Mixed reviews for new, accessible courthouse in Bay St. George

·2 min read
The former College of the North Atlantic building in Stephenville Crossing will be refurbished to included provincial government services and the courthouse serving the Bay. St. George area. Work on it is expected to be complete some time in 2024. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
The former College of the North Atlantic building in Stephenville Crossing will be refurbished to included provincial government services and the courthouse serving the Bay. St. George area. Work on it is expected to be complete some time in 2024. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Stephenville resident Bill Jones says it's a step in the right direction. Now he's hoping government will follow through on plans to build an accessible government services building in Bay St. George.

"It's good to see, but when how many times have you heard the government make promises on things and it's not actually transpired? So I'm a little bit skeptical," said Jones. "I hope it does actually happen, but again, I'm going to have to wait and see."

In April 2019, Jones brought his mother to the existing service centre to get a new photo identification. When they arrived, steps were the only way to get into the building. His mother, 73 at the time, was in a wheelchair, and had no way to climb the stairs. There was no other way to get into the building.

"It's been three years now and still nothing," he said.

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

He filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission which is still in the hearings stage.

Last week, the province announced it would be refurbishing the old College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville Crossing to serve as a service centre and courthouse. The renovations will be substantial, with the new space housing 43,916 square feet, compared to the existing 11,130.

According to the province, the renovations will improve safety and security of court proceedings and enable government services to be provided in a modernized and accessible building.

Jones says he would have thought the building would be in Stephenville, but says having to travel 12 kilometres is not far.

"At least we're getting it, or hopefully getting it. Like I said, preferably Stephenville would have been good, but Stephenville Crossing is just as good," he said. "As long as the people who have mobility issues, or accessibility issues, can actually get services in a building that's offered to the general public."

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Stephenville's mayor, Tom Rose, however, is disappointed with the moving of the services out of town.

"It's like you take a courthouse out of Gander and put it in Benton. You take a courthouse out of Corner Brook and put it in the Bay of Islands," he said. "You know, it really, really doesn't make sense."

Rose argues that Stephenville is the hub of the Bay St. George region, housing services related to services in the building, such as the RCMP, lawyers, parole and probationary staff and Child Youth and Family Services.

"I would have preferred … a new courthouse in Stephenville, maybe at the old Stephenville hospital site which is government-owned land," he said. "I think there was possibly a suitable private building that could have been utilized in Stephenville."

The costs of the renovation, to be completed by 2024, is expected to run $8.5 million.

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

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