Town of Wabush needs $500K by January to keep rec centre open, mayor says

The mayor of Wabush says the local recreation centre is in danger of closing if the town doesn't find a half million dollars to keep it running for another year.

Ron Barron says funding requests to provincial government and Labrador City have both been declined

The Mike Adam Recreation Complex costs just under a million dollars a year to operate, and the Town of Wabush says if it can't find $500,000 to go towards that for 2018, the centre will close. (Facebook)

The mayor of Wabush says the local recreation centre is in danger of closing if the town doesn't find a half million dollars to keep it running for another year.

We just can't continue without any support from our sister community to run that facility.- Wabush Mayor Ron Barron

After the closure of Wabush Mines in 2014, the provincial government stepped in to help subsidize the Mike Adam Recreation Complex for three years, but that money runs out at the end of 2017.

The centre was originally built by Wabush Mines, and Mayor Ron Barron said the town of 2,000 residents simply can't support such a facility without some funding help.

Ron Barron is the mayor of Wabush. (CBC)

Barron has been busy looking for a way to generate the $954,000 it would cost to run the facility for 2018.

The town does have $454,000 in reserve money earmarked for other things that it could use toward the rec centre, Barron said — if it could find other source for the remaining $500,000.

"We still have some irons out there in the fire, and hopefully some of those will come through. But we have to prepare for the worst," he told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

However, he added that $454,00 could be better spent on things like fixing infrastructure, so he will keep looking for a funding option for the rec centre until January, at which time a tough decision will have to be made.

Irons in the fire

Barron is still in talks with the Iron Ore Company of Canada and Tacora resources to see if they can pitch in, but the town will have no choice but to close the rec centre if it can't secure that funding.

The gymnasium is just one of several facilities in the Mike Adam Recreation Centre. It also has a swimming pool, youth centre and more. (Google Maps)

The Wabush Recreation Centre employs 14 people, including four full-time positions.

Barron said some have suggested scaling back operations, but he can't see that working as it would cost the same amount of money to keep the building open and heated, and reducing hours would just mean less revenue coming in.

No help from Labrador City

The Town of Wabush has gone to the province and Labrador City council to see if they could support the Wabush Recreation Centre, but both declined.

Barron said a lot of people using the rec centre are from Labrador City, so it would make sense to get support from their neighbouring municipality.

"This is not just a Wabush rec centre, it's a regional centre," Barron said.

"Eighty per cent-plus of the users of that centre are from Labrador City. We just can't continue without any support from our sister community to run that facility."

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

Labrador City says in order to contribute a half million dollars, it would have to raise taxes, Barron said.

The Town of Labrador City also plans on building its own recreation centre, which Barron said raises questions about what residents of both towns will do before any facility in Labrador City is ready.

"That vision is going to take two to thee years, even four," he said. "So when is this new facility going to be built? Are the residents here going to do without a swimming pool and rec facility for the next two, three or four years."

Impact on local youth

The Mike Adam Recreation Complex also serves as a youth centre for young people in both Wabush and Labrador City.

It just seems like we're losing too much and we're not gaining anything back.- John Dyke

John Dyke has kids who use the facility, and he himself grew up using it through the swim team, sea cadets and even worked there as a lifeguard, cashier and bowling attendant over the years.

If the complex closes, Dyke said it will basically eliminate the last place for young people in western Labrador to go.

"It's basically somewhere to get them in off the street," he said. "It just seems like we're losing too much and we're not gaining anything back."

Amalgamation issue

Dyke personally thinks Labrador City residents should be paying taxes on the centre. He said the whole situation is a perfect example of why the two municipalities should be looking at amalgamation and shared services.

"Why should my tax dollars from Wabush be used to pay to run the facility when Town of Labrador City is using the same facility and not paying toward it?" Dyke said.

"In my opinion, this area is Labrador West, we are not Wabush, we are not Lab City. We have been a town literally separated by a bridge for 50 plus years."

The two communities previously agreed to a study into amalgamation.

With files from Labrador Morning