No money for 4-plex arena in Saint John capital budget
$25 million capital budget includes money for road repairs, storm drainage improvements, new YMCA
Saint John's difficult financial picture has forced Mayor Mel Norton to shelve his proposal for a multi-million dollar arena complex in the city's uptown.
Norton has championed the idea of a four-plex rink on the waterfront at Long Wharf.
But city managers couldn't justify funding a study when there are so many higher priorities, such as fixing streets.
Saint John's new $25 million capital budget includes money for road repairs, funding for the new YMCA, money for two new city buses, and improved storm drainage.
Acting city manager Bill Edwards said there is also money for maintenance of two of Saint John's aging, but still presentable ice rinks — the Hilton Belyea arena, and Peter Murray Arena, both located on the city's west side.
Based on our staff's advice we have to put that off for a number of years before we make that decision.- Mayor Mel Norton
"As long as we are going to own them and operate them we have to keep them in good condition, so there's funding set aside for that," said Edwards.
The idea for an arena complex with four ice surfaces worked its way into the city's recreation master plan, but couldn't get past the early budget estimates.
"What we heard from our staff is, 'Look, right now it's not the time to build a four-plex,'" said Norton.
"Based on our staff's advice we have to put that off for a number of years before we make that decision."
Norton said he is still interested in the four-plex idea but understands that money is tight and there is still life left in the city's existing rinks.
Saint John currently has four arenas dating back to the 1960s, not including the Lord Beaverbrook Rink and Harbour Station. The PlaySJ report says those arenas can last another 10 to 15 years if properly maintained.
Money in budget for Partridge Island study
The city is also offering to put up $67,000 to help find a way to allow public access to Partridge Island.
The money has been budgeted to the Waterfront Development Corporation on the condition that the federal and provincial governments put up equal amounts.
Norton says the $200,000 engineering study will see if the breakwater can be turned into a safe public access route to the island.
"They've done studies using other means of transportation, everything from helicopters to hovercrafts to boats," he said.
"And time and time again the most economical way is seen as a fixed link that would allow for both walking over to Partridge Island and small utility vehicle transportation over to Partridge Island."
The federal budget has allotted $200,000 in 2014-15 to study the feasibility of repairing the breakwater.
Partridge Island is currently off-limits to the public.
It was an entry point and quarantine station for newcomers to Canada.
More than 1,000 people died there when typhus broke out in the late 1840s.
Over the past two centuries, the island was also a military post for soldiers and home to lighthouse keepers.