While former Mayor Tom O’Brien had promised a number of recreation facilities during the election campaign, the new Stephenville mayor is not making any commitment on them.
O’Brien had planned a CSA-approved splash pad in Blanche Brook Park, a new baseball field and a second indoor ice surface.
“We (current council) can’t make any commitments because we don’t know where our budget is at yet,” Mayor Tom Rose said.
He said these types of recreational facilities, among a number of other things, have already been talked about by the new council as it explores the town’s needs and wants.
Rose said as he committed during the election, anything the town wants to get will be done through public engagement.
He said council is looking at where it needs to go from a recreation perspective and a splash pad is something to look at and something that has been lobbied for. He said maybe it could be designed to be a splash pad in the summer and an outdoor rink in the winter.
“This is stuff that will have to be looked at but no commitment right now,” Rose said.
He said right now council and the town administration is looking at going into budget deliberations and based on what he’s learned, the town ran a deficit of between $500,000 to $600,000 in 2016 and it appears it will have another deficit in 2017, but not as high as the previous year.
“When you run deficits you have to look at all your expenditures and see what you can and cannot afford,” Rose said.
In conceding his defeat in the election, O’Brien said he had a good run during his six terms on council and noted that he leaves with the town in great shape and virtually debt free.
He said as significant loans are being paid down, the new council will have more than $4 million in available funds to work with during the next four years, giving it more spending flexibility than any council in recent years.
In reply to that, Rose said the town can’t keep running deficits and that something else that has to be looked at during budget deliberations is the forecast for garbage collection and tipping fees taking a big hike.
Rose said the town’s finance committee chairman Mark Felix will be holding public consultations on the budget sometime in mid to late November, providing a great opportunity for taxpayers to have input on what they believe to be their “needs and wants” from the town.