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CBS has wherewithal to afford community centre, says mayor

By Craig Westcott/December 9, 2021

One of the plans stressed the most in the Town of CBS’s 2022 budget is a future community centre.

The centre won’t be built next year, but council hopes the homework to eventually begin the spadework will be completed then.

“As our population grows, so too do the needs of our community,” said Deputy Mayor Andrea Gosse, who briefed reporters on the spending plan during a budget presentation at the Town Hall on Monday. “A top priority is the need for a community centre. This has been heard by your council and we have already begun to take necessary steps to make this a reality.”

Both Gosse and Mayor Darrin Bent, who took questions from reporters after the presentation, stressed a community centre is central to council’s goal of making CBS an attractive place to live. That’s why council is determined to grow its tax base, especially commercially, so that the Town can afford such amenities.

“This council is serious about its intent to attract commercial revenue, business revenue to this town,” said Mayor Bent. “This is one of our key focuses. It was heard loud and clear through the (election) campaign by all the people who ran that we need to increase this commercial tax base, that we are lagging behind on that. It’s not only about shielding us from the cost increases that everybody is facing, but it’s to do the things that we want to do here. The Deputy Mayor spoke about a community centre. We desperately need indoor space in this community. We have three spaces that are used generally all the time – the Legion, All Saints (Parish Hall) and Manuels River Centre. We need to augment that with some indoor spaces for our community groups for residents to use. We just don’t have enough of it. And Covid exposed that in a very real way for many organizations within our town. And this is going to be a focus. It’s not something that we can say, ‘Oh, we don’t have the money.’ We’re working very hard and will be working hard with our federal counterparts and our provincial counterparts to seek the funding to get this going. But we’re serious about it in the way that we’re not just sitting back hoping that we’ll get the money. We’re working on site location, we’re working on the style we want it to be and the things that we need in it.”

Bent said one thing that makes funding applications more attractive to the federal government is if they are “shovel ready.”

“Well, we want to put our hands in the air and say, ‘We’re shovel ready, we’re ready to go with the funding, let’s get going,'” he said. 

By the end of next year, the Town’s total long-term debt, built up from capital works projects of the past including roadwork, water and sewer installation and construction of buildings such as the Town Hall, will stand at about $22 million. Bent indicated that won’t be a deterrent to finding the Town’s share when it comes to funding a new community centre.

“That’s an incredibly responsible number compared to a few years ago, because we’ve taken an aggressive stance on paying down debt and limiting our fees for debt over the past few years,” the mayor said. “So, we’re actually in and heading towards an even better debt situation to be able to finance a community centre or other programs that come along that we need to. I credit our financial staff and council for working very hard on that and moving forward with it. And I know those numbers may seem large, but for a town our size and for the projects we’ve done over the past six to seven years, that’s an incredibly strong financial position to be in.”

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