Swim­ming in di­vi­sive wa­ters

Pro­posed new pool reg­is­tra­tion pol­icy would favour Car­bon­ear res­i­dents

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS AND NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE COM­PASS

A con­tro­ver­sial draft pol­icy that would en­sure res­i­dents of Car­bon­ear have first ac­cess to reg­is­tra­tion for lessons at the re­gional swim­ming pool is be­ing de­scribed by Mayor Sam Slade as “one of the hard­est is­sues we’ve ever had to deal with.”

What’s more, some non-res­i­dent par­ents are de­scrib­ing the pro­posal as dis­crim­i­na­tion and are threat­en­ing to boy­cott the pool — and even busi­nesses and other ser­vices — if it is im­ple­mented.

The seven mem­bers of coun­cil are now grap­pling with the draft pol­icy, which would take ef­fect in Jan­uary if ap­proved, and it ap­pears there are some very dif­fer­ent views on the is­sue, though Slade was not ready last week to share his opin­ion.

“They’ll know very shortly,” Slade stated on Fri­day.

Reg­is­tra­tion has been a hot-but­ton is­sue, and many par­ents are of­ten frus­trated be­cause they are un­able to get a time slot that fits with their work sched­ules, or all the slots are taken.

And since the Town of Car­bon­ear sub­si­dizes the fa­cil­ity by as much as $150,000 an­nu­ally, some Car­bon­ear res­i­dents have cen­t­age come from throughout the Trin­i­tyCon­cep­tion re­gion.

Talk of a Car­bon­ear-first pol­icy is not sit­ting well with many of them, and town of­fi­cials have been field­ing calls and re­ceiv­ing let­ters from those on both sides of the de­bate.

Tanya Sul­li­van of Har­bour Grace is among those speak­ing out. She is orig­i­nally from Car­bon­ear, and works and shops in the town. She has two young chil­dren and reg­is­ters them in lessons year-round, though she was un­able to get a spot for her four-year-old in the fall ses­sion.

She be­lieves the cur­rent sys­tem is fair, and sug­gested that a Car­bon­ear-first reg­is­tra­tion pol­icy would only alien­ate peo­ple, cause hard feel­ings and dam­age the town’s self-pro­claimed ti­tle as “Hub of the Bay.”

“As we speak, peo­ple are talk­ing and group­ing to­gether, and it’s go­ing to come to a point where ev­ery­one is start­ing to car pool to Con­cep­tion Bay South or St. John’s. And if we’re not good enough to use the pool in Car­bon­ear, we can also buy our gro­ceries in Bay Roberts. We can end our sup­port. “I take per­sonal of­fence to this,” she noted. Sul­li­van said it’s not un­com­mon to sit in the view­ing room on a Satur­day morn­ing and note that “80 per cent” of the par­ents are non-res­i­dents of Car­bon­ear. She said many of them leave the pool and do their shop­ping or visit

As we speak, peo­ple are talk­ing and group­ing to­gether, and it’s go­ing to come to a point where ev­ery­one is start­ing to car pool to Con­cep­tion Bay South or St. John’s. And if we’re not good enough to use the pool in Car­bon­ear, we can also buy our gro­ceries in Bay Roberts.

— Har­bour Grace res­i­dent Tanya Sul­li­van

ex­pressed anger to their elected of­fi­cials that non-res­i­dents have the same ac­cess to reg­is­tra­tion as they do.

As such, a pro­posed new change that.

Ro­tat­ing sys­tem

pol­icy

will

But first, here’s how the cur­rent pol­icy works: reg­is­tra­tion is held over four days, based on a ro­tat­ing al­pha­bet­i­cal sys­tem to en­sure fair and equal ac­cess to the pool, re­gard­less of place of res­i­dence. So a child with a last name that starts with “A” may have first crack at reg­is­tra­tion on Day 1 for the fall ses­sion, but would have to reg­is­ter on Day 4 dur­ing the win­ter ses­sion.

Nor­mally, be­tween 350 and 400 spa­ces are avail­able for the var­i­ous swim­ming lev­els, and it’s rare that the pool can­not han­dle the de­mand, said a town of­fi­cial.

Un­der the pro­posed new pol­icy, reg­is­tra­tion will still be held over four days, but Day 1 will be re­served for those who re­side in Car­bon­ear. The ro­tat­ing al­pha­bet­i­cal sys­tem will stay in place for Day 2, 3 and 4.

One of those pro­mot­ing the new pol­icy is Coun. David Kennedy.

Kennedy said the is­sue was brought to the ta­ble af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter de­ter­mined that the cities of Mount Pearl and St. John’s al­ready have sim­i­lar poli­cies in place. He noted that Con­cep­tion Bay South is also look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of bring­ing in a new pol­icy in 2013.

“The pos­si­bil­ity of im­ple­ment­ing a reg­is­tra­tion pol­icy is be­ing de­bated in or­der to al­low tax­pay­ers who pay the deficit an op­por­tu­nity to reg­is­ter first,” said Kennedy.

He es­ti­mated that some 250 spa­ces would still be avail­able for non-res­i­dent users.

Ma­jor up­grade

The nearly 40-year-old fa­cil­ity un­der­went a $1 mil­lion up­grade in 2011, with fund­ing from all three lev­els of gov­ern­ment. The num­ber of users has in­creased since then, and a large per- restau­rants in Car­bon­ear.

She said town of­fi­cials need to rec­og­nize that the pool would not be vi­able with­out sup­port from non-res­i­dents.

“By treat­ing us un­fairly and un­justly, they will have no pool within a year or two be­cause peo­ple are not go­ing to go there. It’s a step back­wards,” Sul­li­van said.

She said the pro­posed new pol­icy would likely freeze her chil­dren out com­pletely, since Car­bon­ear res­i­dents will un­doubt­edly fill up the pre­ferred time slots on Satur­day. Be­cause of work com­mit­ments, she is un­able to com­mit to week-day ses­sions.

She said the pol­icy also con­tra­dicts re­cent rhetoric about re­gional co-op­er­a­tion. She said Har­bour Grace cov­ers the oper­at­ing deficit for the S. W. Moores Memo­rial Sta­dium, but is not ask­ing non-res­i­dents to step to the back of the line when it comes time to reg­is­ter for mi­nor hockey or fig­ure skat­ing.

She called the pol­icy nar­row-minded and re­gres­sive, and pointed out that much of the money used to up­grade the pool came from pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ment cof­fers, which in­cludes all tax­pay­ers.

Har­bour Grace Mayor Don Coombs also voiced con­cern last week, say­ing “it’s not some­thing I would sup­port if I were on that coun­cil.”

Coombs said it “opens up a can of worms” and is “not go­ing to help any­thing” as it re­lates to re­gional co-op­er­a­tion.

Coombs said he would not sup­port the no­tion of im­ple­ment­ing a sim­i­lar pol­icy at the Har­bour Grace sta­dium, which he said runs a deficit of roughly $50,000 an­nu­ally.

Kennedy, mean­while, feels most non-res­i­dents will un­der­stand.

“I be­lieve peo­ple will un­der­stand that since Car­bon­ear cov­ers a sub­stan­tial por­tion of the ex­pen­di­tures at the pool, that our res­i­dents should have an op­por­tu­nity to reg­is­ter first,” he said.

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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