By Craig Westcott
October 27, 2023 Edition
The report is in, every councillor has a copy, and now it’s up to staff to brief them and for council to decide what to do with it.
The report in question is Tract Consulting’s recreation master plan for Carbonear, which one councillor was surprised to find in her drop box with no agenda item to actually discuss it. Tract was hired by the Town last November to assess the community’s recreational assets, needs and opportunities, consult with staff and the public, and to recommend how Carbonear should move forward in the coming years in providing recreation services and facilities.
Councillor Danielle Doyle said she doesn’t want to see the plan left in the dropbox and not reviewed by council.
“There should be a plan set in place as to what the next step is with the recreation master plan,” she said.
Chief administrative officer Cynthia Davis explained that when council’s recreation committee met last week it decided to share the report with all of council right away so that everyone could be prepared when they meet to discuss it.
“It would be difficult obviously, because it’s fairly lengthy and there’s a lot of recommendations, to kind of just present it at the meeting,” said Davis. “You need to read it in advance so that you can have some good discussion.”
That raised another question for Doyle. “Is the consultant coming back to give another presentation on this?” she asked. “Or do we just get this report and it’s up to us then to decide what we do with different aspects of it?”
Recreation Director Rob Button said Tract made a presentation of the final draft to him and Davis and it’s now up to staff to brief council. “It’s our document to do what we see fit,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Sam Slade, who chaired council Tuesday in the absence of Mayor Frank Butt, reiterated Davis’ earlier point. “It is a lengthy document and of course you will get an opportunity (to discuss it),” Slade said. “We’ll come back together as council and decide where we go from here.”
But Doyle suggested more was needed.
“I think it’s important that we not only come back as council to review this whole document, but that we review it with all the stakeholders, and the people who contributed to it,” she argued. “Because there is a lot of information in here about different things that go on in our community that should be important to large representatives of the community whether it has to do with volunteering, or facilities, or whatever. I look forward to addressing specifics in this in a more detailed way.”
Councillor Malcolm Seymour, who chairs the recreation committee, said he was the one who asked that it be copied to all members of council at the same time. “It’s a 122-page document,” said Seymour. “We can’t just look at it and blink an eye and it’s all done. What I asked for is to make sure that everything is read and everything is processed and at the end of the day we come together as a group to confirm and (discuss) concerns for anything that is there.”
Seymour allowed that after council discusses Tract’s plan, it can review it with outside groups and then take it back again to “process” the recommendations, including how to include things in next year’s budget, if necessary.
Doyle noted some of the recommendations are time-sensitive and the Town’s departments are putting their budget proposals together now. Council has to pass a budget for 2024 before the end of this year.
“There’s not a lot of flexibility for this upcoming year for some of this stuff to be included in the budget,” Doyle said. “So, if we are going to tackle any of this recreation-wise for the upcoming year, then time is of the essence, unless we’re going to wait and start doing some stuff for next year (for 2025). But I think some small things should be included for the budget for this (coming) year.”
Seymour advised Doyle not to worry. “Have no fear, I have some great ideas of what I want to put there,” he said, laughing.
Deputy Mayor Slade agreed “it is quite the document” and thanked Tract Consulting and everyone, especially among Carbonear’s many volunteers, who contributed to it. “It’s a very important document, it’s a living document, and it’s one that we’ve got to try to pull some things from to enhance our recreation,” he said.
To that, councillor Ray Noel observed Carbonear already has some fine recreation offerings. “I don’t think you can ever put a figure on it, the number of dollars that come in to this town as a result of sports tourism,” he added. “There’s no doubt about it, this would never happen without the recreation department, and the volunteer hours that go in to giving these kids opportunities.”
Noel said that unlike in the past, when young athletes come to Carbonear from other communities to participate in tournaments or to use the recreation facilities, they often bring along their nans and pops and siblings. “And they’re spending money,” he said. “I just wanted to point out that sometimes we get (bogged down) talking about the things we need to get done in recreation; we also need to celebrate the good things that we have going on here and give praise where praise is deserved, to the volunteers especially and the workers. Let’s everybody keep up the good work, and I look forward, like councillor Doyle said, to some action to continuing our activities in the town of Carbonear.”
That message struck a chord with Slade. “Volunteers are the heart and soul of the community,” he said. “That’s a true statement. Because without volunteers, you can’t do any of this. So, thank you very much to the volunteers and all the people involved in delivering it.”