Wabush rec centre to stay open as businesses, Lab City kick in cash

"We've got the help for this year. Now moving forward — that's another thing."

But future funding is up in the air, as the agreement is only for this year

The swimming pool in the Mike Adam Recreation Complex is one of the most popular facilities in the centre. (Labradorwest.com)

After threats of closure and a scramble to come up with the cash, the Mike Adam Recreation Complex in Wabush will remain open. 

"We've got the help for this year. Now moving forward — that's another thing," said Mayor Ron Barron. 

A partnership has been agreed upon that will see:

  • $200,000 from Iron Ore Company of Canada.
  • $150,000 from Tacors Resources.
  • $115,000 from the Town of Labrador City.
  • $400,000 from the Town of Wabush.

"That's going to save recreation for Labrador West here in the area," Barron told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

Barron, who won the mayoral race last September, said other projects in his town — like roadwork — have suffered because of how big a slice of the financial pie the 50-year-old recreation centre was getting. 

Ron Barron says cost sharing the rec centre expenses makes sense. (CBC)

"Most municipalities out there put about eight to 10 per cent of their budget toward recreation — we were doing 23. That's unheard of," he said. 

The financial deal reached for this year means the building will undergo changes to make it fully accessible, according to Barron. 

Who pays? 

The provincial government had been subsidizing the cost of operations at the rec centre, but that money ran out at the end of 2017. 

Labrador City came through with a $300,000 operating grant last year, but like Wabush, it also got new municipal leadership in the election. 

Then mayors of Wabush and Lab City, Colin Vardy and Karen Oldford respectively, hugged after a feasibility study for amalgamation was approved in 2017. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Mayor Wayne Button had said he would help the neighbouring town out, but with strings attached. 

"If you're going to go in and you're going to buy a Home Hardware, you've got to let me back there to take a look around," is how he put it to CBC's Terry Roberts earlier this month.

"I'm not just going to buy the Home Hardware. I've got to see, are you making money? Are you not making money? What's your manager like? So that's why we're trying to extend this olive branch to see what happens."

Amalgamation up in the air

The Mike Adam Recreation Complex is a tangible example of tensions about public services between the two towns. 

A year ago, both towns voted in favour of an amalgamation study. Barron has said he is against amalgamation, but in favour of the regionalization of services. 

But Button said amalgamation shouldn't be considered a given.

"We want [Wabush] to come together and shake our hand. We don't want them to crawl over," Button told CBC earlier this month. 

Neither of the town's current mayors appear to be in any rush to amalgamate. (CBC/Town of Labrador City)

But for the recreation centre at least, Barron insisted the two towns should be sharing the bill.

"We do it quite well with our waste management, we cost share that, why can't we do it with our recreation?" he said.

"We have to get together — the Town of Labrador City and us — to make sure we don't have to do this again next year."

With files from Labrador Morning and Terry Roberts