Halifax Forum upgrades expected to cost extra $22M

The cost of overhauling and expanding the Halifax Forum complex has climbed to $60.5 million from $38 million.

A community association operates the 5,000-seat facility which includes two rinks, a multi-purpose building and a bingo 
hall. 

In 2013, the association submitted a proposal to the municipality which included demolishing the multi-purpose building and adding a third arena and a gym. The ice plant also needs to be replaced.  

Paul Card, the head of the association’s redevelopment committee, thinks the investment is worth it. Some Ontario communities are facing higher costs for arena projects than $60 million and the Forum already has some infrastructure in place.

“It just needs a little love and care,” he said.

Paul Card of the Halifax Forum Community Association believes spending up to $60.5 million to renovate and expand the 5,000-seat facility in north-end Halifax is a sound investment. (Robert Short/CBC)

Card said the Forum complex is located in a rapidly growing area, and already gets a half million visits every year for events not related to the ice surfaces.

“The community needs this,” he said. “The peninsula needs a ‘hub’  facility.” 

Card points out some of the increase in cost is due to inflation — it’s been five years since the original proposal was submitted. 

The other issue is the Forum is a registered heritage building, designed by Andrew Cobb and constructed in 1927. Bringing it up to national building codes and making it accessible will add to the price tag.

A new municipal report has outlined some options to reduce the cost. 

A third rink for the Halifax Forum complex is an option contained in a proposal to upgrade and expand the facility. The complex also needs a new ice plant. (Robert Short/CBC)

One involves demolishing the multi-purpose building but not adding a third rink. Another suggestion is to find 
a partner in the project, such as Dalhousie University, which has been talking about building its own two-rink complex in south-end Halifax.

The report also mentions the possibility of adding other recreational facilities to the complex, such as a 50-metre pool.

Halifax regional council will be discussing the various options at its meeting Tuesday.

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Cross commemorating crash victim removed, then returned

A memorial cross set up to remember a teenager who died in a car crash in Nova Scotia was removed on Wednesday by Halifax municipal staff, but it was returned the following day after a councillor intervened.

Kylie Cooper, 15, died on June 10 following a two-car collision in Wellington, N.S., ​on Highway 2 at Abilene Avenue about five kilometres north of Fall River. Joseph Dominix, 87, also died in the accident.

Marlene Cooper, Kylie’s mother, said she set up the memorial near the crash site to commemorate her daughter and pay tribute to the people who tried to save her.

“It was a pretty little cross that her great-grandfather made her,” said Cooper.

The cross was set up in the public right of way, which is 10 metres from the centre of the road. But five people complained about it.

‘My heart just broke’

According to municipal rules, if anyone complains about a sign within the public right of way it is removed. But the decision devastated Kylie’s family.

“My heart broke, just like the day it happened,” said Cooper.

Steve Streatch, the councillor for the area, retrieved the cross and put it back up Thursday.

“I paced out the distance from the centre of the road and put it outside the public right of way,” he said. “I apologized on behalf the mayor and council and laid flowers in her memory.”

Streatch plans to ask for a staff report clarifying the policies regarding memorial crosses, much to Cooper’s relief.

“I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” she said. “It’s like breaking a headstone.”

Streatch also plans to meet with the family of Dominix to offer condolences and ask the two families involved in the accident to support each other.

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Splash pad proposal aims to cool off Dartmouth

There’s a fountain of hope for anyone sweltering in Dartmouth, N.S., where public beaches are frequently closed due to poor water quality: a community group has proposed a half-million dollar splash pad by Lake Banook.

“What we need is accessible, free water play,” said Rick Mayuk, one of the organizers behind Friends of the Dartmouth Splash Pad.

The group wants to build the splash pad at Grahams Grove. If the project goes ahead, Mayuk’s group plans to raise $150,000 through individual and corporate sponsors. The proposal is for the city to chip in the remaining $350,000.

He said if it gets the green light from the city and fundraising goes well a splash pad could be cooling kids off by 2020.

Albro Lake Beach and Birch Cove Beach, both in Dartmouth, are currently closed due to high bacteria levels. Shubie Beach just reopened Wednesday after being closed last week.

“Even Grahams Grove is often closed and not safe because of the bacteria,” Mayuk said.

If the project goes ahead, Mayuk’s group plans to raise $150,000 through individual and corporate sponsors. (dartmouthsplashpad.ca)

According to city recreation officials, there are five splash pads in Halifax and one in Lower Sackville, but none in Dartmouth.

“That is a big gap,” said Coun. Sam Austin, who represents Dartmouth Centre. “And for the young kids, too. Not everyone can swim, and a splash pad is a place where you can muck around and you don’t have that water safety worry.”

Friends of the Dartmouth Splash Pad sent the municipality a proposal in early July. The group chose Grahams Grove due to its central location and because a new recreation building is already being considered for the site.

“It’s an opportunity to save taxpayers’ dollars and align the projects,” said Mayuk.

The splash pad group is teaming up with the local Kiwanis Club, which has already submitted a proposal for the new recreation building at Grahams Grove.

Kiwanis officials would like it to include a canteen and an office for the club. They have previously committed $250,000 for the project.

Austin thinks the site could accommodate both proposals. But he adds there are no guarantees that construction of the new Grahams Grove recreation building will “make the grade” for the 2019 capital budget.

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Halifax police need to address cybersecurity risks, auditor general says

Halifax’s auditor general says the police department needs to tighten up its cybersecurity as soon as possible.

Evangeline Colman-Sadd planned to do an audit of Halifax Regional Police’s computer systems, but was told in April that a consultant, KPMG, had already completed a report in December 2016.

“There were high-risk items that were identified in that report,” said Colman-Sadd, “So those are important [items] that need to be addressed.”

In fact, there were 67 concerns raised with 35 considered “high impact” and “high likelihood.”

Many of the issues have not been dealt with because police officials took more than a year to find a chief information security officer.

An audit by consultant KPMG found 67 cybersecurity concerns, many of them considered “high impact” and “high likelihood.” (Robert Short/CBC)

Andrew Kusma was hired in June.

The delay concerns Colman-Sadd, who suggested that Halifax’s police commission start getting regular updates.

She met with the commission on Monday behind closed doors to discuss the “security of police operations.”

In a letter to the auditor general, the chairman of the commission and the police chief said an action plan will be ready in September, and there will be monthly updates after that.

The letter also states that the department has “the necessary controls and practices in place to protect citizens.”

“So we will restart our audit in the spring of 2019 and we will assess the state at that point,” Colman-Sadd said.

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Halifax police need to address cybersecurity risks, auditor general says

Halifax’s auditor general says the police department needs to tighten up its cybersecurity as soon as possible.

Evangeline Colman-Sadd planned to do an audit of Halifax Regional Police’s computer systems, but was told in April that a consultant, KPMG, had already completed a report in December 2016.

“There were high-risk items that were identified in that report,” said Colman-Sadd, “So those are important [items] that need to be addressed.”

In fact, there were 67 concerns raised with 35 considered “high impact” and “high likelihood.”

Many of the issues have not been dealt with because police officials took more than a year to find a chief information security officer.

An audit by consultant KPMG found 67 cybersecurity concerns, many of them considered “high impact” and “high likelihood.” (Robert Short/CBC)

Andrew Kusma was hired in June.

The delay concerns Colman-Sadd, who suggested that Halifax’s police commission start getting regular updates.

She met with the commission on Monday behind closed doors to discuss the “security of police operations.”

In a letter to the auditor general, the chairman of the commission and the police chief said an action plan will be ready in September, and there will be monthly updates after that.

The letter also states that the department has “the necessary controls and practices in place to protect citizens.”

“So we will restart our audit in the spring of 2019 and we will assess the state at that point,” Colman-Sadd said.

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Improvement needed in planning department, says Halifax auditor general

Halifax’s auditor general says “significant improvements” are needed within the planning department to speed up the development application process.

Under Halifax’s charter, development applications should be reviewed by planners within 60 days. 

The auditor general’s office looked at six files between January 2016 and December 2017. Those files took between 109 and 347 days.

“Changes are needed,” said Evangeline Colman-Sadd, HRM’s auditor general, “There are inefficiencies in the system.”

A report with 10 recommendations was presented to the city’s audit and finance committee on Wednesday, including one for a standard policy manual.

“There’s no common idea of when a site-plan application is considered complete — no policy on which HRM divisions should be involved in a review and no standard times to complete their reviews,” said Paul Flinn, the audit director.

Councillors on the audit and finance committee were not surprised by the news because they have heard complaints from the development community.

“Very disappointing, but not shocking,” said Coun. Matt Whitman.

“It’s not that we don’t have good people,” said Mayor Mike Savage. “I hear we have very good people. But we have to streamline the process.”

Jacque Dubé, Halifax CAO, said the time period when the auditor general did the review of the planning department was particularly challenging. There were more than 40 vacancies at a time when there were a large number of complex applications.

“There was a lack of resources and we’ve taken measures to address it,” said Dubé.

The new head of the planning department said all 10 recommendations should be implemented within 12 months.

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Sons of Anarchy blamed for rise in outlaw motorcycle gangs in N.S., RCMP say

Nova Scotia RCMP say membership in outlaw motorcycle gangs is on the rise in the province, thanks to the popularity of a television series that went off the air 3½ years ago.

“Ever since the phenomenon of Sons of Anarchy, more people want to join that life, [they] think it’s a brotherhood, ” said Const. Scott Morrison. “They think the camaraderie is there based on the television show and they’re joining up.”

Morrison was part of a presentation on biker gangs to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners.

RCMP Const. Scott Morrison said many of the friend or support clubs in Nova Scotia are affiliated with either the Bacchus or the Hells Angels. (Radio-Canada)

Morrison said the clubs can shift and merge, but they are not going away. For instance, there are no longer any chapters of the Gate Keepers, but there are still 14 outlaw, support and friend clubs across the province with up to 200 members.

Support clubs do not necessarily operate under the direction of a biker gang, but can work security and sell gear at events.

Outlaws, Hells Angels Rivalry

Friend clubs do get involved with the drug trade and the violence associated with it, such as collecting debts.

The Hells Angels had been selling T-shirts at the annual Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, but police pointed out sales were supporting a criminal organization and it is no longer given a vendor permit.

Many of the friend or support clubs in Nova Scotia are affiliated with either the Bacchus or the Angels, but a new club called the Black Pistons recently opened in Cape Breton. It’s affiliated with the Outlaws, who are deadly rivals with the Angels.

Violent clashes

There have been a number of violent clashes in New Brunswick attributed to this rivalry.

“The public could be hurt in the crossfire,” said Morrison. “That’s why we want to send a message that they’re not welcome here.”

RCMP say they soon expect a Black Pistons club to open in the Halifax area.

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You can now borrow musical instruments at Halifax-area libraries

Anyone with a library card in the Halifax region can now borrow a musical instrument.

On Wednesday, Halifax Public Libraries announced a new program that will allow people to check out a guitar, violin or hand drum from any branch.

The 150-instrument collection will be housed at the Alderney Gate Public Library in Dartmouth, but the network of vans that shuttles library materials between branches will also be used to transport instruments.

Sun Life Financial donated 150 instruments and $140,000 for a technician to maintain them. (Robert Short/CBC)

Local musician Joel Plaskett performed at Wednesday’s announcement and donated a signed four-string tenor guitar to the collection.

“I’ve written a lot of songs on the tenor,” said Plaskett. “I just thought it would be a nice one to have in the public system because it’s one of things that people won’t try unless they stumble upon it.”

Sun Life Financial donated the instruments for the program, along with $140,000 to pay for a technician to maintain them.

Nova Scotia musician Joel Plaskett was on hand to play a tune at the launch of a new instrument borrowing program through Halifax Public Libraries. 3:33

Halifax is the ninth city in Canada to get such a collection.

Sun Life officials say the instruments have been well taken care of and are appreciated by the people who use the programs.

“When we launched in Vancouver, the first instrument to go out the door was a mandolin to an 86-year-old woman,” said Paul Joliat, vice-president of sponsorships for Sun Life. “And the look of celebration on her face, it was fantastic.”

Paul Joliat (left), the vice-president of sponsorships for Sun Life Financial, with Joel Plaskett. (Robert Short/CBC)

Library officials anticipate great demand for the instruments, so they hope to get more donations from the public.

Woodwind instruments like clarinets and saxophones will not be accepted for health reasons.

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Proposals being accepted to transform former Pictou Academy school

Town officials in Pictou, N.S., are hoping for some new proposals to give Pictou Academy a second life.

The former school was closed in 2017 and returned to the Town of Pictou in December.

The town has put out a call for expressions of interest. Pictou’s Chief Administrative Officer says there a variety of ideas.

“Housing, non profit offices, community activities, commercial space,” said Dan Troke.

“We don’t want to preclude any of those.”

Troke said people in the area are also anxious to see the building put to good use as soon as possible. The town plans to start working with the proposals as soon as they are submitted.

“We need to make sure whatever it is it has to be able to pay the bills and keep the building in good shape,” said Troke.

The Town of Annapolis Royal was able to redevelop a local school into a combination of residential units, a new library and a rock wall climbing club.

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Halifax serious about hosting 2020 world women's hockey championship

Halifax’s special events advisory committee wants Hockey Canada to know the municipality is serious about hosting the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship.

It is recommending the municipality put $300,000 into the bid — $50,000 more than Halifax’s staff recommended.

Coun. Tony Mancini, a member of the committee and the chair of the hosting committee for three previous international hockey events held in Halifax, thinks the April event would boost tourism.

“I fully support this,” said Mancini, “It’s early in our (tourism) season, so other events scheduled for that time may come even earlier, so that’s just a win-win.”

Halifax would co-host the championship with the Town of Truro and the Municipality of Colchester.

Colchester is  considering a $100,000 contribution. The province has already agreed to a $250,000 share. Tickets will cost $25 a game.

Organizers want to set up an all-female hosting committee.

‘All about celebrating females’

Hockey Nova Scotia also hopes the event will boost the number of female hockey players in the province by 50 per cent, or 1,400 girls, by 2021.

“It’s all about celebrating females,” said Darren Cossar, executive director of Hockey Nova Scotia. “Females in sport and the leaders within our communities.”

Halifax regional council still needs to approve the proposal.

Hockey Canada is expected to visit Nova Scotia in August and make a final decision in September.

Several other Canadian cities are submitting bids.

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