More than 119 years of Sackville history came to an unceremonious conclusion on Wednesday when Mayor Shawn Mesheau declared the final meeting of town council adjourned.
“I think that’s momentous,” Councillor Sabine Dietz told reporters a few minutes later outside the Chamber.
“I think we should have marked that,” she said.
“The Town of Sackville has come to an end.”
Aside from a brief presentation of certificates to members who will not be serving on the new Tantramar council and the mayor’s words of appreciation for town staff, there was nothing to mark the end of a municipal era that began when Lower Sackville was incorporated as a town on February 5, 1903.
More than seven decades later, on August 15, 1975, Middle and Upper Sackville were added along with Fairfield and most of Frosty Hollow.
Dietz suggested wistfully that perhaps the latest amalgamation couldn’t be marked ceremonially because there’s too much uncertainty about Tantramar’s future.
“When you have staff that don’t know where they’re going on January the 1st and what they’re doing,” she said, “it’s a disgrace.”
She was referring to the fact that only the new Chief Administrative Officer, Jennifer Borne, has been hired, with the province yet to announce who might be appointed to other senior staff positions.
And, Sackville’s acting CAO, Michael Beal, says he hasn’t heard anything from the province about next year’s municipal budget.
Large reserve funds
Judging from Beal’s comments to council, however, Sackville will be leaving substantial financial reserves thanks in part to money saved this year through vacancies (town engineer, public works, parks and facilities staff plus the RCMP community policing officer) as well as projects that were budgeted for, but not completed, including upgrades to Queen’s Road that had to be postponed because the provincial grant did not come through and sidewalk renewals that weren’t done because of staff shortages.
Beal said that the new town could use the reserves to pay for major projects without having to borrow.
The $3.5 million in the general capital reserve, for example, could pay for a variety of projects including the town’s share of Phase III of the Lorne Street flood control project ($1.8 to $2 million) and an $800,000 fire truck.
Beal anticipates adding to the $1.1 million in the utility capital reserve to pay for upgrades to the town’s sewage lagoons that will have to be done in coming years to meet environmental standards. He said the town’s share of that project would likely be around $3.75 million.
Beal emphasized the importance of reserve funds in avoiding interest payments on borrowed money.
“If we didn’t have this money, we would be borrowing,” he said.
“The philosophy has been, since I’ve been Treasurer, to push to eliminate the debt so that we’re able to do these projects and borrow from ourselves.”