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North-end pool project dead in the water, GMDC to concentrate of disposing of assets

By Jeff King--The Greater Massett Development Corporation is out of ideas for a new rec centre and pool, and is now going to concentrate on demolishing the former CFS Masset buildings.At the corporation's annual meeting December 8 in Old Massett, those attending heard that the new rec centre project, with swimming pool, is basically dead in the water, and that the GMDC board thinks another island group should champion it."No substantial progress (on the project) was made. We had discussions with the province: there is no money. The lack of funding is tied to the economic downturn," GMDC director Trevor Jarvis said. "There's no money expected for a couple of years. Federally, we really made no progress at all. We got nowhere, after several meetings."Mr. Jarvis also said the board had looked at trying to split the project into phases, but that didn't make sense either.GMDC has been working on a new rec centre for the Masset area for a couple of years, and announced in 2009 that it had a design and site chosen for the $10-million facility.But now, it's unlikely to happen. "It's not just out of reach, it's way out of reach," director John Disney told the meeting."We have a design, we have met with our MLA and MP, we've had meetings with federal officials, we met the Premier two years ago. The feds haven't stepped up to the plate. Unless we can get that external money, it isn't going to happen, director Barry Pages said. "If I could twinkle my nose and see $10 million on the table, we could get a rec centre."Directors discussed the need for an all-island recreation centre with pool, but concluded it's not GMDC's mandate to spearhead the plan."The (QCI) Recreation Commission should look at that, not GMDC," said director Andrew Merilees. "I don't think GMDC is the group to put it forward. The development corporation isn't set up to run a rec centre," he said, while Mr. Pages also suggested QCI Rec get involved.The former military buildings, including the old rec centre and pool, once seen as assets by GMDC, are now considered to be liabilities by the board. Some are now run down, dangerously full of mould, and many have potential asbestos problems."(We were) handed a lot of badly built, not-to-code buildings. It's time for these things to come down," director John Disney told the dozen people in the audience."We are trying to get rid of this monster we've got on our back," he said."Slowly, the whole thing is unwinding and dismantling. It's just an anchor, it's a liability for us", Mr. Disney said.GMDC advertised in November for companies interested in demolishing some of the buildings, including the old hospital, the barrack blocks, the kitchen and messes. They have one qualified person who's interested, and who will assess the asbestos levels in the buildings. That assessment is expected to cost between $6,000 and $10,000, chair John T. Jones said.Directors assured those attending that GMDC has the money to cover demolishing the buildings, saying it now has $4.3 million and expects the demolition to cost about $3 million. They also said the material from the buildings would go to an approved landfill and would not be burned. Chair Jones said he expected the demolition to be "pretty quick". "We want to get this rolling," he said, adding that he hopes it can happen in late January or early February.GMDC recently approached the Department of National Defence for help in demolishing the buildings, but they wrote back and said they are not even interested in talking to us about it, according to Mr. Disney. "I have never seen a letter so bluntly say 'no'".Masset resident Fran Redick said "GMDC is basically broke. (I've watched it) go south and sideways. Not once has anyone come up with an answer on who's going to pay to run it. No rec centre pays for itself. Before we go off half-cocked to try to get (it built) we have to figure out who's going to pay to operate it." Ms. Redick also asked if GMDC had the money to demolish the buildings and was assured by Mr. Pages that "there is going to be sufficient, adequate funds to do that.""That's hard to believe," Ms Redick said.Karen Church suggested GMDC have more pubic meetings but chair John T. Jones said "I don't think we have much more to discuss."Other members of the public attending expressed concern that GMDC was competing with private land sales in Masset, while another was worried about a fat-cat off-island buyer wanting to buy the land under buildings they have purchased from GMDC. This resident was assured GMDC has had little contact with 'fat-cat' buyers and that the interests of local businesses would be taken seriously. One other resident expressed his concern that a greenbelt area is currently for sale, and he bought his home in part because he valued the green space nearby. While director Pages said the land in question "has never been zoned parkland. It has never been gazetted as parkland", the resident was promised the board would seriously consider his concern.The board is composed of representatives of Old Massett and Masset. It includes John Disney, John T. Jones, Jason Majore, Barry Pages, Trevor Jarvis and Andrew Merilees. Four positions are up for renewal, and both councils plan to make their new appointments in the coming week or so.