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