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Harry Jerome centre’s future not on ballot
City of North Vancouver residents will likely have plenty of names to choose from when municipal elections come around this fall, but they won’t have their say on the future of the city’s busiest rec centre.
Coun. Bob Fearnley’s motion to attach a referendum question on the future of the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre to this fall’s election ballot was defeated 4-3 at Monday night’s final council meeting before summer break.
Fearnley said he wanted to hear the public’s opinion on whether the city should renovate the aging structure, or build a new one.
“I believe in democracy and our job is doing the people’s business,” Fearnley told The Outlook.
“And what better way to do the people’s business than to ask them for their word on the project? This issue is stalled, basically waiting for next election because of this divided council.”
What to do with the centre has been a hotly-debated issue at city hall. Council passed conflicting motions on the fate of the building this year, first choosing to build a new structure north of 23rd Street, then deciding to explore renovation after voting to preserve two adjacent fields in the area that would have housed a new building.
Other councillors questioned the effectiveness of a referendum question for such a detailed process, noting a simple yes or no decision doesn’t capture the breadth of information needed to understand the intricate debate.
Multiple studies have been conducted on the buildings, advocating for both renovation and rebuilding.
Coun. Rod Clark, an opponent of the referendum idea, noted the centre’s “perfectly usable ice sheet” would be expensive to tear down but said the pool needs to be replaced. Handling the future of the community centre, he said, will have to be conducted in phases and residents should not be asked to make a black-and-white choice because a ballot may ask them to.
“I cannot support the referendum question in its current form. It [a new Harry Jerome centre] will be a mix of things, some parts new and some parts renovation,” added Coun. Craig Keating.
“And how are we to pay for it too? We need a question that encompasses all of those things. We need authoritative statements and reports from staff. A referendum will be vacant of that and it is far too important of an issue.”
Council will revisit the debate in the fall.