Editor's note: the following was published in the Nov. 27, 2012 print edition of 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 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.
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 pre-condition 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.
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 per-capita 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.