the following year.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Dahlen. “It just really sends a positive message.”