St. John’s will likely chip in its annual $100,000 to Aquarena operations for at least another year.
The city’s finance and administration committee Tuesday recommended approving a request from Memorial University for the funding, but the decision wasn’t unanimous.
Coun. Tom Hann noted what was first a three-year deal for the city to give $150,000 each year — after turning the facility over to the university in 1995 for $1 — has never ended.
The grant was reduced to $100,000 in 2010.
The city has provided $2.7 million towards the Aquarena’s operations.
Coun. Jonathan Galgay was against the city providing funding.
“I don’t support $100,000, and I’m certainly not going to be bullied by the university to think that if we don’t give it they’re going to jack up the price or the people of the city are not going to be able to avail of the service,” he said.
Coun. Danny Breen, finance committee chairman, pointed out that MUN has never warned it would restrict public access to the Aquarena if the city were to withdraw its funding.
See CITY RESIDENTS’ USE, page A4
City residents’ use of Aquarena justifies funding
“Nobody’s saying that … (but) I think it is a fair assumption to say that if you were to take $100,000 out of their budget, then there would a change in fees to make up for the $100,000. I think that would be a logical extrapolation from that,” Breen said.
Other councillors said residents’ use of the facility justifies the city funding services it’s currently unable to provide, for a relatively small amount of money.
“It’s a small price to pay for something that makes quality of life better in the city,” said Coun. Dave Lane, adding St. John’s shouldn’t withdraw the funding unless the city has something better to spend it on. “Maybe that’s the way to frame the discussion: what could we be spending it on instead, to make sure we’re not just not spending $100,000.”
Coun. Bruce Tilley urged the committee to consider the big picture.
“The campus in total is about 12,000 students, and you look at what the university means for our economy of our city, it’s huge. This would only be peanuts in the big picture,” he said.
The committee’s approval recommendation — Hann and Galgay voted to reject the request — will now go to city council for approval.