Harbour Grace stadium held up by financial concerns

Melissa Jenkins
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Town councillors frustrated about lack of answers from government

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.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

Organizations: The Compass, Town of Harbour Grace, Stantec

Geographic location: Upper Island Cove, Old Perlican, North Shore

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Recent comments

  • taxpayer
    May 02, 2014 - 20:16

    Hasn't the town already provided detailed financial information to the province? Why would a financial institution approve a loan to Hr. Grace if it couldn't afford its share of the project? Banks haven't become rich by making bad business decisions.

  • watcher
    May 02, 2014 - 20:07

    What 's wrong with the council calling open line and going to other media about this issue? Staying quiet on this issue will play right into the government's hands as it will make it easier for them slip off the hook on this project. At least the council is not sitting on their hands as has happened in the past and watch things leave the town (Canadian Tire, closing of the fish plant, liquor store, Scotiabank). Kick up a stink and keep pressure on the province to keep their promise to the town!

    • Reality check
      May 03, 2014 - 18:13

      You realize that this delay isn't because of the provincial government, right? If anything, the government is looking after the citizens to ensure they do not get into something that they cannot financially sustain! The town has trouble paying current bills, how will they balance the expenses of a facility like this? The council needs to stop making excuses to the residents, most of us can see through it anyways.

  • Game 7 dble OT
    May 02, 2014 - 13:41

    Sam Slade bringing this up in the House will serve about as much good as Tony McCarthy calling Open Line. A threat to "Deliver what I want or I am going to call Open Line" Really? How old are you? Be professional, talk to the Minister, state your case. Give him the information he requires. This project should have been started, thats not Kent's fault, we can thank our former Mayor and council for that. This coucil has also delayed the project for financial reasons so its pointless to "run out of patience" at this point. This "new" council is not showing a very new way of operating. The beautiful Town and its new Stadium will, like the Kyle, emplode onto itself if someone or something doesn't change their ways. This issue has become an embarrassment.

    • Where is he
      May 02, 2014 - 21:03

      Who is the Sam fella that people refer to. Last I heard in any media about a Sam, was when Sammy Clause was going to fix a roof. I hope he did that deed, as he has disappeared ever since. Then again so has he followers. Wayne & Larry et al, please give an update as to where OUR Sammy has gone. Then again I knows he will bring a few grants this fall, if not I can fill his fishin spot, but not for cash. I wonder if that Sentinel fishery will go ahead. It was a Gov paid gig and he is supposed to be working for Gov. It was in his name, can he still have that project. I am going to apply for that.

    • Orator
      May 04, 2014 - 20:52

      Just wait till Sam brings the topic up in the house and grills the Gov within question after question. Just wait till MHA Slade cowers away in his seat amd waits sits idle when debates and retraction takes place. Everything he spoke on so far in the house, not one rebuttal or refute form his part. The Liberals have him playing it easy, state the positive about the many great young of our District, say nothing and you will good. After all what did he do for the Town of Carbonear for 20 years. be loud, vote one way and anything I can't do, well that is someone's else fault.

  • What?
    May 02, 2014 - 13:25

    Be truthful, did anyone ever think that the Town of Harbour Grace could ever afford the money needed for a new Stadium? No. Should Gov allow a municipality to take on a debt which could result in fewer Capital works projects for the Town? No. Will Sammy Clause every get involved? Who, never heard of him since his win last fall, although it was reported that he stammered in the Gov House a few times. Certainly laughable.

  • Get It Going
    May 02, 2014 - 12:09

    I hope Sam brings it up in the house, but I also think it is important that he not look stupid by speaking about Gov spending money on a project that partners can't afford. Delight better prepare our MHA for return questions, that will have to answer. Forget it Sam, save face and let Harbour Grace fend for itself. Paul

  • Broken Zamboni
    May 02, 2014 - 12:04

    Interesting. Why are they only doing the "analysis" now? You would think this would be the first step in planning a large project like this. Sounds like the beginning of the end for the arena funding. Give her to Carbonear and get er' done.