Sharing the burden
Carbonear to make pitch to Harbour Grace about funding for new arena
Pay fair share
A municipal leader in Carbonear feels the time is ripe for his town to join forces with neighbouring Harbour Grace to help secure a new regional arena for the area.
Coun. David Kennedy would like to see the mayors and councillors from both towns sit down and take a serious look at how Carbonear can help out financially with the operation of the proposed facility.
Convinced Carbonear can only stand to benefit from a new arena in Harbour Grace, Kennedy feels it’s only fair that his town come across with its fair share of the costs of maintaining the proposed facility. In fact, he feels all towns and communities which benefit from such regional recreation facilities should be paying their fair share towards operation and maintenance.
Reminding members of the Carbonear council their town has always been fortunate to have a growing population and healthy commercial tax base, Kennedy said the town spends over $100,000 yearly to subsidize its swimming pool, which is a regional facility.
Having subsidized its stadium for 60 years, Kennedy said Harbour Grace has also spent a sizable chunk of money on that regional facility.
Kennedy described the proposed new arena for Harbour Grace as a win-win for both towns.
His motion, passed unanimously at the Feb. 20 council meeting, calls for the Carbonear council to meet with their counterparts in Harbour Grace “to offer our assistance to ensure that a new stadium is realized in the area.”
Harbour Grace Deputy Mayor Terry Barnes, who attended last week’s council meeting in Carbonear, said he likes the concept.
Suggesting towns in the region have to get involved in more regional co-operation and sharing of services, Barnes said the stadium is just one example of how this could be done. “I think we should be doing more cost-sharing,” he said.
Barnes said his town plans to write letters to other municipalities in the region, seeking their co-operation as well
Kennedy also introduced a notice of motion that, “the Town of Carbonear set up a regional recreation fee to be charged upon residents outside of Carbonear for use of our recreation facilities.” That notice of motion could change to a motion and be voted on during the next Carbonear council meeting, pending the outcome of preliminary talks with Harbour Grace.
When contacted for his response to the proposal, Mayor Don Coombs said it has merit, and it was to be discussed at a Feb. 27 council meeting in Harbour Grace.
“If all goes well with my council, we’ll set up a meeting with the Town of Carbonear and we’ll go from there,” Coombs said last week.
Kennedy’s proposal is the latest twist in the ongoing debate over the proposed new stadium. Last August, the provincial government announced it was making up to $21 million available for a new arena in Harbour Grace. The town is to cover 20 per cent of the cost.
The town council voted last fall to accept the funding arrangement, though two councillors — David Murphy and Wendell Hunt — voted against the motion.
There has been growing sentiment in recent months about the town’s ability to finance its share, with some expressing concerns about an increase in taxes.
The issue once again made headlines last month when Carbonear-
I’m not talking amalgamation because that’s a ways down the road, but more regional cooperation needs to come into effect.
— Coun. David Kennedy
H arbour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy chastised Coombs for his overly optimistic expectations for when the project would get started. Kennedy also said a financial analysis of the town would have to be carried out before any money would be released.
When asked last week about the financial review, Coombs stated: “that hasn’t been touched. We haven’t heard a word from government, not a word. It’s a slow process, slower than I ever thought.” Pool registration Meanwhile, to underscore the regional nature of the pool, David Kennedy told The Compass, in a recent registration for swimming lessons, “only 25 per cent of the children registered were from Carbonear,” with the remaining three quarters coming from other towns and communities in Conception and Trinity Bays.
Aside from the annual subsidy Carbonear taxpayers provide towards the pool’s annual operating costs, the councillor also mentioned that $1 million was spent last year on major renovations at the facility — 20 per cent of which (approximately $200,000) was paid by the town.
Pointing out, “the other smaller communities don’t have to maintain these facilities,” he wondered, “how long can towns like Carbonear keep pumping money into recreation facilities that are used for the greater good of everybody?
“Why aren’t all these people paying to use our facilities? Why is it just the towns of Carbonear and Harbour Grace?”
Any time there is a hockey tournament or other event at the Harbour Grace stadium, Kennedy said children and their families come to Carbonear to eat, shop and spend their money. And that kind of economic spinoff benefits not only Carbonear and Harbour Grace, but all communities in the area because people from those communities work at the various food outlets, hospital and other facilities found in the larger towns.
Explaining, “the more you get involved the cheaper it is for everybody,” Kennedy feels it’s time to ask the other towns and communities “to come on board, and give us some regional co-operation.”
If communities don’t want to come on side, and if Carbonear and Harbour Grace can come to an agreement, ”anybody outside our municipalities are going to have to pay some kind of user fees on top of registration fees,” the councilor suggested.
The best way to do that, Kennedy explained, would be for other municipalities to collect the fees on a per capita basis from their tax base and contribute them towards the stadium and pool.
Both Kennedy and Barnes agree that as regional facilities, the pool and stadium, like the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts, should also be operated by boards with representation from other communities. Currently, the stadium and the pool are run by their respective municipalities.
No free ride
“Maybe there will come a point in time when we can’t maintain the current facilities we have. That’s not right, it’s not acceptable for us alone to totally foot the bill.
“I’m not talking amalgamation because that’s a ways down the road,” Kennedy said, “but more regional co-operation needs to come into effect.”
Kennedy said, “this whole conversation needs to be started, and if we don’t start talking about this now, we’re going to be in trouble somewhere down the road.
“We need to be more stringent with our money — if not we’re not going to be able to maintain these facilities, and if we can’t maintain them they got to close up, and the greater population is going to lose out because of it.
“The bottom line is we’re expecting these people to pay their fair share. The day and age when you’re not going to pay anything if you’re not living in a municipality is gone. Nothing comes free anymore.”
David Kennedy has a vision for funding regional recreation facilities like the Carbonear Swimming Pool.