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Labrador City turns down Wabush request for assistance in funding recreation centre

Wabush Mayor Ron Barron says the town can’t afford to foot the bill for the centre alone.

Wabush may have to shut down centre

The Town of Wabush says its recreation centre is causing it financial hardship. 
The complex contains a swimming pool, gym, bowling alley, meeting rooms, a small weight and fitness room, and a teen centre.
The facility costs just over a million dollars a year to operate, eating up about 20-25 per cent of the town’s budget.
“The loss of the $2 million dollar grant in lieu of taxes from cliffs has put the town in a difficult position,” Wabush Mayor Ron Barron told the Aurora.  “Our tax payers just can’t afford to keep paying that much for the centre.” 
He explained that because about 80 per cent of the people using the facility are from Labrador City, the Town of Wabush requested assistance to the tune of $500,000 in November this year. Last year Labrador City gave them $300,000.  As well, a three-year funding plan from the provincial government has run out.
Last week Labrador City’s council issued a press released to say that after great discussion they decided not to approve the request.
Three main reasons were given:
- giving the requested fund would have meant tax increases to Labrador City residents of about 13 per cent.
-allocating the funds would drastically reduce projects in the town’s budget for their own needs and future projects
-worry that the request for funding would increase in coming years and cause financial tension between the towns 
The release goes on to say Labrador City is committed to working with Wabush but feel the relationship cannot be simply a, monetary one.
When asked, Mayor Wayne Button told the Aurora “just giving money isn’t the solution to solving the issue.” 
He also says it wouldn’t be right to have to increase taxes for all residents of Labrador City for the number of residents who use the facility. He explained it this way to the Aurora: for example, if approximately 900 people are in swimming, based on 80 per cent of Labrador City usage that’s 720 people. He says that’s about thirteen per cent of the residents and it wouldn’t be fair to increase taxes for all residents for that number.
The rec centre also hosts bowling leagues, sea cadets, swimming teams and classes, ball hockey, and the teen centre, which are used by both communities.
In Wabush, Mayor Ron Barron says he is disappointed with the decision. 
He told the Aurora the town’s residents “just can’t foot the bill for the centre any longer” and went on to explain that if only 20 per cent of the town of Wabush use the centre they can’t afford to pay 100 per cent of the expenses. 
This has many wondering if there will be reductions in hours or programs to trim the costs, or if the centre would close altogether. Barron says a look at reduction of hours or programs showed that savings would not be substantial enough.
“I can tell you one thing, the people of Wabush cannot take another tax hike at this time to help with the cost of the rec centre,” he said. 
Meanwhile Barron worries closure of the centre would mean bowling leagues, sea cadets, swimming teams and classes, rentals for things like ball hockey, the teen centre and much more would be affected.
He says there are too many other projects, especially on infrastructure, that need attention. Meanwhile he did tell the Aurora there are still a few irons in the fire. The town has reached out to Tacora, the new company buying Wabush mines, the government and IOC. 
“The town is now in the process of preparing its budget, and will soon have to make a decision,” according to Barron. 
Usually towns have to have their budget submitted by the end of the year; however it can be extended, which Wabush may have to do this year. Meanwhile as this issue went to press, Mayor Barron and his council were working hard on the issue.  In the meantime any developments will be reported online and in the subsequent edition of the Aurora.

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