Mt. A. expert says Higgs government unlikely to push hard on municipal reform

Mt. A. politics professor Geoff Martin

An expert on municipal government in New Brunswick says the Higgs government risks political suicide if it presses too hard on municipal reform.

Geoff Martin, a politics professor at Mount Allison University, says that may be why the commitment to reform seemed so weak in Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne.

“It’s a lot more timid than I expected,” Martin says referring to the government’s promise “to have a new conversation with citizens of this province” about how to improve a fragmented municipal system with 104 local governments, 236 local service districts (LSDs) and 12 regional service commissions.

“Governments have been saying they’re going to have conversations about municipal reform for 10, 15, 25 years,” Martin says. “I would have thought that they would have something more definite to say right now.”

He argues that one of the system’s biggest problems involves the rural LSDs which have no elected representatives and are governed by officials in Fredericton.

“We do badly need rural elected democracy,” Martin says. He adds, however, that rural residents may not want it especially in a neoliberal age when people have become so accustomed to austerity and cuts in services that they look with suspicion on any increase in taxes.

“You’re going to hit a high degree of opposition in rural New Brunswick from people who figure that the only thing municipal reform really can mean is tax increases for them,” he says.

“They won’t necessarily focus on any of the benefits they could get,” Martin says, adding that many rural residents aren’t aware of how the property taxes they pay don’t cover the full cost of the services they receive for such things as road maintenance, snow plowing, policing, fire protection and emergency services.

He points to figures showing that while the average tax rate in 2019 was only 97 cents per $100 of assessment in the LSDs, the average rate in cities, towns and villages was $1.52. (Sackville’s residential property tax rate is $1.56.)

recently updated report from the association that represents the eight cities of New Brunswick claims LSDs receive about $100 million more in subsidies than they pay in taxes:

Excerpt from 8 cities report, August 2020

Martin, who wrote a 25-page academic paper on municipal reform for the Journal of Canadian Studies in 2007, says that making significant changes would take all the political capital the government has this term.

“I think it’s either you do municipal reform or you do health-care reform, you can’t do both,” he says, adding that either could jeopardize the re-election chances of a government with a narrow majority.

“I personally think Blaine Higgs will see health care as a higher priority and if he’s got to make a sacrifice, it’s going to be for changes in health care, not for changes in the municipal sector,” Martin says.

“Maybe the throne speech promise on municipal reform is so timid because the government has finally figured out, Gee this is not going to be easy, this is going to be very controversial and there’s a good chance we won’t be able to do very much of what we’ve hinted we want to do,” he concludes.

Posted in Mount Allison University, New Brunswick politics | Tagged | 3 Comments

Sackville’s acting mayor puzzles over municipal reform plans

Lt. Gov. Brenda Murphy reads Throne Speech promising municipal reform

Sackville’s acting mayor says it’s hard to tell from yesterday’s Speech from the Throne what the Higgs government has in mind when it comes to municipal reform.

“We just want to see what they come up with,” Ron Aiken said during a telephone interview.

He added that it’s one thing if the province wants to give political representation to New Brunswick’s 236 local service districts (LSDs) which have no elected mayors or councillors, but quite another if it intends to create big regional governments by amalgamating smaller municipalities.

“And if it’s shared services they’re talking about, tell us what services you mean and how you’re going to share them,” Aiken said.

“For example, they say let’s amalgamate all the fire services so we have one big fire department for the area,” he added. “Sackville citizens have invested millions of dollars in fire equipment and we’re not just going to give that to somebody else,” he said.

“They can talk about these sorts of things, but when the rubber hits the road, I think there’s a lot of stuff that has to be worked out.”

Finn report

Yesterday’s Speech from the Throne declared that the province intends to a have a conversation with citizens about ways to improve a fragmented local government system that has roots in the 1960s.

“There have been dozens of studies highlighting the need for reforms, and it’s time to move to action and implementation,” the speech added.

Finn Report’s map of proposed regional service districts

One of the most recent and comprehensive of those studies — the Jean-Guy Finn report of 2008 — recommended combining more than 100 local governments and hundreds of LSDs into 53 municipalities grouped into 12 districts that would deliver regional services such as planning, solid waste management, policing, emergency measures and economic development.

Sackville would have merged with the villages of Port Elgin and Dorchester as well as the nine LSDs in the Tantramar area to form a single municipality.

But Finn’s recommendations went nowhere when the Liberal government of the day said the $88 million cost of implementing them was too high.

In 2013, a Conservative government established 12 regional service commissions (RSCs) including the Southeast RSC that oversees land-use planning and garbage collection in Sackville and other municipalities in Westmorland and Albert Counties.

‘What is the problem?’

Acting Mayor Aiken says he’s not sure why the Higgs government is so concerned about the number of municipalities in New Brunswick.

“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” he asks.

“Frankly, I don’t see a big problem with a bunch of small municipalities; there’s this regionalization kick and I have yet to see anywhere where that’s saved anybody any money. All you end up doing is slapping another layer of government in there.”

Acting Mayor Ron Aiken

Aiken says that for Sackville, the real issue is that residents in the nearby LSDs get subsidized fire services from the town and enjoy facilities such as the Civic Centre arena while paying much lower property taxes.

“That to me is where the problem lies,” he says, adding that the province hasn’t done anything to solve it.

“If you wanted to incorporate Westcock and British Settlement and maybe Midgic into Sackville itself, well that kind of makes sense in a way given the kind of economic bubble we’re in around here, but to put Dorchester, Sackville and Port Elgin in one community to me is just nuts; it’s a huge area and I would ask what’s being gained from that.”

Meantime, Premier Higgs told reporters in Fredericton yesterday that it may take more than one, four-year term to implement municipal reform.

As Ron Aiken puts it, “there’s a lot of stuff that has to be worked out.”

This is the first in a two-part series on the prospects for municipal reform in New Brunswick.

Posted in New Brunswick government, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

More questions than answers after public hearing on proposed Sackville slaughterhouse

Planner Lori Bickford

Monday’s public hearing on the proposal to open a slaughterhouse in the Sackville Industrial Park yielded no information on the cost and financing of the project, the numbers of animals that would be killed there or the volume of truck traffic that would be required to transport animals to the site and to haul away their waste products.

Chris Pierce, the local farmer who wants to open the slaughterhouse at 72 Crescent Street, did not appear during the online public hearing.

Instead town council heard a presentation from Lori Bickford, planning manager/planner with the Southeast Regional Service Commission.

“They are proposing to process cattle, sheep and swine at the property, approximately 15 head of cattle a week to give a general idea of size,” Bickford said. However, she did not provide numbers on the slaughter of sheep and pigs.

“As well, wastes such as hides and bones would be removed daily to an approved location or a licensed composting or disposal site,” she added, “and any of the blood from the kill area would be going into an underground holding tank on site which would be transferred off at a later date.”

However, Bickford did not say whether the proponent has found an approved location or licensed composting or disposal site for these animal wastes.

She told council that the slaughterhouse would need licenses from the provincial departments of agriculture and health which regulate issues such as smell, waste disposal and food safety.

Bickford added that federal regulations governing the transfer of waste products from the site would also apply.

Bickford told council the nearest house is just over 100 metres (328 feet) from the proposed abattoir while other houses are more than 190 metres (623 feet) away.

She said the Southeast Planning Review and Adjustment Committee is recommending that Sackville change its municipal plan and zoning bylaw to permit abattoirs in special intensive use zones within industrial areas.

Council heard only two objections to the proposed slaughterhouse, although Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said he had received two e-mails opposing it that he would circulate to his colleagues.

Les and Faye Hicks wrote to express strong opposition based on “the poor working conditions and long term psychological damage to slaughterhouse workers that have been documented, as well as the potential health and environmental concerns related to the slaughterhouse industry”.

Jean-Pascal Lavoie expressed concerns about the municipality’s ability to enforce sanitary regulations.

“The proximity to residential areas remains within too close of a margin to reassure us,” he added.

Deputy Mayor Aiken said other members of the public who wish to comment on the proposal should get in touch with him, CAO Jamie Burke or Town Clerk Donna Beal.

For previous coverage that questions the economic viability of the project, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sackville councillor raises questions about RCMP quarterly reports and opinion surveys

Councillor Shawn Mesheau says he’d like to see the RCMP appearing before council again to explain its quarterly reports on policing in Sackville.

“I think it would be really important if the RCMP was actually presenting this report to help break down the information they’re providing and also to be able to answer any questions of the public or council,” Mesheau said during Monday’s monthly council meeting.

The RCMP stopped appearing before council after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March when council meetings moved online.

Mesheau also called attention to RCMP opinion surveys in the last year showing that the force needs to do a better job providing information and service to its contract partners which include the town of Sackville.

“I just found some of the results quite interesting because 22% of the respondents thought that the value of money spent on the policing services was good,” Mesheau said. “That’s not a really high mark,” he added.

He also pointed out that only 41% felt that the RCMP was providing useful information about its work.

The RCMP surveyed 52 contract partners in New Brunswick during 2019-20 including mayors, Indigenous leaders, as well as local and provincial representatives responsible for RCMP policing contracts within their jurisdictions.

Overall summary

The numbers below show the percentage of respondents who agree or strongly agree:

When Mesheau asked about Sackville’s participation in the survey, Treasurer Michael Beal said that he, then-CAO Phil Handrahan and public safety liaison councillors Allison Butcher and Joyce O’Neil filled it out together online.

Beal explained that the town does not have a copy of its responses because survey pages disappeared from the screen as soon as they were submitted.

More specific results

The RCMP surveys of its contract partners produced mixed results (click to enlarge)

The RCMP also surveyed 162 New Brunswick residents and 24 policing partners including other police services, government agencies and departments the RCMP works with, as well as non-governmental organizations such as civil liberties associations and legal organizations.

It says that while overall results show a general level of satisfaction with RCMP services in New Brunswick, they also point to areas for improvement such as the need for “increasing transparency, increasing involvement or visibility within the community and sharing information with our partners.”

To view all of the survey results, click here.

The latest RCMP report for the town of Sackville covers the first two quarters of the force’s 2021 reporting year which began on April 1, 2020. To read it, click here.

Posted in RCMP, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 2 Comments

Sackville gets help from PR students in drafting new communications plan

Banner celebrating Mount Saint Vincent public relations program

Students in the public relations program at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax are helping Sackville come up with a new communications plan.

“This is really exciting,” CAO Jamie Burke told town council last night. “Our strategic plan requires us to have a marketing and communication plan,” he said, adding that the town decided to split the plan in two.

In August, council adopted a $15,000 marketing plan devised by Portfolio, a firm based in Moncton.

Burke said the town then sent a note to Mount Saint Vincent asking if public relations students could help with the communications part.

“It’s amazing, we have 27 students working,” Burke said. “The class is divided into two. Half the class is looking at outward-facing communication, so how we communicate with the public, seniors, students, children etc. and the other half of the class is looking at how we communicate amongst ourselves,” he added.

“[It’s] a much deeper dive than we originally planned,” Burke said.

He added that the students are looking at the town’s website and its social media channels.

“They are aware that we’ve lost the local Tribune-Post,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what some of the bright thinkers can come up with [as] a way that we can reach some of those populations that don’t use traditional social media channels.”

Some history

In 2009, town council approved a strategic plan drafted by Mount Allison professor Michael Fox and his students that called for hiring a designated communications officer.

The plan also called for restructuring town council and assigning communications roles to various members, but the restructuring never happened and the town’s latest procedural bylaw says the mayor and CAO will issue news releases and be “the primary contact person’s with respect to the dissemination of information.”

Sackville’s communications policies were questioned last week when CHMA journalist Erica Butler asked the town to make documents available so that she could follow discussions at special council meetings usually held on the first Monday of each month.

For coverage of her request and the CAO’s response including an audio recording of their exchange, click here.

During last night’s council meeting, Deputy Mayor Aiken said Burke hadn’t meant that he didn’t want journalists to cover special meetings (as Warktimes reported) only that the media shouldn’t be able to report on documents before they are presented to council.

Aiken did promise, however, that the town would find some way of making the documents available so that journalists and the public can see them when they come up for discussion.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sackville CAO suggests journalists shouldn’t report on special meetings of council

CAO Jamie Burke during a previous online council meeting

According to Sackville’s chief administrative officer, the town does not want journalists to report full details of what happens during special council meetings usually held on the first Monday of each month.

Jamie Burke’s comments came in response to a request from CHMA reporter Erica Butler for access to documents that council discusses during those public meetings.

“I find it difficult to follow some of the content of the special meetings without being able to refer to reports, maps and charts that are referred to in the discussion,” Butler said during the question period at the conclusion of Monday’s online meeting.

She mentioned a discussion about a land swap with a private owner that would enable the town to provide a pedestrian path in the Samantha Court area between Moffat Lane and Fawcett Avenue.

“I don’t know if I can take this opportunity to put in a request to council to consider making those related documents available to the public in advance of special meetings,” Butler said.

CAO Burke responded that town staff have one main reason for not releasing documents before they’re discussed at the special meetings.

“We want to be in a position where we’re providing council with factual information right at the very start,” he said, adding that someone had requested this year’s budget documents before they were presented to council.

“Releasing that information without the department head having the opportunity to provide the information directly to council initially, just leaves us open to the opportunity for assumptions, misinformation, etc.,” Burke said.

CHMA journalist Erica Butler. Facebook photo

When he added that reports, newspaper articles and blogs on the meetings could come later, Butler asked:

“Is the intention that we (journalists) don’t write anything or talk about these special meetings of council? Is that the intention?”

“Yes, that is absolutely the intention,” Burke answered.

When Butler asked if special council sessions are public meetings, Burke asked her to explain what she meant.

“From my perspective, I’m following the public meetings and recording and documenting what goes on for readers and listeners,” Butler said. “I’m just not sure why this is a public meeting if the documents that go along with what’s being discussed aren’t available.”

She added that giving the public access to such documents could generate more participation in the meetings.

Councillor Bill Evans said he agreed with Burke that documents should be withheld until department heads have a chance to explain them to council.

“If you put the document out there, people will have at it without the explanation and people will go off half-cocked and make statements and criticisms and it’s not fair to the people [town staff] giving the presentation,” he said, adding that perhaps Butler could be given documents in “real time” during the meetings.

“We’ll probably have a discussion among council around this topic at some point in the future,” Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken said as Monday’s public question period ended.

Note: I did not attend Monday’s council meeting for Warktimes, but have also complained to council about being unable to follow discussions that are based on documents provided to councillors, but not to journalists and members of the public.

“I don’t know why I bother to attend these meetings when half the time, I can’t understand what’s going on,” I said during a regular council question period last year.

Council later responded to my comments by adding a public question period after special council meetings, but the town still does not provide access to documents before or during the meetings. They are often released three days later in advance of the regular council meetings usually held on the second Monday of each month.

To listen to an audio recording of Monday’s five-minute exchange, click on the media player below. The recording begins as the deputy mayor opens the public question period:

Posted in CHMA-FM, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 3 Comments

Sackville’s Deputy Mayor defends secret budget sessions, but experts disagree

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken says he sees nothing wrong with councillors and town managers meeting privately to discuss budget priorities.

“We do that every year,” Aiken said today during a telephone interview. “I think we’ve done it every year since I’ve been on council,” he added.

“It’s a sit-down working session.”

He was referring to an online, private council meeting with senior town staff held on September 29th.

“Essentially what we did this time was everybody gave what they thought should be the budget priorities, half a dozen of them for the next year, and then we kind of went through them all together and sorted out who thought what suggestions were the most important.”

Aiken acknowledges that there was no public notice of the meeting either before or after it and there is no recording of what was said.

The public only became aware of it during an open council meeting on October 26th when Councillor Shawn Mesheau asked whether the priorities determined during the private session could be made public along with the proposed budgets to support those priorities.

Treasurer Michael Beal replied that information from what he called “a working group meeting” is not normally made public.

“It wasn’t an official council meeting, it was just a working group meeting between staff and council,” Beal said. “We do not have minutes from the meeting, we do not have documents, so we have not provided that [information].”

Beal suggested council would have to pass a resolution before the information could be released.

Law requires open meetings

Mt. A. politics professor Geoff Martin

Mount Allison Politics Professor Geoff Martin says unofficial meetings like this one appear to violate the provincial Local Governance Act which specifies that all regular and special council meetings must be open to the public.

Martin, who served on Sackville Council from 1998 to 2004, points out that the Act specifies a narrow list of 10 matters, such as legal issues, labour negotiations and land transactions, that council can discuss behind closed doors, but public notice must be given of the date of the closed meeting along with the nature of the subjects discussed.

“The Local Governance Act is pretty categorical,” Martin says. “It doesn’t allow for unofficial meetings or off-book meetings.”

He adds that municipal voters need to know where councillors stand on budget priorities as we head into an election next May.

“All these people who may seek re-election should be transparent to the public regarding what their priorities are,” Martin says.

“Municipal councils and staff often fall into trying to do things in secret,” he adds, “to avoid controversy or to stay below the radar and that’s not how the system is set up [or] how the system is supposed to run.”

Toby Mendel agrees.

He’s the executive director of the Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy which advocates for democratic rights such as access to information.

Toby Mendel

He says New Brunswick’s Local Governance Act requires meetings to be held in public.

“There’s a very, very heavy presumption in democracies and under law as well that meetings of elected officials will be open unless there’s a specific reason to close them,” Mendel adds.

“There’s very good reason for that because those elected officials wield the power and are the interface between the electorate and the affairs of government,” he says.

“We need their meetings to be open and when those meetings deal with financial matters that makes it all the more important because financial issues are the backbone of our decision-making.”

Experts misinterpret law: Aiken

Deputy Mayor Aiken says Martin and Mendel appear to be misinterpreting the Local Governance Act.

“What it says is that all decisions of council shall be made at a regular or special meeting,” he adds, “and then it says all these meetings are open to the public.”

He points out that council made no formal decisions at its private meeting on September 29th.

Aiken also argues that the law doesn’t preclude other kinds of meetings.

“You can have all the other meetings you want, you just can’t make decisions or pass motions,” he concludes.

To read relevant sections of New Brunswick’s Local Governance Act, click here.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 8 Comments

No money for climate change co-ordinator in 2021 Sackville budget

Town CAO Jamie Burke at an earlier council meeting

It appears that the Mayor’s Rountable on Climate Change will not be getting the $25,000 next year that it requested from Sackville Town Council to help hire a full-time, professional co-ordinator.

During Monday’s council meeting, CAO Jamie Burke explained why that money is not included in the 2021 draft budget.

“We’re not quite ready to do that yet,” Burke said referring to the town’s overall economic position.

He added, however, that the budget does fulfill other Roundtable requests including the allocation of money for climate change projects as well as funds for another full-time summer student position similar to the one the town funded this year.

“We think that’s a reasonable way to approach a new initiative,” Burke said. “That still gives us the money in our operational budget where we can also…go out and look for additional money through other federal-provincial programs.”

The draft 2021 budget allocates $25,000 for climate change projects that Burke said could include an additional electric vehicle charger in the downtown core, the development of climate change training materials for new councillors, a youth town council similar to the one in Amherst and a “dark sky” initiative to eliminate excessive, night-time light pollution.

All of those ideas were discussed at a climate change forum that the Mayor’s Roundtable held in February.

Next year’s draft budget allocates $10,000 for a full-time, 18 week student summer position to co-ordinate climate change projects with town staff and outside agencies such as EOS Eco-Energy.

Roundtable spokesman Richard Elliot addressing council in August

During an online council meeting in August, Roundtable spokesman Richard Elliot asked for about $25,000 as seed money to hire a full-time co-ordinator.

He said the Roundtable planned to raise additional funds for the position from other sources such as the federal departments of environment and natural resources, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund.

Elliot explained that the Roundtable needs professional help to review existing municipal climate change plans, develop links with other municipalities and revise the climate change “lens” it uses to advise the town on its spending.

However, barring an unforeseen change in direction, town council appears set to approve the draft budget — without money for a climate change co-ordinator — at its regular monthly meeting on November 9th.

Posted in Environment, Town of Sackville | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sackville Facebook news site taken over by advocacy group

Dave Mantin, director of the Sexual Abuse Network of Canada

The Sackville Facebook group that has been a main source for local news and information has been taken over by the director of the Sexual Abuse Network of Canada, an advocacy organization that publishes the names of people convicted of sexual offences against children.

The Facebook group’s former name, Sackville NB Community Concerns, was suddenly changed on September 27th to Sackville NB Daily News Group and is now part of an organization that runs scores of Facebook groups across Canada under the business name Dave Mantin’s Daily News Groups.

“I was surprised at how fast it happened,” says Sackville resident Sharon Hicks who had served as a moderator of the Community Concerns group since 2016.

“I was on the page the night before and everything was normal and got up in the morning and it had totally changed,” Hicks says, adding that she and several other local residents have been dropped as moderators.

During a telephone interview on Saturday, Mantin who lives in Saint John, said he started the Daily News Groups to warn communities when high-risk sex offenders were being released from prison.

He explained that the Groups also report on investigations into perpetrators with a history of offences against multiple victims.

Mantin says that using a Facebook local news group is a more effective way to communicate than setting up a group more narrowly focused on sexual abuse.

“People would lose interest quick because Sackville doesn’t have a sex offender problem every day,” he said.

“So then we said, ‘oh well, let’s make them news groups’,” he added. “Then if there’s a (sexual offender) case, we get to use the network and we know people are following it because they’re getting their local daily news from there.”

Logo for Dave Mantin’s Daily News Groups

Mantin estimates that the Daily News Groups have 160,000 members in New Brunswick including about 30,000 in Fredericton, more than 10,000 in Moncton, 5,000 in Saint John and just over 4,000 in Sackville. He also operates a second local Facebook group called Sackville NB Daily News with about 1,000 members.

He says he took over the Sackville NB Community Concerns group from Micheal Landry who started it under the name Sackville Community Concerns in 2013.

Landry, who lives in Atholville near Campbellton, set up a network of similar Community Concerns Facebook groups across the province that Mantin has also acquired as Daily News Groups.

He says he sells enough advertising on his news groups to generate an income as well as to support the Sexual Abuse Network.

Meantime, Sharon Hicks says she had been spending up to an hour a day as a Community Concerns moderator helping to build the group’s membership because she believed Sackville needed a place to discuss local issues and exchange news and information.

“I was duped basically into believing that this was a local page; I was a moderator, I was helping to further local information. This is a big disappointment,” she adds.

“After this change happened, for a couple of weeks there was a lot of questions posted on the page from local people asking what’s going on, what’s happened here?” Hicks says.

“Last night when I was looking through the site again, I went back to try to find some of those comments and they’ve all been deleted, so there’s no record on the page now of any dissent or questions that were being asked when the change occurred.”

For his part, Mantin, who is 45, says he was abused as a child himself and has been campaigning for more than 20 years to get justice for young victims.

“What we try to do as an organization is push a victim’s story or a sex offender’s story,” he says.

“The fight to get justice is never ending.”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Update: Sackville responds to speeding concerns on Pond Shore Rd.

Radar sign installed on Pond Shore Rd. where the speed limit is 60 km/h

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton says technical problems have been hampering Sackville’s efforts to reduce speeds on Pond Shore Road between Uphill Drive and Mountview Road.

In response to a series of questions from Warktimes, Acton e-mailed to say that the town has been unable to get access to data recorded by the radar speed sign it installed several months ago near retired teacher Don Gouthro’s home at 81 Pond Shore.

Gouthro has been complaining for more than a decade about excessive speeding on Pond Shore, a busy road used by school buses, cyclists, and runners.

Acton writes that radar speed signs can register the number of cars travelling on a road along with their speeds.

“However, when we transferred the sign from the King Street location to Pond Shore Road, we lost the ability to communicate with the sign to adjust settings, (and) set the ability to register the number of cars, speed etc.,” Acton writes.

“We have tried several times and are not able to connect to the sign to allow us to make these changes. Therefore, we are not able to obtain any data from this speed sign at this time,” he says, adding that the sign may have to be sent back to the manufacturer for repairs.

Don Gouthro gestures toward blind hill on Pond Shore Rd. where a high-speed collision occurred on Dec. 23rd sending a neighbour to hospital

Gouthro says he was hoping to get access to the speed data so that he can prove to the RCMP that excessive speeding is a chronic problem in his neighbourhood, where he says drivers regularly travel more than 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone.

“If I’m down alongside the road waiting for the school bus, I notice that some cars do actually slow down when they see their speed is over the limit, but for the most part, I don’t think it has much effect on most drivers,” Gouthro says.

He adds that the sign shows speeds to drivers who are travelling out of town toward Midgic and not to those who are heading inbound where, he says, their speeds are frequently even higher because they’re coming out of an 80 km/h zone.

When asked why the town has not installed speed signs on both sides of the road, Acton replied that the town follows advice from the RCMP on where to place the signs.

“To date, we have never placed two speed signs in one area in both directions,” he writes, suggesting that while it could be done if the RCMP recommended it, the town doesn’t have enough signs because one of its three signs was stolen a couple of years ago, a second has stopped working and is being sent back to the manufacturer for repairs, while the third is on Pond Shore Road.

Acton writes that after Gouthro appeared before town council last January, CAO Phil Handrahan asked the RCMP to step up their patrols in the area. Mayor Higham also wrote to the New Brunswick Department of Transportation asking for posted speed limits to be reduced to 50 km/h.

Gouthro said that last winter the RCMP did set up a couple of speed traps in the area and that’s when he noticed drivers began slowing down.

However, he says the Mounties are now doing drive-by patrols that don’t have much effect.

“I see the RCMP driving by and then two minutes later I see a car going like 83 or 84 kilometres (per hour) up the road behind them.”

Gouthro says he asked the police for more speed traps as recently as two weeks ago when he called to report a car travelling at 93 km/h.

“I asked them at that time if they would come up and set up a speed trap and they just simply told me that school is back in session and that they have other priorities, school zones and things that they had to look after, and they just didn’t have time do it.”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged | 4 Comments

Sackville planning bigger-than-ever Fall Fair next year to celebrate 20th anniversary

Sackville is planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Fall Fair next year with a full week of events that would stretch over two weekends.

Treasurer Michael Beal has allocated $75,000 in the draft of his 2021 budget, up from the $65,000 that the town had been planning to spend on this year’s Fall Fair which had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We looked at…what’s taken place with everybody, the mental well-being, the fact that we didn’t have the event this year, the fact that we looked at potentially running this over a full one week next year, versus just one weekend,” Beal told town council last night as he presented his draft budget.

He explained that town staff wanted to improve things by doing something “bigger and better” for the town.

“(We are) hoping that by next September, we are out of COVID times, there is potentially a vaccine and that we are able to operate our Fall Fair,” Beal said.

The extra $10,000 for the Fall Fair was one of the highlights of what the treasurer described as a “status-quo budget.”

The $11.4 million budget would keep the residential property tax rate at $1.56 per $100 of assessment while maintaining town programs and services.

And, for the second consecutive year, there would be no requirement for borrowing to pay for $1.6 million in general capital spending.

Budget summary

Beal explained that the $65,000 allocated for “council initiatives/priorities” could be used to subsidize arena user fees or for a study of improvements to the skateboard park.

The treasurer noted that the public had requested major spending of up to $500,ooo on the skate park, but town managers decided a smaller amount of money should be spent conducting a study first.

“Is it in the right place? Is it the right size?” Beal asked. “And what is the cost of it?”

He said a study would provide answers that council would need before deciding how much to invest in major improvements.

He also explained that the $35,111 allocated for climate change initiatives would include  a $10,000 summer student position.

As for public requests for about $100,000 in upgrades near Exit 506, Beal noted that the town has spent considerable amounts of money on sidewalks and improvements to the Cattail Ridge designated highway.

“So, we are not recommending a significant capital upgrade out there,” he said, although he added that the draft budget contains operational money for such items as flower pots and bike racks to beautify the area.

Beal said that town managers recommend delaying allocating significant capital money for the Exit 506 area until 2022 when more is known about potential private developments on Cattail Ridge across from the Ultramar.

Other budget highlights

Treasurer Michael Beal at an earlier council meeting

Beal said the town is planning to spend $83,000 next year on crosswalk upgrades, most of it for installation of a new traffic light controller at Sackville’s main downtown intersection.

He added that the rest would be spent on new LED signals at other crosswalks including the ones on Main Street at the booster pump and at the corner of Salem and Main.

The draft budget also allocates $90,000 for the extension of Wright Street — a project needed to facilitate construction of a seniors’ home and nursing care complex by JN Lafford Realty.

Beal said water and sewer rates will rise again next year to a minimum of $470 for the largest, single group of users. Council approved those rates in 2017 to help pay for upgrades to the town’s sewage lagoons.

The treasurer warned, however, that council will have to consider increasing rates again next year as the cost of upgrading the two lagoons on Crescent Street is now estimated at around $10 million while upgrading the one in Middle Sackville will likely cost about $4 million.

The upgrades will have to be completed sometime over the next 20 years.

In concluding his two-hour presentation, Beal said that COVID-19 was a constraint because lack of construction activity limited the growth of the town’s tax base.

“We’ve looked at creating a budget that meets within the realities of the pandemic, that does something for all areas and that does some expansion,” he added.

Town council will have a week to study the draft budget before it meets again on October 26th to discuss the proposals and ask questions about them.

Beal said he’s hoping council will be ready to approve the budget at its regular meeting on November 9th so that it can be submitted to the province by the November 15th deadline.

To read the draft budget, click here.

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