Sandy Casselman 
LJI Reporter

EMBRUN – More than 1,200 people have viewed last week’s township of Russell “Live with Leroux” online question and answer session about the municipality’s future recreation complex.

“I was very pleased with Wednesday’s virtual discussion,” Mayor Pierre Leroux said of the Feb. 24 event, which can be found on the township’s Facebook and YouTube pages. “A recreational complex project has been talked about for over 20 years and now council has taken concrete steps to move it forward.”

The half-hour Q&A provided residents with an opportunity to ask questions about the process and timelines for the project, the public survey, and the upcoming online public consultations. Using the comments section, someone asked if the project would be competing for funding with the 417 Industrial Park. Leroux reminded viewers the Q&A was specifically for questions related to the consultation process but did say that he is “not too worried about that one.”

In response to a question about how community input would be analyzed, director of parks and recreation Céline Guitard said, “every comment will be looked at.”

Viewer comments included gratitude for the online format, which was arranged in response to COVID-19 regulations. Those who normally would not be able to attend in person due to disability were able to watch and interact from the comfort of their home, while those who were unable to make the 7 p.m. start time can go back and watch at their leisure.

One viewer was concerned about the reality of the project, commenting on past failed attempts at building a recreation complex in Russell. Leroux said he could not speak to the project from the early 2000s, as he was not on council at that time, but he did offer some reassurance.

“The closest we’ve ever been, is right now,” he said.

The current project is in its initial phase, Leroux noted, adding that the township has hired Colliers Group as project management for the first phase, the design of the following phase, and the public consultation process. For more information, the municipal website has a page devoted to the project, complete with history, updates, concept plan, and project phases.

Another viewer asked about the possibility of “big draw” items, such as diving boards. Leroux encouraged residents to share their ideas via the online survey, while earlier in the discussion the Colliers Group representative said this is the time to think and dream big.

“That’s a comment you want to see on a survey,” Leroux said. “Be sure to share that with us.”

In addition to last week’s online Q&A, the municipality is offering a few other opportunities for community engagement, including two online public consultations, one in English (March 3) and one in French (March 10). Roughly 450 people have already completed the online survey, which closes March 12.

“I look forward to hearing all the community feedback on what they would like to see included,” Leroux said.