Fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions cited in Har­bour Grace arena de­lays

Town coun­cil­lors frus­trated about lack of an­swers from govern­ment

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

For those look­ing for an­swers from the Town of Har­bour Grace on the pro­posed $21 mil­lion sta­dium, it will likely be the end of May be­fore more in­for­ma­tion is avail­able.

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Steve Kent spoke with The Com­pass May 1 af­ter a brief meet­ing with Har­bour Grace Mayor Terry Barnes and Coun. Hay­ward Blake in St. John’s.

It was de­ter­mined an anal­y­sis of the town’s fi­nances has been the rea­son for the de­lays.

“Our com­mit­ment to the project hasn’t changed,” Kent ex­plained. “In re­cent months we have been work­ing hard with the Town of Har­bour Grace to en­sure the town can af­ford the con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion costs.”

Barnes said a fea­si­bil­ity re­port be­gan late last year to see if the town’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion would sup­port the orig­i­nal plan of two ice sur­faces. It was sub­mit­ted to the depart­ment, along with ap­proval from a bank­ing in­sti­tute for a loan of some $3 mil­lion, the town’s share of the 80/20 split.

When it was de­ter­mined a sin­gle ice sur­face would be more fi­nan­cially jus­ti­fi­able at this time, the town al­tered the plan and re­sub­mit­ted the ad­justed num­bers to the depart­ment in Fe­bru­ary.

That was the last up­date the town coun­cil re­ceived un­til the meet­ing with Kent.

Con­cerns about cost The orig­i­nal an­nounce­ment for the sta­dium was in 2011. Since then, a site has been cho­sen ( Jamie’s Way off Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way), com­mit­tees have been put in place and the en­gi­neer­ing com­pany Stan­tec has com­pleted re­ports on the fu­ture fa­cil­ity.

A sta­dium man­ager is also be­ing re­cruited. This per­son will be re­spon­si­ble for the cur­rent arena, the S. W. Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in the town, but will be a part of the plan­ning for the new fa­cil­ity, as well as run it.

There was dis­cus­sion sev­eral years ago that a neigh­bour­ing com­mu­nity would as­sist in op­er­at­ing costs to make it a re­gional fa­cil­ity. But there were some dis­agree­ments that pre­vented a part­ner­ship.

Barnes stated the fa­cil­ity will be re­gional.

“Spa­niard’s Bay, Up­per Is­land Cove, Har­bour Grace, Car­bon­ear, all the way to Old Per­li­can on the North Shore will get to use the fa­cil­ity,” Barnes said. “I be­lieve that makes it re­gional, even if the Town of Har­bour Grace is pay­ing (op­er­at­ing costs).”

Steve Kent said the fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity on one in­di­vid­ual com­mu­nity must not be a bur­den for tax­pay­ers or a waste of fund­ing, and said the care­ful ex­am­i­na­tion of fi­nances is a “nor­mal part of our as­sess­ment process.”

Barnes pre­vi­ously told The Com­pass the town is in a good fi­nan­cial po­si­tion and wasn’t sure what the hold up was. But this meet­ing was a step in the right di­rec­tion.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Barnes ex­plained Kent would be vis­it­ing Har­bour Grace in the com­ing weeks to re­view the fi­nan­cials with the town and make an an­nounce­ment on pro­ceed­ing if ev­ery­thing is in or­der.

“An anal­y­sis will be done by the end of May,” Kent said. “Then we will be meet­ing with the town to agree on the next step.”

If ev­ery­thing goes smoothly, the an­nounce­ment will fol­low, he added.

“If not, we would have to have a se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion (with the town),” Kent said.

De­lays not po­lit­i­cal Con­cerns have been raised in the past about the de­lays at the sta­dium be­ing linked to the Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace district voting in a Lib­eral MHA dur­ing a Novem­ber by­elec­tion.

Sam Slade, who won that by­elec­tion, has been vo­cal in the com­mu­nity about fight­ing for the sta­dium. He an­nounced last week he would bring up the is­sue on May 5 in the House of As­sem­bly.

But Kent, who is a mem­ber of the gov­ern­ing Tories, has as­sured The Com­pass the de­ci­sion has not been po­lit­i­cally driven.

“Res­i­dents of Har­bour Grace and in the re­gion can take com­fort in two things,” Kent said. “We are still sup­port­ive of the project and funds are still al­lo­cated for (it). And we are mak­ing sure that com­mu­ni­ties can af­ford (the costs).

“We ex­pect to have an­swers and a path for­ward over the next month.”

Coun­cil­lors frus­trated Mean­while, at the town’s reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing April 30, sev­eral coun­cil­lors spoke out against the de­lays. Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams ex­plained she had been con­tacted by nu­mer­ous res­i­dents, but had few an­swers to give them. She wants the process sped up.

“This is a fa­cil­ity that ev­ery mem­ber (of coun­cil) wanted, and we still don’t have a sod turned,” she stated. “We have to keep push­ing.”

Coun. Tony McCarthy is nor­mally quite re­served, but the sit­u­a­tion has left him frus­trated.

“My pa­tience has run out with the new arena,” McCarthy as­serted.

He then said he would go to other me­dia, in­clud­ing open-line ra­dio shows about the sit­u­a­tion, if an­swers weren’t soon avail­able.

The next coun­cil meet­ing for the Town of Har­bour Grace will be Tues­day May 13 at 7:30 p.m. At that time, it is ex­pected a new sta­dium man­ager, who will be in charge of the new sta­dium when com­pleted, will be in place.

Mayor Terry Barnes

Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams

Coun. Tony McCarthy

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