LABRADOR WEST, N.L.
It’s been several weeks since the Wabush town council announced they are going to close the Mike Adams Recreation Complex in early January 2019.
For several years the town said the cost of the centre is too big a burden for the small town’s budget. An agreement was to be in place last year, with funding from the Town of Labrador City and other stakeholders.
That agreement fell apart and this year the Town of Wabush found itself in a similar situation. After the most recent announcement, Labrador West MHA Graham Letto set up a series of meetings with the towns and other stakeholders involved in an effort to resolve the situation.
At one point into those meetings Letto, who was serves as minister of Municipal Affairs, said he was optimistic that an agreement could be reached soon.
As of Tuesday Dec. 11, however, an agreement had still not been signed. Both councils gave their sides on the ongoing issue and what they see as the roadblocks.
Labrador City perspective
During the Town of Labrador City’s budget presentation on Dec. 11, Mayor Wayne Button used the opportunity to explain their side of the proposal put forward during those talks. Before beginning the presentation, the mayor explained there was an objection to reading the document by Councillor Nick McGrath.
“I didn’t see the benefit of reading the speech that was delivered, it didn’t benefit anyone, I prefer a quieter, proactive approach,” McGrath told The Aurora.
At the center of the issue is funding. The Town of Labrador City has proposed a new regional wellness centre.
Button said in his address, broadcast live on the municipalities Facebook page, that they approached Wabush with a four-year plan designed to make sure that the area would retain the service of the current facility while the new complex was being built.
In explaining the proposal, Button said it required the Town of Labrador City pay 80 per cent of the cost of the Wabush pool and a plan to work on a joint capital fundraising program for the new complex.
According to the Town of Labrador City, the cost of the proposed project is $36.5 million and they have begun applications for 80/20 cost sharing with the provincial and federal governments. If successful, that will leave Labrador West funding about $7.4 million with approximately $1.2 million from Wabush.
In addition, Button said they also worked with other stakeholders who said both parties have to be committed for them to come onboard. Button says to date they have not received any verbal or written confirmation from the Town of Wabush that they plan to accept the proposal.
Following the meeting, Button says he has no idea why there is a reluctance to go ahead with the deal.
The Town of Wabush has a very different view of the proposal.
They released a statement on the evening of Dec. 11 saying the original funding deal had fallen apart because they would not agree to the funding commitments of the proposed wellness centre.
They indicated when they were approached, Labrador City initially wanted them to commit $2,190,000 towards the new facility, which the Town of Wabush could not afford.
“The Town of Wabush’s response to the amount requested was that we were not in a position to commit this amount due to the negative impact this will have on the Town’s ability to borrow for its own infrastructure needs. The deal did not make good financial sense for the Town of Wabush,” the statement read.
It was also stated that when Wabush rejected the offer, the Town of Labrador City pulled the funding it had already committed, leading to the decision to close the current recreation complex in Wabush.
The statement also says council has no issue with a new recreation centre, if it is needed. They can commit to funding $1.1 million towards the proposed project, contingent on an assessment of the Mike Adams Recreation Centre.
According to the Town of Wabush, they have been negotiating over the past week and they say Button told them they could not wait on an assessment but needed an answer before Dec. 11.
“The Town of Wabush is looking and willing to cost share and fully regionalize all recreation with all interested parties in a long-term solution,” the statement read. “It was very disappointing that the Town of Labrador City took the stance that they did today during their public meeting while we thought we were still trying to work out a solution. The current ‘deal’ from Labrador City is not a cost share solution just merely an advance.”
The Town of Labrador City increased the wellness centre funding on their budget from $527,000 last year to about $3.1 million. Button said most of that funding was reallocated from other areas where the town came in under projected costs.
The Aurora contacted MHA Letto about the issue.
“I have every intention of working on getting these discussions going again,” he said.