Re­gret­ting move to Har­bour Grace

For­mer sol­dier says town ‘looks like hell;’ man­ager calls for pa­tience

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

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.”

Re­gional prob­lem

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

to

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

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/the Com­pass

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.

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

Har­bour Grace res­i­dent John War­ren is shown last week fill­ing pot­holes on the shoul­der of the street in front of his home.

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