After a three year absence, Shep, the world’s largest semipalmated sandpiper, returned to the village square in Dorchester on Saturday, even though Tantramar town council has not approved installation of the giant statue or allocated money for it.
“I’m calling it The Dirty Bird,” says Bill Steele, who operates the Dorchester Jail Bed & Breakfast, only a stone’s throw from the statue.
“I mean it’s a great tourist draw and that’s good for me, but it’s being done without following proper procedures,” he says. “The village council didn’t commission the artist and never approved the project.”
Steele points out that when Dorchester was amalgamated with Sackville and three rural local service districts, the province drafted a budget that had no money in it for the sandpiper statue and the new town of Tantramar hasn’t approved any for it either.
“The statue was municipal property taken without any permission – repaired – and reinstalled without any public money,” Steele wrote in an earlier Facebook message.
He says he has filed a formal municipal code of conduct complaint against local Councillor Debbie Wiggins-Colwell raising “questions behind how our public asset got in the hands of private citizens with no authority in place.”
When reached by telephone, Councillor Wiggins-Colwell said she hadn’t heard about Steele’s formal complaint against her and emphasized that citizens were overwhelmingly behind the effort to get the statue back in the village square.
“I can say this has been an ongoing project for two years and finally Shep is here in a bird-friendly town where tourism is so important,” she said, referring further questions to Kara Becker, a former deputy mayor in the village who has been leading efforts to reinstate the statue.
“There’s a lot of community support,” Becker said during a telephone interview. “We’ve raised enough money to pay for Shep three times over.”
She notes that she appeared before Tantramar council on March 14th asking it to collaborate with citizens so that the statue could be restored in time for this year’s Sandpiper Festival and the return of the migrating shorebirds to the Bay of Fundy in August.
Although Mayor Andrew Black said he understood the economic importance of the statue and the desire to get it back, Becker complains that there was no follow up from the town and when she e-mailed later to ask about citizens donating to the project, she received this response from CAO Jennifer Borne:
At this time Tantramar is not able to accept financial donations or any donation that requires a tax-receipt post-reform as a result of the formation of a new entity. In addition to this, Tantramar Council has not accepted this particular project.
“So, we just went ahead and put the statue back because it’s so important to us,” Becker says. “It’s pretty much the only thing we have.”
Meanwhile a report from the Canadian Press news agency quotes an e-mailed statement from Mayor Black:
“The municipality of Tantramar and its council did not commission this work to be done nor request or approve the installation of this statue on municipally owned land.”
The news agency report, carried by Global news, adds that when Black was asked if the statue would be removed, he replied that the matter won’t be discussed until municipal offices reopen on Tuesday.
“I predict it will be taken down in the next few days,” Bill Steele tells Warktimes.
But Kara Becker warns that protesting citizens would be out in the streets waving placards to defend it.
To read the full report from the Canadian Press, click here.
For an extensive CHMA background report as well as information about Oromocto artist Robin Hanson, who created the $9300 statue of Shep, click here.