Plenty of work lies ahead to re­place Bay Roberts school: min­is­ters

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON editor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

If any­one was un­der the im­pres­sion the project to re­place Co­ley’s Point Pri­mary was shov­el­ready, they were mis­taken.

That’s what came to light dur­ing a lengthy Con­cep­tion Bay North Joint Coun­cil meet­ing fea­tur­ing two prom­i­nent guests — Trans­porta­tion and Works Min­is­ter Al Hawkins and Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce.

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood was among the many lo­cal coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tives in at­ten­dance at the meet­ing, held last Wed­nes­day in North River. He re­it­er­ated his con­cern the re­place­ment project is not mov­ing for­ward de­spite it be­ing listed as a school board pri­or­ity for over a decade. Wood con­tends po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence has been at fault over the years.

Re­spond­ing to the mayor, Joyce took a mo­ment to high­light shots the op­po­si­tion Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives have taken at Har­bour Grace-Port de Grave MHA Pam Par­sons in the House of As­sem­bly.

“The (for­mer) min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion and Works David Brazil never, ever, ever did the engi­neer­ing for Co­ley’s Point School,” said Joyce. “What Pam Par­sons in­her­ited was false prom­ises for the last four or five years.”

Brazil dis­puted that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of events in a sub­se­quent in­ter­view with The Com­pass. He said for­mer MHA Lit­tle­john lob­bied ef­fec­tively for the school and the project was on its way to pro­ceed­ing to the engi­neer­ing de­sign stage prior to the change in gov­ern­ment. Brazil, who was among the PCs to sur­vive last fall’s elec­tion, said the Lib­er­als have stopped that progress in its tracks.

“We were and still are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that a new school goes in Co­ley’s Point. We see the ben­e­fits of it. A grow­ing com­mu­nity and an aged fa­cil­ity that needs to be re­placed, and the for­mer MHA Glenn Lit­tle­john was a big ad­vo­cate.”

Wood brought up im­ages pre­vi­ously shared show­ing what a re­place­ment school for Co­ley’s Point Pri­mary would look like. Joyce said such im­ages are con­cep­tual draw­ings and not based on any sort of engi­neer­ing de­sign work.

“There was never, ever, ever any engi­neer­ing de­sign work that you could take and go to ten­der on Co­ley’s Point School,” said the min­is­ter.

Last fall prior to the elec­tion, for­mer Port de Grave MHA Glenn Lit­tle­john told The Com­pass pur- chase of land on Eric Dawe Drive for the new school was fi­nal­ized. On Wed­nes­day, Hawkins con­firmed land was ex­pro­pri­ated, but it was never paid for.

“They were told 10 per cent over mar­ket value. That’s as much as they could of­fer,” said Hawkins. “So they of­fered $550,000, and the pro­po­nent wanted $1 mil­lion. So that’s where that sits.”

Brazil con­firmed the pre­vi­ous PC gov­ern­ment was having some difficulty with agree­ing on a price with the owner. He said ex­pro­pri­a­tion be­came the log­i­cal so­lu­tion, al­low­ing gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed to the next stage. The land thus be­came prop­erty of gov­ern­ment, even though the two sides re­mained at odds on price.

“As a re­sult, that would have put the budget lines well out of line from what would have been ac­cept­able,” Brazil said with re­spect to the price dis­pute. “It would have set a trend for what we would pay for a par­cel of land — keeping in mind we’re build­ing nu­mer­ous schools in other com­mu­ni­ties.”

Wood said he knows MHA Par­sons is 100 per cent be­hind get­ting the school re­placed and ap­pre­ci­ates she hasn’t been afraid to speak her mind on the is­sue.

“The bot­tom line is there is no dis­agree­ment that this school is a pri­or­ity. It was not made num­ber one on the pri­or­ity list for some po­lit­i­cal rea­son or any­thing of that na­ture ap­prox­i­mately 15 years ago, and the time has come. If the proper engi­neer­ing or de­signs weren’t done, it is time now to move on them.”

At the meet­ing, Hawkins ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to sit down with Bay Roberts coun­cil when his sched­ule per­mits to dis­cuss the project.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood, left, speaks with Trans­porta­tion and Works Min­is­ter Al Hawkins prior to Wed­nes­day’s Con­cep­tion Bay North Joint Coun­cil meet­ing in North River.

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