WINDSOR JUNCTION: Steve Streatch wants the community to know the Windsor Junction Community Centre (WJCC) “will not be jeopardized” regardless of the outcome of an audit into the LWF Ratepayers Association (LWFRA).
The District 1 representative for Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley said he has met recently with LWFRA chairwoman Nora Dickson. Streatch said she made it clear the main thrust of the LWFRA’s activity is the WJCC.
“I agreed with her that the WJCC won’t be jeopardized regardless of how we move forward with or without an area rate,” said Streatch. “It’s an asset that is very important to this community, has been for many years, and will continue to be.
“The last thing anyone wants to do, including me and the ratepayers that have brought concerns forward, is thwart the activities and opportunities being brought forward for our youth.”
He said HRM just needs to make sure they’re doing the best they can and getting the best use of tax dollars.
Streatch said there are a variety of possible outcomes of the audit, which he asked the municipality to do. The audit is currently underway, and he said he will be meeting with staff this week (week of March 20) to get an update.
“Quite frankly, and not to pre-judge, the one that’s the most obvious to me right now is that the LWFRA surplus be returned to the taxpayers,” he said. “Right now the area rate is returning way more than is required to operate that facility (the WJCC).
“There is a suggestion that surplus money be distributed by way of grants to other organizations. I do not support that.”
He explained his reasoning for that.
“At the very least, I want to see the surplus returned to the taxpayers and until such time that we find another way to fund the WJCC then we will have to stay the course,” he said.
Streatch said the meeting with Dickson was informative for both sides.
“I think she understood where I was coming from, and she clearly understood the ambiguity that’s in the community as it relates to where the area rate is,” he said. “I understood her position and I think she clearly understood mine.
“As the political representative and the person who has to vote on the proper use of taxpayers dollars I have concerns, and until I have a degree of comfort going forward then I will reserve judgment on where we’re going.”
Streatch said the audit will layout different directions that the community and council can follow to bring forward a solution. One of those directions could indeed be HRM taking the WJCC under its own umbrella.
“Hypothetically, and the position I have already spoken to senior staff about, is the municipality buying the WJCC, and that it be funded through the general tax rate the same as the vast majority of all other recreational centres in HRM,” said Streatch. “Quite frankly, the residents in the catchment area of the LWFRA are, in my view, paying twice. They’re paying a general rate that theoretically is supposed to fund recreational activities, and on top of that they’re being asked to pay an area rate that is doing the exact same thing.
“If you look at it that way, we’re almost letting HRM off the hook in this case. But in order for the municipality to take over the facility we have to have willing participants. I have not yet had the opportunity to discuss that option.”