Aquarena grant deferred to future meeting

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St. John’s City Council Briefs

St. John’s city council deferred a vote on a $100,000 grant to the Aquarena that has divided councillors.

Members of the media record the weekly St. John’s city council meeting Tuesday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

As reported by the Telegram on Tuesday, the annual $100,000 grant to the swimming facility passed by a single vote at a finance and administration committee meeting last week.

Those opposed to the grant say the city has lost too much tax revenue to the provincial government to continue the annual grant to the Aquarena, which is run by Memorial University.

The arguments in favour, said committee chairman Danny Breen, include the benefit the Aquarena provides to the community as well as the city’s good working relationship with MUN, which extends beyond the Aquarena.

The grant still needed approval from council, but the city deferred the vote until a future meeting.

Coun. Bernard Davis voted against the grant in the committee meeting.

“We’re getting pinched by the provincial government,” he told The Telegram on Tuesday, noting he struggled with the vote because of the Aquarena’s recreational benefits.

He moved to defer the vote at Tuesday’s meeting because the city is meeting with university representatives on Friday to discuss several issues, including the grant.

“They’re partnering with us on the traffic study in the Elizabeth Avenue, Prince Philip Drive area,” he said. “They’re also doing a bit of work with respect to traffic calming on Westerland Road, which is positive, so it’s hard to hit the university pretty hard with sanctions or lack of funding when they’re trying to help us on certain things. So I think we’ve got to put it all on the table and start the discussions from that point.”

Among the grants approved by council Tuesday night: $100,000 to Iris Kirby House, $63,750 to St. John’s Clean and Beautiful, and $60,000 to the Johnson Geo Centre.

• • •

An application to develop a bed and breakfast in the Battery drew the ire of Coun. Jonathan Galgay at Tuesday night’s meeting. The application was presented for informational purposes only, as city staff determined the bed and breakfast is a permitted use in its zone.

The developer withdrew an application for a four-spot parking lot across the road from the bed and breakfast, and has amended the development to include parking on site.

“The application was fully reviewed by staff,” said Hann. “It does not have any conflict with the footprint and the height overlays in the area. It will not have any significant interference with private views.”

But Galgay said he’s concerned that because it’s considered a permitted use there won’t be a public information session on the bed and breakfast despite his request to the developer to hold one.

“It’s unfortunate the developer in this particular case didn’t proceed to do that,” he said, adding he’s concerned with the amount of parking allocated: four spaces for an eight-bedroom facility. “You have staff, you have caterers, there could be weddings, various types of functions.”

Pointing to council’s recent rejection of a restaurant addition to a bed and breakfast on Waterford Bridge Road due to traffic concerns, Galgay asked the application be restricted to bed and breakfast only, but chief municipal planner Ken O’Brien noted the application is for a bed and breakfast only; other uses would require separate applications.

• • •

Coun. Danny Breen was absent from Tuesday’s meeting. Due to his nomination as the Progressive Conservative candidate in next month’s Virginia Waters byelection, Breen will take a mandatory unpaid leave of absence from council duties.

• • •

The city’s asking for the public’s help as exhibitors prepare for this weekend’s Home Show at Mile One Stadium. Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth noted the eastbound lanes of New Gower Street have been closed off this week to accommodate crane work being done on the Convention Centre Expansion.

“The closure of the eastbound lanes of New Gower Street is expected to cause some considerable challenges to the exhibitors who are moving into Mile One on Thursday, March 20,” said Ellsworth. “I will appeal to the public that, especially on Thursday, to avoid this area as much as possible. We’re going to have a large amount of traffic, commercial trucks moving in and out of the area. There’s a hundred-plus exhibitors.”

telegram@thetelegram.com

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  • Keeper
    March 19, 2014 - 14:38

    Residents in St. John's and surrounding areas use the Aquarena more than the University itself. The city should provide grants. If not the public would be charged higher premiums or many of the programs will not be offered. There is seniors that go to water Arobics daily, for example. It is a great way for them to stay healthy and socialize. Is it fair for seniors to pay more for such programs? Again, this is just one of the many examples. Most people against the city providing a grant do not attend any programs at the Aquarena. Why should the University pay for something that the public uses more?

  • Anna
    March 19, 2014 - 12:37

    Why would Council consider giving money to MUN when they just purchased the Battery Hotel and from what I hear are going over the top on renovations? Time to stop this gravy train. Also, how much is council spending on maintaining that skating rink in Bannerman Park? Is there anyway we can find this out? Re giving money to St. John's Clean and Beautiful, what is this money to be used for? Karen Hickman is like the groundhog, we hear from her in the spring and that is it. After all these years, why isn't our city becoming more cleaner? Last item, why would you possibly close down two lanes of traffic when you know you are having a major event at Mile One? Can't this city get its act together on at least one item?

    • Joe
      March 19, 2014 - 13:42

      Next I trust we will hear that only MUN students can use the Aquarena. That includes students from the schools not allowed in, since MUN is paying for the facility.

  • Kilgore Trout
    March 19, 2014 - 08:18

    Council shouldn't give this money to the Aquarena. Perhaps it could be put to better use by fixing the 10 million potholes in the city. And speaking from personal experience, the Aquarena is poorly run and the staff rude and unhelpful.

  • Jay
    March 19, 2014 - 08:10

    This whole issue revolves around a total lack of planning by city council. Council recently decided to build two swimming pools to replace Wedgewood Park, which was underutilized. At the same time, they could have, but didn't, partner with the Y, which just built a pool. The new pools will be underutilized and obsolete by the time they're built, and a tax burden on most taxpayers who won't use them. There is also another issue of why a municipality should be funding not for profit organizations such as Iris Kirby and the Johnson Center. I'm sure they're all doing decent work, but this should be the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments. Doc O'Keefe is constantly whining about getting money from the province. Maybe he should concentrate on spending wisely, what he has. His priorities should be on basic municipal activities like garbage collection and snow clearing, not on funding programs for not for profit agencies, building fences for the Port Authority, skating rinks, and basically building his own little empire.