PRINCE ALBERT -- Prince Albert mayoral candidate Darryl Hickie is critical of the city’s debt load and a $65.5 million land purchase from a private development corporation.

He says he would cancel a land purchase agreement that was intended for arenas, businesses and an aquatic centre.

The 18-acre parcel of land is located south of the city along Highway 3 stretching back to Marquis Road near the Habitat for Humanity Re-store.

It was purchased from Signature Development Corporation, a partnership company owned by people from the Prince Albert area.

The city plans to build two 68,000 square foot hockey rinks, which will seat around 800 people each, and a 47,000 square foot aquatic centre.

"That price today is $362,000 an acre so what's changed to make it go ten times higher,” said Hickie. “The argument could have been that there's only that piece of land available but that's not the case. We have three distinct piece of land in Prince Albert available, east of SIAST, the exhibition centre could be looked at as well and the Alfred Jenkins land around the Vic Hospital here.”

Mayor Greg Dionne says Hickie doesn’t mention that Signature Development is going to include the infrastructure work, curbs, asphalt and underground in the deal.

“The land will have pavement, curbs, gutters, landscaping, lights, water, sewer, storm sewage management – everything. Signature Development is even responsible for moving the powerline on the property. In the property SaskPower has a transmission line there and some people estimate that that’s going to be a $3 million move, to relocate that line,” said Dionne.

Dennis Nowoselsky, a currently Ward 7 City Councillor who is also running for mayor, says the land deal wasn’t necessary as the city has its own land that could be used for future projects.

Nowoselsky also points out that the city’s priority project has to be the updating of the waste water treatment plant.

“It needs over $40 million. And instead we are building hockey rink eight and nine and a recreation complex when the sewer plant needs those massive repairs? Central Avenue needs 6$-7 million in infrastructure repair and re-landscaping and that could have been done for the money they are spending on this land purchase.”

Hickie also says the city’s debt has ballooned beyond a manageable amount. He says Prince Albert was one of the only municipalities to take out the federal government loans during COVID-19 and will have to pay about $20 million back.