Sackville residents told to boil water because of ‘unforeseen mix-up’

Corner of Lorne and Bridge where water line construction began on Monday

Sackville residents who live in about 600 homes south of Lorne Street have been told to boil their tap water this week after unexpected problems developed with the installation of new water mains.

Town engineer Dwayne Acton told Sackville councillors last night that the trouble began Monday morning after a construction crew started the $5.9 million project by cutting the water line at the corner of Lorne and Bridge Streets.

Three customers on Lorne Street had been notified that their water would be cut off all morning, but the town soon started receiving calls from residents south of Lorne Street. Some reported reduced water pressure while others said they had no water at all.

Acton said engineers had planned to continue pumping water up St. James to serve those nearby neighbourhoods, but for some reason, the six inch water line couldn’t seem to handle the flow.

“We had to make a quick decision,” he said, adding that he notified the provincial department of health which imposed an immediate boil-water order.

He explained that boil orders are imposed automatically whenever pressure in the system drops below 20 pounds per-square-inch because water that has already entered a home can potentially flow back into the system creating high levels of bacteria.

“The department of health do not take any chances in this,” Acton told council. “It’s cut and dried, they tell us automatically [there’s a] boil order.”

He said town staff put the word out on Sentinel, the town’s emergency public alert system, as well as Twitter, Facebook and the town’s website. Staff also distributed flyers door-to-door to make sure no one drinks the water.

The boil order will remain in effect until two consecutive tests on separate days show the water is free of contamination and that can’t happen until Thursday at the earliest, Acton said.

“We apologize for the mix-up,” he added. “It was…unforeseen.”

For more information and a complete list of the affected neighbourhoods, click here.

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Sackville council OK’s labour pact and $5.9m Lorne St. dig

CUPE keeps seniority clause in new contract

Sackville Town Council and members of CUPE local 1188 have approved a new collective agreement that includes an overall eight per cent wage increase over six years.

The town’s 35 inside and outside workers will receive a one per cent increase in each of the first three years followed by two years of one-point-five per cent increases and a two per cent raise in 2021, the final year of the agreement.

In addition, some workers will receive incremental wage adjustments to bring them up to pay levels in comparable jobs.

The new agreement also provides for improved clothing and tool allowances.

In the end, the town withdrew its contentious proposal to remove seniority as a consideration when a temporary, part-time or casual employee applies for a full-time position.

After council voted to approve the agreement last night, Mayor Higham said he was pleased with it.

“It’s fair to some of those who needed to be adjusted,” Higham said, “but it’s still affordable to our citizens and they will continue to get the quality of services that they’ve been used to.”

Councillor Bill Evans, who moved the motion to approve the agreement, said it’s good news because nobody wanted a work stoppage.

“Neither party got what they wanted,” Evans said. “It was never a war, this was always negotiations, it was hardball, but we’ve got something we can all live with.”

Lorne St. construction

Town engineer Dwayne Acton

Also, at last night’s meeting, Council voted to approve the $5.9 million first phase of the Lorne Street reconstruction project. It awarded two contracts, both to the lowest bidders.

Bowser’s Construction Ltd. of Sackville won a contract for almost $3.4 million (HST included) to reconstruct Lorne Street from Bridge Street to Queens Road. The work will include replacing sewer, storm sewer and water pipes underneath the street as well as installing new curbs and gutters on both sides, a sidewalk and asphalt.

Town engineer Dwayne Action says the work will take 26 to 28 weeks.

Dexter Construction of Moncton won a contract for just over $1.9 million (HST included) to renew the trunk sewer that runs from Lorne Street underneath St. James Street to the sewage lift station on Charles Street. The work will also include reconstructing St. James Street and replacing local water and sewer lines as well as constructing a new drainage ditch on the southeast side of Lorne Street that will tie into the second phase of the project.

Acton says this work should take approximately 21 weeks. Both projects will run simultaneously.

Council had already approved a contract with Crandall Engineering Ltd. of Moncton to design both phases of the project and to monitor and supervise phase one. Last night councillors  approved an additional $266,777 for Crandall to oversee phase two.

Phase two

The town is hoping to issue tenders soon for the second phase that is still being designed.  Acton says it will involve getting rid of water from Lorne Street and the storm sewers under it.

“All the water will come down to Lorne,” he says, “work its way through a new ditch system, potential retention ponds, out through [another] new ditch system, out to an aboiteau, out through the aboiteau to the Bay of Fundy.”

Acton estimates the second phase will take from July to the end of the year although some work could be done next winter. He says both phases must be completed by March 31, 2018.

The federal government will pay half the cost while the province and the town will each pay one quarter.

No more flooding on Lorne?

Acton says it’s a misconception to think that the Lorne St. construction projects will mean no more flooding given that Sackville is a tidal community.

“So when the tide is in and no water can get out,” he says, “the idea of all this is that we’re able to store as much water as we can…so that we have the capacity to deal with that water and then, once the tide goes out, we have an appropriate size aboiteau to basically get rid of the water as quickly as possible.”

He adds, however, that in an era when climate change brings heavier rains in shorter periods, there will always be a risk of flooding although engineers are designing the new system to handle all but the worst, one-in-one-hundred-year storms.

Acton says he’s been working on Sackville’s flooding problems since he became town engineer three-and-a-half years ago.

He says that while he’s glad town council has approved phase one, the real work is just beginning.

“We’ve got a whole summer to get this done,” he says. “It’s a huge project and we have no control over the weather, so we’re going to be working extremely hard to ensure that we see this project through.”

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Tidal turbine retrieval and testing disrupting lobster season, violating environmental regulations, Fundy fishers complain

OpenHydro turbine

Bay of Fundy fishermen are complaining about disruptions to this year’s lobster season because of unexpected plans to re-deploy the tidal turbine now underwater at the FORCE site in the Minas Passage.

During meetings yesterday in Advocate Harbour and Parrsboro, officials from Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. appear to have warned fishermen they may have to move their traps to avoid damage if the company decides to shift the turbine westward to the Spencer’s Island area for further underwater testing.

The company has been trying to retrieve the OpenHydro turbine for the past several weeks, but the operation has been hampered because the turbine is entangled by an underwater line wrapped around its subsea base tubes. Cape Sharp is now using a remote-operated undersea vehicle to assess the situation — an operation that is expected to take several days.

Frustrated fisherman

Parrsboro fisherman Mark Taylor says he moved his 125 traps away from the Minas Passage to allow Cape Sharp to haul its turbine out for repairs. And now, he’s moving the traps again away from the Spencer’s Island area after being told the turbine will be going there for operational testing in calmer waters.

“We’re on our way out there now to gather them all up and move them again,” a frustrated Taylor told Warktimes in a telephone interview today.

“Our traps are really heavy and it’s quite a work load on my crew,” he added, “we just ended up moving them there last week, now we’ve got to move them again.”

Taylor said the disruption is costing him “big time” and he complains that the company gave the fishermen no notice.

“Jesus Christ if they had given us some notice, we wouldn’t have put them there [near Spencer’s Island] in the first place.”

Company confirms plans for further testing

Stacey Pineau, who speaks for Cape Sharp, says at yesterday’s meetings, the company did not ask the fishermen to move their traps at this time as the Spencer’s Island area is only under consideration for further testing.

“We were seeking information from them to determine if we might be able to work in this area,” Pineau said in an e-mail to Warktimes. Pineau added that the testing would take five days.

“Once the turbine is retrieved and before it is brought to the Port of Saint John for upgrades, the operations crew is going to take the opportunity to conduct operational tests of the turbine,” her e-mail said. “The location for this work is still being determined.”

But Mark Taylor insists the company said that the turbine would be going to an area near Spencer’s Island.

After testing is complete, Pineau confirmed that the turbine will then be moved to Saint John Harbour for repairs and upgrades to the electrical components in its Turbine Control Centre.

What about environmental regulations?

Meantime, the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association has issued a news release expressing shock that Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. plans to lower the turbine into the water for further testing in an area not covered by their environmental assessment approval.

“These plans are a flagrant violation of regulations governing tidal energy development in the Bay of Fundy,” the release states.

It also quotes Colin Sproul spokesman for the Fisherman’s Association and NDP candidate in the Nova Scotia provincial election: “No company or individual in Nova Scotia should be above the law. Our Executive and members call on the Government of Nova Scotia to take action in this case and enforce the regulatory framework for tidal energy development.”

Turbine off to bumpy start

The turbine was first deployed at the FORCE test site on November 7th and connected to the Nova Scotia Power grid the next day. Available figures show Cape Sharp sold less than $3,000 worth of electricity in its first seven weeks of operation.

For an earlier report on the decision to retrieve the turbine for repairs, click here.

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Sackville mayor casts tie-breaking vote on CAO bylaw

Coun. Bruce Phinney

What seemed like a routine matter turned into a lively, six-minute debate followed by a tied vote during Monday’s Sackville Town Council meeting.

It happened after Councillors Andrew Black and Bill Evans moved to rescind a town policy that spells out who is next in line if the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is temporarily unable to carry on.

The policy, adopted in 2007, designates the Town Treasurer followed by the Town Clerk and Director of Engineering as next in line in that order to serve as Acting Chief Administrative Officer.

However, the policy conflicts with a later bylaw which says the CAO may designate a senior town employee as his or her replacement and must file a letter with the mayor indicating that this action has been taken.

Phinney opposed

Councillor Bruce Phinney said he would vote against getting rid of the policy spelling out who should act as a temporary replacement for an absent CAO.

“I think the policy that’s in place now is really good because of the fact it tells exactly who’s in charge,” he said.

Phinney added that the list includes the town’s most experienced managers and he noted, for example, that Treasurer Michael Beal has already served as Acting CAO on a number of occasions during his 25 years of service with the town.

Phinney said there may be times when a CAO is unable to designate a successor and then, council would know automatically who the Acting CAO is.

“Councillor Phinney is entitled to his opinion,” Councillor Evans responded. “I think the Clerk’s office has reviewed this stuff and decided that this [policy] is not required because of our current bylaw. I support that,” Evans added.

Councillors Andrew Black and Allison Butcher voted with Evans to get rid of the policy while Deputy Mayor Joyce O’Neil and Councillor Ron Aiken voted with Phinney to retain it.

Councillors Michael Tower and Megan Mitton were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Mayor breaks tie

After a short hesitation, Mayor Higham voted to rescind the policy, but suggested the policy committee might look at what provisions should be in place if a CAO is unable to designate a temporary replacement.

The discussion came as CAO Phil Handrahan marks his fourth year in office after a turbulent history in which CAOs regularly came and went.

A search of the Sackville Tribune-Post archives shows, for example, that since the year 2000, there have been four CAOs.

Council dismissed Barb Campbell in 2005 after five years in office. She sued for wrongful dismissal and three days into the hearing, both sides agreed to a confidential settlement.

In July 2006, Barry Carroll took the job, but left in August 2009 for reasons that were never disclosed.

Eric Mourant was fired in August 2011 after only a year-and-a-half as CAO. The town had hired Moncton lawyer Kathleen Lordon to investigate his performance and at least one complaint made against him under the town’s workplace harassment policy.

Mourant filed a lawsuit in 2013 seeking re-instatement, but court records show the judge ruled against him and awarded the town $1,000 in costs.

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Councillor Aiken warns Lyme disease poses serious threat in Sackville area

Coun. Ron Aiken is part of Mt. A. research team studying Lyme disease

Town Councillor Ron Aiken is urging people in the Sackville area to be careful about ticks when they’re outdoors in the woods or in grassy areas.

During last night’s town council meeting, Aiken, who is a Mount Allison University biology professor, said the youngest ticks are so tiny they look like pepper and they’re more abundant here than federal health warnings indicate.

Later in an interview, he said about 15 to 20 per cent of ticks that are sent to the Mt. A. biology department for testing are found to be carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, a serious and debilitating illness with up to 79 symptoms.

“The adult ticks get up on the end of vegetation and wave around and attach onto people and pets,” Aiken said. “So, if you’ve got your dogs out there, give them a good check over.”

Mt. A. research team

Councillor Aiken is part of the newly established Mount Allison Lyme Research Network. It consists of 14 researchers who are studying everything from identifying and mapping the prevalence of tick species to better ways of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease.

“The Holy Grail right now in Lyme research is a good diagnostic test because we don’t have one,” Aiken said.

With support from the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Foundation, nine Mount Allison students will be spending the summer working on a number of projects including improving diagnosis, identifying new tick hybrids, exploring potential tick repellants and examining how victims of the disease are coping with its devastating effects.

Prevention is key

Mt. A. biology professor Vett Lloyd says the Lyme Research Network will also study more effective ways of communicating with the public about how to prevent the disease.

“It requires a change in behaviour,” Professor Lloyd told CBC Radio interviewer Jonna Brewer this morning.

“You have to check your kids when they’ve been out playing in the garden,” Lloyd added. “It’s a challenge to get people to realize that this has to be done before they pull a huge tick off their kid’s forehead.”

She added that, unfortunately, we will have to learn to live with this new threat.

“This is an emerging disease, it’s something that’s new and we have to adapt to it because courtesy of climate change, the ticks are here, they’re here to stay,” Lloyd said.

“We can certainly live with them. People have been living with ticks throughout the world. It’s just that it’s our turn now.”

For an earlier Warktimes report on a Canadian artist’s response to Lyme disease, click here.

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Town and CUPE to meet Friday after minister declares deadlock in labour talks

CUPE members attend March council meeting to support town workers

The town of Sackville and its unionized employees have agreed to meet on Friday with a provincial mediator in an attempt to head off a strike or lockout that could come as early as next week.

Marcos Salib, who represents the 35 members of CUPE local 1188, says the union applied for mediation last week after the provincial Minister of Labour officially declared a deadlock in the negotiations. The inside and outside workers have been without a contract since December 31, 2015.

The province appointed the mediator after the union agreed not to hold a strike vote and the town promised not to lock out its workers until both sides meet on Friday. The last face-to-face meeting was on February 22nd.

Salib says he’s hoping the town and the union can resolve the issue of whether seniority will count when a part-time, temporary or contract employee applies for a full-time position.

The union says the town has put forth a clause that proposes to remove seniority rights. The clause, which would only apply to employees hired after January 1, 2017, reads:

Notwithstanding any other article in this agreement, non-full-time employees shall be entitled to apply for an internally posted full-time position but will be considered for the position based on personal merits only and will not be provided preferential consideration because of union membership and/or seniority.

CUPE local 1188 represents the town’s clerical employees, public works staff, school crossing guards as well as workers at the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre and the Visitor Information Centre.

New fire truck over budget

At their meeting last night, Sackville councillors heard that a new pumper/tanker for the town’s fleet of fire trucks will cost $450,528 plus HST. That’s nearly $67,000 more than had been budgeted.

Fire chief Craig Bowser said the town received two bids to supply the truck, both over the $383,546 budget. Only one of the bids, from Metal Fab Ltd. of Centreville, N.B., met the town’s requirements.

Bowser said fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar affected the cost of the truck since many of its parts are imported from the U.S. He added that $34,000 that had not been spent in last year’s capital budget and an additional $10,000 from this year’s budget would help reduce the gap if Council approves the purchase at its meeting next week.

CAO Phil Handrahan said it’s not uncommon for such bids to come in over budget and this one is “not too far out of the ballpark” under all the various circumstances.

To listen to the complete, nine-and-a-half minute discussion about the new fire truck, click on the audio player.

Boom lift truck

Meantime, Council will also be asked next week to approve spending $45,885 (including HST) for the purchase of a used boom lift bucket vehicle from Atlantic Cat rentals in Moncton.

Town engineer Dwayne Action explained that the machine is needed for such jobs as putting up and removing banners, flower baskets and Christmas decorations; cleaning the high beams at the Civic Centre and town hall windows as well as changing filters at the fire department.

The town had budgeted $50,000 for the purchase.

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Sackville group lobbies for 21st century schools

Mayor Higham addressing education meeting yesterday at Town Hall

Mayor John Higham says Sackville is ready to benefit from a 10-year provincial education plan that encourages communities to develop new ways of learning for the 21st century.

“I think the opportunities are immense and that this community is ready for them,” Higham told about 75 people Thursday at Town Hall.

The mayor made his remarks at the opening of a two-hour discussion organized by Sackville Schools 2020, the community group established almost two years ago.

So far, the group has been lobbying officials at the provincial and district school levels for an integrated approach to learning in a town with elementary, middle and high schools, a public university, the Tantramar Seniors’ College and many other community and government organizations.

Sackville Schools 2020 member Craig Evans told yesterday’s meeting that the accounting firm Ernst and Young will issue a report soon on its projections for the number of public school students that will need to be educated in Sackville in the coming decades. The firm is also looking at the costs of repairing or replacing the nearly 70-year-old Marshview Middle School and the half-century-old Tantramar Regional High.

In an information brochure distributed at the meeting, the group says it’s time “to look at the possibility of building new educational infrastructure that is not only healthier, but creates an envelope that allows schooling based in 21st century teaching principles.”

Changes badly needed

L to R: Gregg Ingersoll, Chris Treadwell and Molly Hurd answering questions at the Town Hall meeting

There seemed to be broad agreement among speakers at yesterday’s meeting that Sackville needs a new approach to learning.

Chris Treadwell, assistant deputy minister of education, suggested the province’s new education plan aims to change a school system that relies on outdated methods, some of them more than a century old.

And he praised Sackville’s proposed community-based approach to learning.

“Sackville 2020 is a model to others, all communities should be encouraged to break away from the status quo,” he said. “Your courage to be a pioneer is a powerful example of New Brunswick grit and can-do attitude.”

Gregg Ingersoll, superintendent of the Anglophone East School District, said the New Brunswick education system has not kept pace with Internet-based technologies that are now more than two decades old.

He said that in the old way of teaching, the teacher shared knowledge with students who were expected to “regurgitate that back” in the same way it was taught.

“But the shift that has to happen,” he added, “is that the teacher is part of the sharing of the knowledge, the facilitator, but they use technology to help them deliver that and the students use what they learn and apply it.”

Educational themes and learning spaces

Molly Hurd, a long-time teacher and author of the book, Best School in the Worlddescribed her involvement with a small progressive, independent school in Halifax where learning is integrated using broad themes. She said, for example, oceans served as one theme enabling students to learn a broad range of core subjects while studying the oceans. They also went on field trips and heard from classroom guests.

And, James Seaman, an educational architect, talked via video link about how new schools are being built with more open, collaborative learning spaces instead of rows of isolated classrooms connected by hallways.

After the meeting, Craig Evans of Sackville Schools 2020, said he was pleased that New Brunswick’s education officials strongly supported his group’s approach.

He said there are still hurdles to overcome in getting money allocated for a new school or schools, but everyone appears to share the same philosophy.

“If you look at the levels that need to be aligned, provincial department of education, local district, they’re all pointing in the same direction,” Evans said. “So, we feel good about that.”

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