Phinney votes no as Tantramar council approves $200K to fix flood control glitch

Councillor Bruce Phinney

Tantramar Councillor Bruce Phinney says he’d like to know who’s responsible for an an apparent error that will cost municipal taxpayers an extra $206,050.

“I have to be honest right up front, I’m very upset about this,” Phinney said during last night’s council meeting.

“I’d like to find out who is responsible for this oversight if it’s possible.”

He explained that he could not in good conscience vote to allocate the more than $200,000 in extra funds needed before the final phase of the Lorne Street flood control project can be completed.

Town Engineer Jon Eppell had recommended that council allocate the money over the next couple of years.

It will be used to pay Ducks Unlimited Canada for the costs of restoring, enhancing or creating 6.34 hectares (15.66 acres) of wetlands to compensate for losses when contractors dig a big stormwater retention pond behind the community gardens on Charles Street later this year.

Project could ‘grind to a halt

“Just so council is clear. If we don’t come up with a wetland compensation plan that we can present to environment, the project is going to grind to a halt,” Eppell said in response to Phinney’s comments.

He was referring to wetland compensation rules or ratios imposed by the provincial department of the environment.

“I’ve been told verbally, I have not seen it in writing, that the new ratios of [wetland] compensation came into effect in 2020,” Eppell said.

However, Sackville applied for about $4 million in federal and provincial money for the final phase of the Lorne Street project the year before — in 2019. The town resubmitted its application in January 2021 and the money finally came through in March 2022.

The next month, in April 2022, Sackville Town Council authorized the mayor to sign a $485,000 contract with the engineering firm Englobe (formerly Crandall engineering) to design the project. It’s the same firm that oversaw Phases I and II of the project.

When Sackville received the cost-shared money for Phase III, it seems no one realized that the province had changed the rules on wetland conservation two years before.

No additional money

Town Engineer Jon Eppell

Eppell, who did not become town engineer until August 2022, says in a perfect world, Englobe would have noticed the change, but even if it had, there were no additional funds available from the other levels of government and so, Tantramar will have to shoulder the additional cost on its own.

At last night’s meeting, Councillor Michael Tower said the extra bill for flood control left “a bad taste” in his mouth.

“But I also agree with Mr. Eppell that we want this project finished. The Isthmus is 10-years away,” he added referring to plans to reinforce dykes on the strip of land between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“If we’re going to try to delay things,” he said, “we could pay for it with all this rain we’ve been getting, but missing.”

When the vote was called on allocating the extra money for wetland compensation, only Councillor Phinney voted against it.

For more information from the Nature Trust of New Brunswick on wetlands and the provincial rules that govern them, click here.

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4 Responses to Phinney votes no as Tantramar council approves $200K to fix flood control glitch

  1. Percy Best says:

    Eight years ago when I met with Kevin Bekkers, the NS Agriculture Resource Coordinator in charge of constructing the new aboiteau at the mouth of the LePlanche River by Amherst, he told me that the factor was 2 to1 at the time for altering existing wetlands to drylands. This was a major need as the old aboiteau was about a kilometer further upstream.

    Bekkers informed me that he was able to locate many different small areas around the perimeter of Nova Scotia that they were able to change from dryland to wetland to give them what they needed for their permit to proceed.

    It is quite shocking that a high priced consulting company, such as Englobe, would not have anyone on staff that would recognize the need to comply with the wetland alteration requirements when they drew up the tender documents for this section of the Lorne Street Flood Mitigation Project. Perhaps Englobe is the one that should be footing the bill for this gross oversight.

    Maybe just deduct the $206,050. from their invoice that they will be presenting to our town for the project management. That would be a rather simple and honorable thing to do I would think.

  2. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People. says:

    This on going debacle has not hit the 40% overrun that is typical of these projects. This is the Canadian norm. An astute citizen of Dorchester once observed looking directly at me with a wry smile “we have a great country; but no one to lead it.” Meaning of course from the Feds right down to local level.
    Reading the various opinions offered it would seen that “policy governance ” has failed again No one currently is offering solutions that have a real fix.
    Thr proff is the callous disregard for public tax dollars, and consistently poor decisions federally provcially and regionally. This does not look like a bright future.

  3. S.A. Cunliffe says:

    Scrap these wetlands and conservationists never ending projects for profit… if you all think this is not some sort of corruption running here then I suggest you take your rose coloured ‘governance’ glasses off and see what is taking place — crony capitalism for the people who profit from landscaping nature and telling us its for “climate change”… there is no limit to the number of projects they can roll out and tell us that we need them … or else.. time to nip it in the bud … as ARNOLD said below so succinctly its a SCAM. If the mayor and councillors cannot see how they are being played it is time to vote them out come election time. Growing this region will require people who are savvy and not easily duped. Growth means prosperity for people not just a few non-contributing non-profit orgs… such as Duck Profits Unlimited.

  4. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People. says:

    The makeshift council that has recused itself of any oversight is responsible. When the political, for election purposes, wards get the new budget on January 1 2024 and realize that there will be no shovel turned in their zones for the next 30 years, the pitch forks will be coming. That’s the way it is, isn’t it?

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