Recreation, infrastructure topics at pre-budget consultations

Frank
Frank Gale
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Mike Alexander’s request to the provincial government at the pre-budget consultations deals with how government is going to treat people in the future when cuts are made.

Mike Alexander of Kippens, speaking as a private citizen, addresses the provincial government’s pre-budget consultation session held in Stephenville on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014.

“People matter, how you treat them and communicate with them matters and people shouldn’t have to go through what the people of this area did in last year’s cuts, which were prompted by the closure of the West Coast Training Centre in Stephenville,” he said at the pre-budget consultations held in Stephenville at Days Inn on Wednesday.

Speaking as a private citizen, Mr. Alexander told Finance Minister Charlene Johnson that at the end of March last year the provincial government announced the closure of the sport and recreational facility with just two days notice.

He said a three-month reprieve was granted after a vocal public protest, but the facility was closed at the end of June and all user groups and individuals were left with no place to go.

Cancelled programming displaced opportunities for preschoolers, aboriginals, youth and Special Olympians.

“The manner in which it was handled by government caused considerable grief, sadness, stress, anger and resentment within our area (Bay St. George),” Mr. Alexander said.

He said during the ensuing months and through efforts by Mayor Tom O’Brien and the Town of Stephenville an agreement was finally reached with the provincial government for the town to take ownership of the building. Since that time the Town of Stephenville reached an agreement with the YMCA to become the new facility operator.

While Mr. Alexander recognized it is a good conclusion, he said the stress and damage to the physical and mental health and well being of local residents as a result of the closure was not recorded or measured.

“However, the harm was real, significant and remains a very sensitive issue for residents in Bay St. George,” he said.

Mr. Alexander said if government is intent on removing itself from other sport and recreation operations in this province as Minister Terry French, minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation had stated last year, then he has a concern.

“Please treat the facility users and communities in Corner Brook (swimming pool), Gander (swimming pool) and Goose Bay (swimming pool and recreation centre) with more respect, concern and caring than was shown for the residents in Bay St. George,” he said.

Retrofit continuance asked for

Presenting on behalf of the Town of Stephenville, Mayor Tom O’Brien first asked in his presentation for a continuance on the retrofit of the Stephenville Industrial Facility.

He said it was October 2012 that former premier Kathy Dunderdale announced the $150 million Hebron Benefits Agreement and outlined at that time what the money was going to be spent on.

“To our (Town of Stephenville) great pleasure, a retrofit of what was known as the old paper shed was announced and to date $4.5 million was spent on the building,” he said.

Mayor O’Brien said it put the town in a position where Tuesday it became publicly known that Pennecon Limited was awarded a contract to do fabrication modules for the Hebron Offshore project.

He said it’s anticipated there will be around 60 jobs for a 14 to 16-month period at the facility, but said there is a need to emphasize the retrofit of the building needs to be completed to secure the operation of the facility past this schedule.

“This is a substantial building and can certainly play a major role in providing a capacity for fabrication work here in the province for generations to come,” O’Brien said.

Meanwhile, Mayor O’Brien feels a study needs to be undertaken by the government in regards to government buildings in Stephenville — the usability of them and the actual user friendliness in the operations of these buildings.

He told Minister Johnson there are provincial buildings in Stephenville that are less than desirable.

“The buildings are riddled with asbestos and have accessibility issues. We’re operating a courthouse building that was built 60 years ago and left over by the Americans. People with mobility issues cannot access the building with any great amount of dignity, which is very unfortunate,” he said.

Mayor O’Brien said another of these vintage buildings with the same issues contains a medical clinic, public health and Child Youth and Family Services.

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