2 towns, 1 controversial rec centre — and now, maybe a solution on the horizon

·3 min read
This recreation complex is at the heart of a battle between two Labrador towns fighting over how to manage shared resources. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
This recreation complex is at the heart of a battle between two Labrador towns fighting over how to manage shared resources. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

The war over a recreation centre in Labrador continues, as the sister towns of Labrador City and Wabush fight over who should pay for what — but the latter now says it'll look to a solution that could see more sharing in the future.

The Mike Adam Recreation Complex in Wabush closed in January after 50 years in operation. Wabush Mayor Ron Barron said at the time the complex was eating up a quarter of the town's recreation budget.

Labrador City, which shared the costs of the centre's operation until it closed, said it wouldn't be handing over any more money until residents could vote on amalgamating the two towns in order to centralize how resources are managed.

Barron, however, is digging his heels in.

"We asked for help for recreation," Barron said this week, speaking to CBC News outside a closed meeting on the centre's future.

"We didn't want our town taken over."

Jacob Barker/CBC
Jacob Barker/CBC

On Wednesday, Wabush council proposed a solution that could benefit both towns without collapsing them into one.

The municipality touched on the prospect of regionalization: sharing the costs of some services in a formal agreement, while keeping both towns' identities and governments intact.

It's a strategy laid out in last year's Greene Report, which recommends that the province's 174 local service districts pool the costs of their services. The province says it intends to finalize that plan by late 2024.

Gertie Canning, who sits of the Friends of the MARC committee, told CBC she's pleased council agreed to look at sharing duplicate services across the two towns.

"I'm happy with that, and I hope they follow through with that," Canning said.

Conception Harbour project a success?

As communities across the province chew on the prospect of pooling their resources, one mayor says his town is already reaping the benefits of banding together.

Mike Doyle, mayor of Harbour Main-Chapel's Cove-Lakeview, pointed to a handful of what he frames as successes between his town and three others: Avondale, Colliers and Conception Harbour.

The four towns regionalized in 2019, and they're in the process of putting together a formal charter.

Doyle says they're now looking at collapsing their waste management contract, which could save his municipality $125,000 over five years.

"We're using different contractors and getting charged a different rate between the four communities. Can we look at getting a single contractor, maybe do a longer-term contract and find some savings here?" he said.

CBC
CBC

Doyle says residents have caught on to the strategic benefits, but pushed back against the idea at first.

"That was a big hill we had to overcome, was this whole fear of amalgamation," he said — a route that didn't make financial sense for the communities, who Doyle says spend one per cent of their budget on their municipal governments yearly.

By regionalizing, the towns can share costs but maintain a sense of independence and focus on the unique needs of their own communities, he said.

"The best advice that I can give to anybody starting … regionalization is you really have to set out your goals," Doyle said.

"It's about understanding how to tackle it in little pieces."

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