Regretting move to Harbour Grace
Former soldier says town ‘looks like hell;’ manager calls for patience
A retired member of the Canadian Forces who moved to Harbour Grace six years ago says he regrets the decision.
John Warren is a native of Buchans, but spent most of his life in the signals corps, living in Ontario. After retirement, he purchased property on the west end of Water Street.
Warren caught the attention of a Compass staffer who was driving past his property last week. Warren was using a wheelbarrow, rake and Class A stone to fill in potholes on the shoulder of the street.
When asked what he was doing, Warren said the street is “poorly maintained” and he felt the need to take action.
“No one else seems to want to do anything about it,” Warren stated.
He said the town “looks like hell,” and described the streets as “ridiculous.”
Indeed, that section of Water Street is rutted, cracked, bumpy and pockmarked with holes. There’s evidence that town crews have attempted to use crushed stone to smooth out the street, but this is just a temporary measure, and motorists have to navigate with care.
It’s a circumstance that can be found throughout the region as municipalities struggle to maintain infrastructure in the face of rising costs and budgets that don’t go far enough. Municipalities also depend on the provincial government to pick up the lion’s share — in Harbour Grace, it’s usually 80 per cent — of the cost of infrastructure projects, and the need is simply too great to satisfy every town.
But Warren believes the problem is more acute in Harbour Grace, which he not-so-affectionately refers to as Harbour “Dis” Grace. Warren has no regrets about moving back to Newfoundland, and looks forward to spending much of the summer at his camper in Harcourt, near Clarenville.
But when asked how he feels about Harbour Grace, he replies: “I wish I had chosen a different town.”
He says there’s been a gradual exodus of businesses, as opposed to
We don’t expect to see a new Wal-mart opening here any time soon, but our door is open to new business and we’ll do what
we can to help.
the steady growth and optimism he sees in other municipalities, such as Bay Roberts and Clarenville.
Warren’s broadside comes as plans to build a new stadium in the town continue to move forward. Some $21 million has been set aside for the project, with 80 per cent coming from the province.
There’s debate about whether the town can afford to build and operate the stadium, and talks have been underway with neighbouring communities on a regional recreation strategy.
Members of council have also been attempting to clean up unsightly properties in the town, and there’s been plenty of debate at recent meetings about how to best accomplish this.
When asked if he’s brought his concerns to the town council, War- ren replies: “They don’t want hear what I’ve go to say.”
When apprised of Warren’s views, town administrator Lester Forward said the town is “doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”
The town has an annual budget of roughly $2 million, and Forward acknowledged this is not enough. He said streetlighting alone costs the town $120,000.
The town needs to boost revenue in order to keep up with demands, but Forward said there’s no easy way to do this. Municipalities have been lobbying the province for a better financial arrangement, but a resolution to the debate is nowhere in sight.
He said a dramatic increase in taxes is one option, but added quickly, “I don’t think so.”
Roughly $1.8 million was invested into Water Street last year, from Victoria Street to Noad Street. And over the past four years, Forward estimates some $8 million has been invested into upgrades to Harvey Street, which is a provincial road.
Forward said another phase of Harvey Street, from Noad Street to Bannerman Lake Road, is the No. 1 priority for this year. The project is estimated at some $4 million, but there’s still no word on whether the province will fund its 80 per cent share.
As for Water Street, Forward said potholes will be filled once the asphalt plants are operational for the season, but “nothing major” is planned.
Because of its limited means, Forward said the town has to set priorities, much like any homeowner.
Door is open
As for the loss of businesses, Forward said there are between 65-70 in the town. He said that number hasn’t changed dramatically over the years, though there have been several high profile departures and closures, including the fish processing plant, the bank and the bulk oil storage facilities.
“We don’t expect to see a new Wal-mart opening here any time soon, but our door is open to new business and we’ll do what we can to help,” said Forward.
Forward also had a message for Warren, saying it was illegal for a private citizen to undertake repairs to the streets.
He said citizens who do so are risking their own safety, since precautionary measures, including traffic control, are necessary during such activities.
He urges residents with cerns to call the town office.
“If it’s something that needs to be done right away because it’s a hazard, we’ll do it,” Forward said
The Town of Harbour Grace made the decision at a recent council meeting to allow the demolition of landmark Ridley Hall once it has been sold by the current owners.
Harbour Grace resident John Warren is shown last week filling potholes on the shoulder of the street in front of his home.