Arena lo­ca­tion a wedge is­sue

Har­bour Grace in­sists on Jamie’s Way; Car­bon­ear to ‘re­assess’ parn­ter­ship

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

An in­sis­tence by the Town of Har­bour Grace that a pro­posed new arena for the re­gion be built along Jamie’s Way was be­ing de­scribed by one Car­bon­ear mu­nic­i­pal leader last week as a “crip­pler” in at­tempts to form an equal part­ner­ship on the project.

But Har­bour Grace Mayor Don Coombs is de­fend­ing his coun­cil’s de­ci­sion,say­ing Jamie’s Way is the pre­ferred site be­cause it of­fers easy ac­cess to water and sewer ser­vices, is ide­ally lo­cated next to Veter­ans Me­mo­rial High­way, has plenty of avail­able land for a build­ing and am­ple park­ing, and is strate­gi­cally sit­u­ated for those who would be us­ing the re­gional fa­cil­ity.

And some say lo­cat­ing a sports com­plex along Jamie’s Way would be

Don Coombs is mayor of the Town of Har­bour Grace.

ap­pro­pri­ate, since the short stretch of high­way that con­nects Veter­ans with Har­vey Street in Har­bour Grace is named in hon­our of Olympic curl­ing gold medal­list Jamie Korab, and would likely cast a shadow over a sign that pro­claims Har­bour Grace as the sport­ing cap­i­tal of New­found­land and Labrador.

“The town has de­cided that’s the site,” Coombs can­didly told The Com­pass on Nov. 21.

The de­ci­sion came as a sur­prise to Car­bon­ear of­fi­cials dur­ing a joint coun­cil meet­ing on Nov. 20, and may have scut­tled any hopes of a part­ner­ship, one source stated late last week.

Car­bon­ear had en­vi­sioned form­ing a joint board that would over­see all as­pects of the project, in­clud­ing site se­lec­tion.

In light of the most re­cent devel­op­ment, one mem­ber of Car­bon­ear’s coun­cil even used the word “mis­trust” to de­scribe the feel­ing to­ward col­leagues in Har­bour Grace. The coun­cil­lor sug­gested Har­bour Grace would ea­gerly wel­come in­vest­ment by Car­bon­ear, but is not act­ing like a true part­ner.

In do­ing do, Har­bour Grace is risk­ing hav­ing its tax­pay­ers shoul­der the en­tire fi­nan­cial bur­den for the project, the source stated.

It’s known that a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors in Car­bon­ear were ready to com­mit to half of the mu­nic­i­pal share of the con­struc­tion cost, and any op­er­at­ing deficits.

Province sets dead­line

Talks of a part­ner­ship on the project emerged af­ter con­cerns were raised about whether Har­bour Grace could af­ford its 20 per cent share — some $3.8 mil­lion — of the $21-plus mil­lion project. The pro­vin­cial government is pick­ing up the re­main­der.

Ear­lier at­tempts to en­tice other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the re­gion to sup­port the ini­tia­tive were un­suc­cess­ful.

The process took a twist last month af­ter pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials, frus­trated at what they per­ceived as a lack of progress on the is­sue of re­gional co-op­er­a­tion, gave a dead­line of mid-De­cem­ber for Har­bour Grace to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on how the project was to pro­ceed.

Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy even sug­gested the fa­cil­ity would be of­fered to “an­other town in the area” if the un­cer­tainty wasn’t set­tled, with some sug­gest­ing this was a pres­sure tac­tic, and per­haps a sig­nal that the arena might be built in Car­bon­ear, which is a larger mu­nic­i­pal­ity with a more ro­bust tax base.

In light of this, both coun­cils held sep­a­rate meet­ings on Nov. 19 to map out a strat­egy, and came to­gether — along with two of­fi­cials from the De­part­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs — for a joint meet­ing on Nov. 20.

Har­bour Grace reaf­firmed its com­mit­ment to the project dur­ing a priv­i­leged meet­ing on Nov. 19, and passed a mo­tion stat­ing it would pro­ceed with or with­out co-op­er­a­tion from neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties. That’s de­spite re­peated sug­ges­tions from some Har­bour Grace lead­ers that the town could not af­ford the project on its own. The mo­tion also in­cluded a dec­la­ra­tion that the fa­cil­ity be con­structed along Jamie’s Way.

Abrupt end­ing

Car­bon­ear coun­cil­lors con­tacted for this story were re­luc­tant to talk on the record, but one source said the joint meet­ing on Nov. 20 con­cluded sooner than an­tic­i­pated af­ter Har­bour Grace served no­tice it was firm on a lo­ca­tion.

There had been some sug­ges­tions that In­cin­er­a­tor Road, which is prac­ti­cally in be­tween Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace, might be a pos­si­ble site.

The dis­tance from Car­bon­ear’s down­town core to In­cin­er­a­tor Road is just over three kilo­me­tres, while the dis­tance to Jamie’s Way is nine kilo­me­tres.

A Car­bon­ear town coun­cil­lor who asked not to be iden­ti­fied said hav­ing the fa­cil­ity lo­cated on In­cin­er­a­tor Road was not a pre­con­di­tion of the town’s sup­port for the project. But nei­ther was hav­ing the lo­ca­tion de­ter­mined uni­lat­er­ally by the Town of Har­bour Grace, the coun­cil­lor said.

Car­bon­ear town coun­cil­lors were seek­ing an equal part­ner­ship with an “equal say in all man­ners,” the coun­cil­lor added.

“Boys, are we in this? Yes or no. Here’s the con­di­tions set down by the Town of Har­bour Grace. We are the town that got

the money. That’s it.”

When asked if he left with meet­ing with a good feel­ing, the Car­bon­ear coun­cil­lor replied: “No,” and that the town would now “re­assess” its po­si­tion.

Up to Fri­day, there were no plans for fur­ther talks, an­other source noted.

No time for de­bate

Mayor Coombs said In­cin­er­a­tor Road lacks ready ac­cess to water and sewer, and he dis­missed sug­ges­tions that an arte­sian well and sep­tic sys­tem might suf­fice, stat­ing “this is the mod­ern age.” He said ex­tend­ing mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices to In­cin­er­a­tor Road might add mil­lions to the cost of the project.

What’s more, Coombs said, there’s not enough time to de­bate a lo­ca­tion, and was blunt when asked if he felt in­sist­ing on a lo­ca­tion was a “poi­son pill” in talks with Car­bon­ear.

“Boys, are we in this? Yes or no. Here’s the con­di­tions set down by the Town of Har­bour Grace. We are the town that got the money. That’s it,” said Coombs.

Coombs also re­opened the doors for other com­mu­ni­ties, stress­ing that it’s not too late for other towns to sign onto the project.

“We are pre­pared to ac­cept part­ners,” he said.

A vari­a­tion of the own­er­ship model used at the Jack Byrne Arena in Tor­bay is be­ing con­sid­ered. In that case, the com­mu­ni­ties of Tor­bay, Logy Bay-Mid­dle Cove-Outer Cove, Pouch Cove and Fla­trock have a per­capita stake in this multi-pur­pose fa­cil­ity, which has a seat­ing ca­pac­ity for ap­prox­i­mately 1,250 spec­ta­tors, a walking track, and park­ing for 424 ve­hi­cles.

Mean­while, Car­bon­ear Mayor Sam Slade con­tin­ued to tread lightly on the is­sue when con­tacted last week, say­ing he would not sup­port any fi­nan­cial ar­range­ment with a neigh­bour­ing town with­out ex­haus­tive con­sul­ta­tions with tax­pay­ers.

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by To­bias Ro­ma­niuk/spe­cial to The Com­pass

Some two dozens ci­ti­zens crowded into the coun­cil cham­bers in Clarke’s Beach last week for the first pub­lic meet­ing since the town was la­belled by Maclean’s mag­a­zine as the most dys­func­tional in Canada.

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