Users of Harbour Grace centre may get financial break

By Mark Squibb

When Harbour Grace councillors voted last year to increase ice rental fees at the Danny Cleary Community Centre to try moving the facility’s bottom line from red into the black, they weren’t expecting they might have to reimburse users for some of the added revenue. But that’s exactly what could happen because the change in fees weren’t communicated properly, council deemed last week.
Instead of refunds, however, the groups that use the rinks may be offered credits on their accounts.
Councillor Brendan Chafe broached the subject during last week’s public meeting, noting the Town has met with several user groups in recent weeks regarding rental fees. He allowed there were issues with how the fee changes were communicated.
“We had some hard decisions we had to make as a town with our rates, and when rates go up, people aren’t happy with rates going up, that’s just the reality of it, but we had to do what we had to do, and I agree with that,” said Chafe. “But in regard to communicating that, sometimes stuff falls to the wayside.”
Chafe then moved a motion for staff to review the hours rented by private renters and present a report so council can determine if credits should be applied to the users’ accounts.
The motion was seconded by councillor Lee Rogers, the lone councillor to vote against the initial rate increase over a year ago.
Mayor Don Coombs agreed some confusion or miscommunication may have occurred, and the motion passed unanimously.
The rate increase was proposed in Budget 2023; that same budget proposed the Town close the facility from May until September, citing the high cost of running it.
Council later stepped back from that decision, first by voting to re-open the facility in August instead of October, and then at a later meeting voting to keep the facility open year-round.
Council also asked the Province last year to subsidize the operations of the centre, arguing the skating rink, community space, and indoor walking trail serves the whole region, but were unsuccessful in the attempt. Rather than provide funding, Mayor Coombs reported at the time, the government suggested Harbour Grace ask neighbouring communities for money instead.

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