Initiated by the Schooner Regional Development Corporation, with assistance from Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL), the joint council’s first official meeting and election of officers was Apr. 2.
Grand Bank Mayor Darrell Lafosse, who was installed as president at that meeting, sat down with The Southern Gazette Wednesday for an update on the organization.
He described the joint council as still in the infancy stages.
“Like infants, we’re roaming around. We know the direction we want to go and we’re in the process of trying to solve one issue at a time.”
To date, Mayor Lafosse indicated the joint council has met four times – the most recent coming Sept. 20, with a break for the summer months.
During the formation process, communication infrastructure, economic sustainability and transportation issues were identified as concerns common for towns throughout the region.
Mayor Lafosse indicated the first meetings have included invitations to a number of delegates and interest groups related to those three areas.
Under economic sustainability, the joint council is working with the Heritage Run Tourism Association to address staffing concerns at the Goobies visitor information centre this past summer. The site was staffed with two students for seven weeks in July and August, but Heritage Run was unable to secure funding for a full-time employee.
The joint council contacted Burin Peninsula MHAs Calvin Peach, Clyde Jackman and Darin King to see if combined funding from all three districts was available to hire a full-time employee, and while it never transpired in time for this summer, the focus has turned to next year.
The mayor said a regional tourism brochure package, in place of individual pamphlets and promotions for each community, is also under consideration.
“We know the direction we want to go and we’re in the process of trying to solve one issue at a time.” - – Darrell Lafosse
Meanwhile, Mayor Lafosse said the joint council met with Schooner chair Paul Pike to discuss the impact of federal cuts for regional economic development boards and also talked the issue over with MNL president Churence Rogers during a meeting in June.
On communication infrastructure, in light of a pair of fibre optic cable breaks last year that disrupted services and isolated communities from one another, the joint council is helping in an effort to establish a backup system, with satellite phones as a possibility under consideration.
The mayor said a meeting between the joint council, local MHAs and Bell Aliant is also in the works to lobby the company for increased cell phone coverage and enhanced Internet service for the region.
“We see this as one of the big issues that we can kind of sink our teeth into.”
So far, Mayor Lafosse noted between seven and nine towns have consistently attended the meetings and said the joint council would like to see more participation.
If that means moving the meetings to different locations, he said they are prepared to do so.
“We would love to see the room full.”
In other joint council news, Mayor Lafosse indicated the organization is planning its first annual general meeting with a tentative date set for later this month at College of the North Atlantic’s Burin Campus.
The mayor indicated a number of presenters are being lined up to speak at the full-day event.