$1M cost to upgrade road is the problem, not the facility, councillors say
The City of St. John’s planning committee has turned down a planned addictions centre because of a million-dollar road to nowhere.
© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
The dirt road portion of Fowler’s Road in St. John’s would cost more than $1 million to upgrade if an addictions centre were located there, members of the City of
St. John’s planning committee said Tuesday.
The committee voted Tuesday to recommend rejecting an application from the faith-based Teen Challenge Canada to convert the former Circle Square Ranch children’s summer camp into a residential addictions recovery centre for women.
For the committee, the issue is the work required to upgrade Fowler’s Road, where the centre would be.
City staff estimate the cost of upgrading the road — including paving, servicing, adding drainage and widening to accommodate emergency vehicles — at $1,080,000. Teen Challenge Canada has offered $250,000 towards the cost of the work.
“It doesn’t make any rational sense to put a million dollars, or $750,000, into a road that goes in nowhere,” city manager Neil Martin said at the committee meeting. “We’ve got better places to spend a million dollars.”
“It’s a good use for the property,” said Coun. Danny Breen, who noted health care is a provincial responsibility, and with the centre hoping to draw clients from the Atlantic region, it’s conceivable no one from St. John’s might be using the facility at any given time. “What it’s going to do is not necessarily something that the city’s involved in.”
Glenn Barnes, managing partner at Architecture49, the local firm contracted by Teen Challenge Canada to work on the project, said it was frustrating that the city’s estimate on the cost of the work needed has jumped from $600,000 to more than $1 million.
“The goalposts seem to be constantly moving. We want to put this to bed and forward,” he told the committee. “We understand your concerns. That’s why we’ve put a quarter-million dollars on the table. Serious money for a non-profit providing a community service. … It is already a public road. It’s a city road, your responsibility.”
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Jason Sinyard, the city’s director of planning and development, explained the original estimate was a ballpark figure in 2012 dollars, and since then staff have completed a more detailed analysis of the costs of the required upgrading.
Dan Murray, CEO of Teen Challenge Canada, said the amount of work the city says is required is overkill for a small project that would help many people get off drugs and alcohol and help people break generational patterns of addiction.
“They will pursue education, they will get jobs, they will start paying taxes,” he said. “They’re reunited with their families. They heal broken relationships. They’re no longer a burden on community services, on the health-care system, on the justice system. Each one of those lives that’s turned around has a direct impact on their immediate family and their community.”
Teen Challenge Canada hoped to at least get approval in principle, even if with a condition attached that more funding would be provided to offset the cost to the city, but the committee voted to recommend rejecting the application, which will have to be voted on by council, and suggested the non-profit group attempt to secure more funding for upgrading the road, including by seeking provincial funding.