YARMOUTH – “It’s time not to waste time anymore.”
That’s how one councillor summed things up as Yarmouth town council met in committee of the whole Monday morning, Feb. 11, to discuss an expansion of the Mariners Centre.
With new streams of federal and provincial funding looking to align themselves soon – and this project fitting into those recreation and rural infrastructure streams – council unanimously passed a motion to invite the Municipality of Yarmouth and the Municipality of Argyle to join it to set up a steering committee for the purpose of moving forward with an expansion of the Mariners Centre.
The town’s motion will come forward to the Yarmouth town council monthly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14, for further discussion and a vote on ratification.
The town says it will need the other municipal units to be onside to proceed and put forth an application for funding. By June, the town hopes to prepare an application for federal and provincial funding.
Years ago, the three municipal units did identify an expansion of the Mariners Centre as the third top regional priority for Yarmouth County. There has been talk around those tables since then of continued support for an expansion project, but not in the official capacity by all three units needed to move forward.
The town – at the committee of the whole meeting – said it is now prepared to move this project to the top of its own priority list.
Mayor Pam Mood says an expansion has always remained a priority for the town, but it was further down the list due to funding. Still, the town had already indicated last year in its capital budget that it would set aside between $2.5 million and $3 million as the town's part of the local share for the project, which it identified as including an aquatics centre.
The town says this equates to about $1 to $1.20 per day, for one year, for every resident in the town. Under the proposed funding model the town is looking at, the same cost per person would apply to residents of partner municipalities as well as the Town of Yarmouth.
An overall expansion project has been pegged at $30-$35 million.
It’s being suggested by the town that the local share of that could fall between $9.5 million and $11.7 million.
“We might as well just put it on the table,” said Mayor Pam Mood. “We’re saying yes to this, we’re putting the arts centre and other projects on the back burner, which we have to be okay with.”
The town says both West Nova MP Colin Fraser and Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill are onboard to find funding for an expansion. Over the weekend the mayor said she reached out to the CAOs and wardens of their neighbouring municipal units in Yarmouth County to give them a heads-up of how the town is now looking to proceed.
The town says there are several steps needed. An operational agreement, as well as a capital and ownership agreement, needs to be struck with partners, including, but not limited to, the municipalities of Yarmouth and Argyle.
The town is also looking to have municipal funding of operations and capital contributions with its partners be based on a formula that includes variables such as population and uniform assessment.
And, of course, it also needs to be officially determined what an expansion will include. In the past there have been discussions, consultations and studies about incorporating an aquatics centre and the YMCA into an expansion. There’s been talk of upgraded curling facilities. The public would like to see an indoor walking track. etc.
A report to the town says vision and mandate work would be eyed for completion by Oct. 1.
It was stated at the Feb. 11 committee of the whole meeting that going after funding for a large project such as this may affect the ability to attract other major capital grants for other projects. Particularly, as well, since a large infrastructure project involving the ferry terminal is already underway.
“We might as well just put it on the table,” said Mayor Mood. “We’re saying yes to this, we’re putting the arts centre and other projects on the back burner, which we have to be okay with.”
No one spoke to the contrary.
“After trying to move forward with the other projects, the time has come to move on,” said Councillor Wade Cleveland, who was the one to make the comment about not wasting time. “It’s time to get one major project done and this is the one.” He also said the town can’t do this alone.
Councillor Jim MacLeod agreed, saying this is a good project and for him it’s necessary that funding locally be shared appropriately between the local units.
In a media release issued by the town, while establishing a steering committee is a key first step, it was stressed that there is considerable work that needs to be completed by such a committee before seeking the funding, including agreements on capital and operations. The establishment of a fair and equitable formula for funding agreements, is also seen as an important first step.
Expansion of recreational offerings at the Mariners Centre are seen as way to help make the region more attractive to people who would consider moving into an area, along with the additional benefit of providing health, recreational and fitness options for residents.
Mike Randall, the chair of the board of the Mariners Centre, was among those in the audience at the committee of the whole meeting. He sees this most recent development as a positive step.
“It’s something going forward that the area has needed. If the town and municipalities support it, it’s very much the time because of the federal and provincial governments’ funding,” he said, adding the Mariners Centre expansion is an important project. “They commented about the other projects, they’ve all had their turn. Now it’s our turn.”