Sackville councillors expected to OK $16K sea containers for fire training

Sea containers at Sackville’s fire training facility will be arranged somewhat like this

Sackville’s 43 firefighters will likely have a new state-of-the-art training facility by the end of the year.

At its next meeting on Monday, Sackville Town Council is expected to approve a $16,560 expenditure to buy four, 40-foot shipping containers that would play an important part in fire department training.

Council gave its overall approval in February to construction of the $30,000 facility behind the public works building on Crescent Street with the understanding that purchases over $6,000 would still need additional approval.

The four shipping or sea containers are to be paid for out of funds raised during the 2018 Fire Department Truck Draw held by the Sackville Volunteer Firefighters Association.

Fire Chief Craig Bowser says that if council approves purchasing the containers from Riverside Warehousing Ltd. in Moncton, fire training in Sackville would be improved significantly.

“The sea containers will allow us to train out there potentially every week if we so choose to do that,” he says.

Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Phinney explains that the containers will be used to mimic actual fire conditions.

“We’ll be building walls inside the containers and making rooms to simulate going into a house with the vertical one having stairs in it to simulate a two-storey house or going into the basement,” he says.

“You can make different scenarios of kitchens and living rooms with being able to move some walls around,” Phinney adds.

“We have an artificial smoke machine that we’ll be able to put in there to fill it with smoke, so I think it’s going to be a huge benefit for our members.”

The deputy chief says the Sackville Public Works Department has already put down shale and gravel for the training facility in a level 70-by-100 foot area behind its building.

Concrete pads

After the containers are installed, two concrete pads will be added where firefighters can practise rescuing people from wrecked cars or improving their techniques for ventilating the roofs of burning buildings.

“We’ll build a small roof structure on one of the pads,” Phinney says, “to simulate cutting holes in the roofs…If you’ve got a home on fire you have to have a way to have the gases and the smoke escape to make it easier inside for members to fight the fire.”

Chief Bowser says fire departments in  surrounding areas such as Dorchester, Memramcook, Port Elgin and Amherst will be invited to use Sackville’s new training facility.

He points out that all of these departments have mutual-aid agreements which are a big help since Sackville’s Fire Department is responsible for a 100-square-kilometre area.

“All those outlying fire departments are great assets to us especially when we’re fighting large fires,” he says.

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Hundreds gather in Sackville for anti-racism vigil

Nearly 300 people gathered outside Sackville’s main post office today as part of a silent vigil to protest against racism.

Participants were responding to an invitation on Facebook yesterday from former Sackville poet laureate Marilyn Lerch who wrote:

“I would like to stand in front of PO at noon Wednesday with a sign about racial injustice. Would anyone join me?”

Today’s vigil was one of a series of protests across Canada and the U.S. sparked by the killing last week of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who had been handcuffed and pinned to the ground by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota for more than eight minutes while they ignored his cries that he couldn’t breathe.

Anger and tears

Marilyn Lerch outside the Sackville Post Office

“People here are moved, moved to tears, heavy of heart and angry,” Lerch said to Warktimes during today’s vigil.

She held a sign that declared she was “standing in support of protests in the U.S. against systemic racism: here & there.”

“I wish we could say we were not all part of that, but we have to accept our responsibility,” Lerch said.

“We have to look at Canada, the discrimination for centuries against First Nations people [and their] treaty rights,” she added.

Lerch said the big turnout at today’s vigil shows that people do care about systemic racism.

“Here we are faced with climate change, COVID-19, student debt, trying to take the hospital away, unemployment,” she said, “all of that is down on us and yet people with a few hours notice come here and stand together.”

To respect COVID-19 safety restrictions, most participants at today’s rally wore masks and attempted to distance themselves from one another.

Daily experiences

Mt. A. Black Student Advisor and Diversity Educator Ivan Okello

Ivan Okello, who serves as Black Student Advisor at Mount Allison, said he participated in today’s vigil to show his support for fighting against racism and police brutality.

He held a sign advising white people to check their own bias against associating with people of other races and cultures.

The other side of his sign read: “Racism is killing me softly.”

He explained that as a black person from Uganda he often feels its effects — everything from being followed around in stores to racial slurs and anti-immigrant comments.

“It’s been a range of experiences and the challenge of that is that it dehumanizes your sense of belonging to a specific place because you start to feel that your sense of security is threatened,” Okello said.

Policing black lives

As Okello was speaking to Warktimes, Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau stopped by briefly to praise his work at the university.

In January 2019, Boudreau himself invited Robyn Maynard to speak at Mt. A. about her book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present.

Her speech reflected the evidence she presents in the book that racism is structural and embedded in Canadian institutions.

“It’s easy to say ‘I’m not a racist,” Maynard said in her talk at Mount A.

“Instead say, ‘What am I going to do about it?’”

To read a full report on Maynard’s talk, click here.

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Sackville ponders economic recovery fund to help local business weather COVID-19

Sackville CAO Jamie Burke speaks during online council meeting

Sackville’s Chief Administrative Officer says local business owners are talking with the town about establishing an economic recovery fund to help them cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During Monday night’s online town council meeting, Jamie Burke said the town has been holding weekly check-ins with local business operators to discuss the effects of the provincial state of emergency that has required many businesses to close temporarily.

“These are extremely tough times,” Burke said. “I can’t stress this enough for the local business community.”

He added that aside from establishing “some type of economic recovery fund,” business owners have also expressed interest in the town pursuing a variety of economic development initiatives.

“One example would be a kind of virtual or interactive Sackville shopping map and shopping of course being more than just retail,” Burke said, suggesting that such a map could also focus on other things such as food and restaurant services.

Both Burke and Mayor John Higham mentioned holding a special town council meeting to discuss economic recovery efforts.

Higham said he and town staff have been working with Mount Allison University to help recruit as many students as possible in the coming year.

Burke said attracting students will be crucial.

“Obviously student recruitment has economic benefits for us as a municipality and when the university is healthy, our community is healthy,” he added.

Meantime, Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau has announced that the university is planning to offer students the flexibility to take courses online during the fall term as well as return, if they wish, to study on campus.

“Remember that Mount Allison is a residential-based campus community,” Boudreau explained Tuesday during a CBC Radio interview.

“We’re a small community and our campus is blessed with over one million square feet of space for academic residence and administrative functions, so we can more than meet the needs and the guidelines for physical distancing on campus,” Boudreau added.

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Sackville developer fells downtown trees to potentially make way for three-storey apartments

Artist’s drawing of proposed apartment building behind the existing Georgian mansion at 131 Main Street. Sackville Town Council rejected the project in 2014

Sackville developer Gordon Beal has suggested he may try for a third time to win approval for a three-storey, 18-unit apartment building behind the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett House at 131 Main Street.

Beal recently cleared trees and bushes from the large lot behind the Georgian-style mansion he bought from SGCI after the advertising and marketing firm went out of business in 2009.

He points out that the land — about one-and-a-half acres — is a big open space now that the trees are gone.

“It shows how much land I’ve got back there,” Beal said during a telephone interview. “I should be able to do something there, I would think.”

He added that the town already has the plans from his previous rezoning application, which town council rejected in 2014.

When asked if he could re-apply using those plans, Beal replied, “Yes, I would.”

Rezoning still required

Town planner Lori Bickford says Beal would still need to get council’s approval to rezone the land from its current status as Residential Historic Commercial (RHC) to Urban Residential 3 (R3).

She explained that the RHC designation recognizes that many old downtown mansions are too big for single families, but are suitable for residential and commercial uses.

After town council rejected his first request for a rezoning in 2010, Beal had the building redesigned to incorporate elements of the Georgian mansion that dates from around 1841.

The Tribune-Post reported that in rejecting his second request for rezoning in 2014, some councillors expressed concerns about development on a prime property near the Sackville Waterfowl Park.

At the time, the newspaper quoted Kathy Beal, who spoke for her father, as saying: “I don’t understand why they’re not giving us a permit…but there are other builders in town who have carte blanche,” a reference to council’s approval for a multi-unit development by JN Lafford Realty Inc. on Waterfowl Lane next to the park.

Property where trees were removed at the rear of the former SGCI property

Concern for felled trees

Warktimes first learned that something was happening at the rear of 131 Main Street after receiving messages from residents concerned about the loss of so many trees. One e-mail suggested getting in touch with Sackville resident Peter Higham, who was pursuing the matter with the town.

During a telephone interview, Higham said he called town planner Lori Bickford who told him that Sackville has no rules or bylaws restricting the removal of trees on private property.

Higham added it’s a shame that a small urban forest is gone.

“It was almost to me like a park, not planted trees. They were more like a small piece of the woods right in the middle of town,” he says. “Every time I had been anywhere near that area, there had been a lot of birds in the trees, so there were some big trees in there.”

Higham says he wonders why Beal would remove the trees before receiving approval from the town for any development on the land.

However, Beal says the trees were blowing over and needed to be cleared, along with the thick undergrowth.

“It looked an awful mess there, you know,” he adds. “Right in the centre it was just a tangle of stuff…I’m glad I took them down. It looks much better.”

Later, during our interview, Beal said he also wanted the town to know the size of his property.

“That’s the reason I took it down, took everything down, to show how much land was really there.”

Posted in Environment, Town of Sackville | 3 Comments

Memorial for Sackville’s four historic Methodist churches is now complete

Memorial bell and plaque commemorating four historic Methodist churches in downtown Sackville

Local historian Charles Scobie has announced that a memorial to commemorate four landmark churches has finally been completed at the corner of the old Methodist cemetery in the heart of downtown Sackville.

The memorial consists of a 1,200 pound bell along with a plaque giving the history of the four Methodist churches that stood nearby for nearly two centuries beginning in 1818.

The cast-iron bell, which hung in the tower of the Sackville Methodist/United Church on Main Street for 117 years, was one of the things salvaged when the building was demolished in 2015 by its owners JN Lafford Realty Inc.

“The bell was really the one concrete thing that survives here in the community,” Scobie said today during a telephone interview.

“The sound of the bell would be familiar to the citizens of Sackville over many years, so it seemed that it was the appropriate thing to use.”

Scobie says the project began last year when John Lafford decided to donate the bell and Scobie himself was asked to chair an advisory committee to plan the memorial.

The Sackville Rotary Club contributed $700 for the plaque and its metal stand while the Laffords provided construction materials and hauled the big bell to the site on a front-end loader.

Sackville and Methodism

Plaque showing downtown Sackville’s four Methodist churches

Scobie says the memorial serves as a reminder of the important role Methodism played in Sackville’s history after the evangelical religion was brought here in the 1770s by settlers from Yorkshire.

“They made major contributions to the local community and especially, many of the members of these churches were very strong supporters of Mount Allison University,” he says, noting that the university’s founder is buried only a few feet away from the memorial.

“Charles Frederick Allison would have attended, I think, the first of the four churches that are commemorated,” Scobie adds. “The one that stood just diagonally opposite where the memorial is now on the corner of Bridge Street and Main Street. But he would also go to the second church, the one that was built in 1838.”

Scobie says the advisory committee felt it was important to select the right site.

“We wanted to find a site that was easily visible and easily accessible and I think where we have put it on Main Street, just across the road from Cranewood, that fits the bill.”

To read the news release announcing completion of the memorial, click here.

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Sackville arborist launches pilot project to preserve stately elms

Arborist Kevin Anderson poses next to giant elm with eagle’s nest at the Amos Thomas Seaman House historical property in Minudie, N.S. Photo by Mark Boon

Sackville businessman Kevin Anderson has launched a pilot project to preserve dozens of stately elm trees in southeastern New Brunswick and nearby northern Nova Scotia.

“I’m sticking my neck out a bit here, but it’s worth it to save the trees,” says Anderson, an arborist who owns Woodpecker Tree Care in Sackville.

“I’m hoping I can break even on the project this year at least on costs, but overall, I’m planning on losing money,” he adds.

Anderson explains that it’s now possible to inoculate trees with DutchTrig, an organic vaccine. It protects them from the Dutch elm disease fungus spread by beetles that feed under the bark.

So far, he has spent $1,800 for enough vaccine to preserve about 30 trees and has invested another $3,000 for required training permits and insurance.

“I’m looking for more partners to get involved in the project as well as help pay the costs,” Anderson says, adding that a number of sponsors have already signed up including Mount Allison University, the towns of Sackville and Amherst and the Marshwinds Housing Coop.

Hall’s Tire Muffler and Auto Repair shop in Sackville is sponsoring two of “four beautiful elms” that remain on the grounds of the Drew Nursing Home while homeowners in Coverdale, N.B. and Oxford, N.S. have agreed to pay for protecting trees on their properties.

Community support

“There has been huge community support to the point where I’ve had to triple the size of the pilot project,” Anderson says. “People, and businesses, love the idea of being connected to a specific tree through this project.”

He points out that elms need to be inoculated every year to protect them against the disease, so he’s hoping more people will sign up for five-year sponsorships.

Kevin Anderson measures the circumference of an old elm. Injecting the DutchTrig vaccine costs about 45 cents per cm. Photo by Mark Boon

He estimates it would cost about $100 per year to protect an average tree with a 200 centimetre circumference, but emphasizes that’s only a preliminary estimate and the true costs will become clearer as his pilot project unfolds.

Anderson is calling the project the Maritime Elm Protection Initiative and is in the process of setting up a website at to spread the word and solicit donations.

He plans to inoculate all 30 trees this year in a single day sometime around June 1st.

Meantime, the city of Fredericton is treating 1,000 elms with DutchTrig this year.

“Fredericton’s example gave me a lot of confidence to go ahead with my own pilot project,”Anderson says.

“I used to tell people with elms, ‘don’t waste your money, they’re all dying,’ but now, it’s finally possible to prevent them from getting the disease.”

He notes though that this could be a long-term project stretching over decades.

“I’d like to protect a number of significant elms in all three Maritime provinces, until the risk for contracting Dutch elm disease is lower,” he says.

“This would allow us to keep and enjoy what we have and provide a new source of elms to regenerate the population.”

Elms on the Fundy shore. Photo by Mark Boon

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MLA Megan Mitton calls for more government help to keep small businesses afloat

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton

Green Party MLA Megan Mitton says recent business closures in Sackville show that small businesses need better government supports as they try to cope with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a telephone interview with Warktimes, Mitton referred to the closing of the Black Duck Café as well as the Thunder and Lightning pub, but said she has also heard from other businesses that are struggling.

“Some of the main concerns that they have are being able to afford rent and payroll,” she added.

“I was excited at first when I heard that the federal government was going to have a rent relief program,” she said, adding that she has since found that the program is inadequate.

“Many small businesses have told me they’re not able to take advantage of some of the programs that are supposed to be able to help them.”

Mitton said she worries that there will be a wave of evictions after May 31 when the mandatory order prohibiting them expires.

“I’m concerned that on June 1st, we’re going to see residential and commercial evictions and so we need government to act as soon as possible and urgently to help support people in these difficult times.”

Other Green proposals

Mitton discussed other proposals outlined in a Green Party news release including grants similar to ones offered in Prince Edward Island that would help small businesses get advice from consultants on how to adapt and recover from COVID-19 restrictions.

“I am concerned about what our region’s going to look like, what our downtown might look like, if we don’t put in place [more] supports for these business owners,” she said.

Other Green proposals for small business include property tax forgiveness and a commercial retrofit program to reduce energy costs.

Border with Nova Scotia

Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin

Meantime, Mitton said that she and Nova Scotia MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin held a meeting yesterday with members of the business community to discuss how to ease restrictions for people who need to cross the provincial border more easily for commerce and trade.

She also mentioned farmers who need to cross between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as well as members of non-profit groups.

Jonathan McClelland, CEO of the Cumberland Business Connector has suggested that the areas around Sackville and Port Elgin should be allowed to form a business bubble with Amherst and other towns on the Nova Scotia side of the border.

Mitton seems sympathetic to the idea, but says she isn’t sure what that would look like.

“What I’m really working on, in the meantime, is to make sure that the rules at the border are clear and consistent,” she says.

“One of the main things I’m hearing is that people are arriving at the border and hearing different things and it might even depend on the day,” she said.

“I also think that we could figure out some creative solutions to be able to work across the border.”

Posted in COVID-19, New Brunswick politics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment