Town feels provincial government should fund regional facilities
The province should take a serious look at setting up a separate program to fund regional facilities, which towns cannot afford to maintain. That’s one of the recommendations Finance Minister Tom Marshall heard when he visited Carbonear earlier this month.
Financial support for services and programs and a new primary elementary school top the Carbonear town council’s wish list this year.
The town’s deputy mayor, Chess Ash made the requests for funding to the province’s Finance Minster Tom Marshall during a Feb. 8 pre-budget consultation meeting in that Conception Bay North town.
Before listing the financial needs, Ash provided Marshall with an overview of the town.
“As a modern and progressive town, Carbonear provides many amenities for its residents and is the major regional service centre for the Trinity-Conception area,” said Ash. “ We are the major centre for financial, medical, business, commercial and education services in the region. The population of Carbonear has remained relatively stable and in recent years has shown some signs of growth with residential housing continuing to grow at a rate of 25 to 30 new dwellings annually. The commercial sector continues to grow and prosper. This continued growth provides our town with a growing revenue base.”
Although the town boasts many benefits and signs of significant growth, Ash said additional human resources, equipment and infrastructure are needed.
“Carbonear, as well as other municipalities, face increased expenditures as we respond to the needs associated with an aging infrastructure, road maintenance, sidewalks, curb and gutter work, snow clearing, waste management, recreational and other quality services,” said Ash. “ The municipal tax base is limited and is not able to provide for the cost of all the services and amenities which our residents expect and deserve. Additional government assistance is needed in order for municipalities to face the ever-increasing costs associated with providing routine operational expenses, essential services and an effective capital program.”
Clean and safe drinking water, proper sewage disposal, fire protection services were just some of the basic necessities the deputy mayor listed off to the minister as essential to the town.
He also noted the importance of providing adequate recreation facilities.
“It is of utmost importance that government continue to support municipal efforts to provide for the recreational needs of their residents,” said Ash. “ It’s also important to recognize that some services and facilities can only be provided on a regional basis. It isn’t realistic for every town to have, for example, a stadium or a swimming pool. It simply isn’t economically feasible. But in cases where a town provides facilities and services, which benefit a region, special financial support, in addition to regular support and assistance, needs to be given by government. When financing is provided for facilities like the stadium in Harbour Grace or Bay Roberts or the swimming pool in Carbonear it is beneficial for the region not just for the town in which the facility is located. Government needs to consider setting up a separate funding component or program to support regional facilities.”
Ash wants the town’s arts and culture centre ( Princess Sheila Nigeria Theatre) to be funded in the same manner as other similar centres are across the province.
“Carbonear is fortunate to have an arts and culture centre, which is comparable to provincial centres throughout the province such as Gander, Grand Fall-Windsor, Corner Brook, Stephenville and Labrador West,” he pointed out. “I reference this in our pre-budget presentation because unlike all these other centres, the town of Carbonear is responsible for all costs associated with the operation of our arts centre. Staffing, operational, administrative, technical, programming, promotional and maintenance expenses of all the other centres are covered by the provincial government, but that’s not the case for the centre in Carbonear - we receive no financial assistance. We maintain this is most unfair.”
Ash told Marshall the people of the region should receive the same government support for their arts and culture centre as other towns. The finance minister agreed. “ The current system of funding for arts and culture centres is currently under review, but this seems so blatantly unfair. What reason was given as to why your centre is not funded by government?” asked Marshall.
“ Well the reasons are a little vague and it’s something we are trying to work out with government at the present time, but they feel the facility is owned by the town and is our responsibility as opposed to belonging to the province,” explained Ash. “ However it’s a regional facility and used in the same manner as other centres across the province are and should be funded in the same way.”
Ash encouraged Marshall to find some money to improve services at the Carbonear General Hospital and continue with the plan to construct a new long-term care facility in the town.
He also expressed the need for a new primary-elementary school.
“Carbonear is the second largest municipality in Conception bay North, however at this point in time, we do not have schools to accommodate Kindergarten to Level 3 students in the town,” he said. “I anticipate there is not another town in the province with a population equal or greater than Carbonear that does not have a K to 12 system in their town. There is no justification for having our students travelling out of town for their education. It does not seem conceivable that a school would not be located in the community where the majority of students live. Government must ensure funds are invested in education to provide the infrastructure for the education of our children.|
The deputy mayor concluded his presentation to the finance minister with a long list of priorities which included funding provisions for upgrades and replacement of deteriorating infrastructure as well as guidance and support on borrowing and debt reduction.
TOWN GOALS - Chess Ash, deputy mayor of Carbonear, shares some of the municipal priorities of his town with Tom Marshall, minister of finance, at a Feb. 8 pre-budget consultation in Carbonear.
Denise Pike/The Compass