Sackville, Dorchester and surrounding LSDs will be known as Tantramar if the province approves the name chosen by a committee of elected and appointed local officials.
In today’s announcement, Robert Corkerton, deputy mayor of Dorchester, said the name Tantramar “has been submitted to the provincial government and will become official once regulations are adopted over the summer.”
CHMA also quotes him as saying that the choice was based on what the committee heard about the proposed names Beauséjour Township and Tantramar Township with an overwhelming majority favouring Tantramar.
The committee decided to drop the word township.
Cost of regional services
Meantime, Sackville Councillor Sabine Dietz has expressed concern over the financial implications of municipal amalgamation.
During Monday’s town council meeting, she referred to a provincial draft document circulated to councillors outlining more details about the expanded role of the Southeast Regional Service Commission (SERSC) which now provides land use planning and waste disposal services to municipalities in southeastern New Brunswick including Sackville.
Councillor Sabine Dietz
Starting next year, SERSC will provide a wide range of additional services such as regional economic development, tourism promotion, community development and regional transportation while co-ordinating the cost sharing of what the document calls “regional sport, recreational and cultural infrastructure.”
Dietz pointed out that the document indicates that the costs of these SERSC services to municipalities will be based on a proportionate share of the tax base and population without giving more details.
She said having to pay for more regional services would have implications for local budget priorities and so, more details are needed.
“There’s not a whole lot of additional information to add right now,” said CAO Jamie Burke.
He added that he would be attending a SERSC meeting in Moncton this week to discuss local government reform and hoped to have more information for next month’s council meeting.
Treasurer Michael Beal reported that Sackville is paying $338,000 this year to SERSC mainly for land use planning and garbage disposal.
Sackville’s deputy mayor has announced that the town’s fire department is looking forward to welcoming up to five new recruits within the next couple of weeks.
“Over the next six months, the new recruits will be able to train alongside our team of professional firefighters and participate in all functions and fundraisers within the fire department operations,” Andrew Black said during Monday night’s town council meeting.
He also mentioned that during a meeting of the public safety liaison committee, there had been discussion of fire department response times as well as the numbers of volunteer firefighters who respond to emergency calls.
Although Thurston did not mention specifics, a number of current and former firefighters have expressed concerns that poor morale and a dwindling number of volunteers have affected the department’s performance.
At last night’s council meeting, Chief Craig Bowser said the fire service now has 34 firefighters, down from its full roster of 43.
He added that if five new recruits are accepted, they would bring the roster up to 39.
The Chief also indicated that he’s satisfied with current response times and attendance based on a wide range of factors including the time of day and whether calls come in on weekends or during the summer when volunteers are on vacation.
Fire Chief Craig Bowser
“Overall, the response times are relatively OK and fine as we see it, but there are those one-offs where we have to take into consideration that members are volunteers and they do have work and some people do work outside of town as well,” Bowser said.
He added that keeping that bigger picture in mind, Sackville Fire & Rescue can always seek additional help from firefighters in Point de Bute and Dorchester.
Meantime, Councillor Bruce Phinney, who serves on the bylaw liaison committee, told council that the first draft of a new bylaw governing the fire department is now complete and will be reviewed by Chief Bowser, the deputy chief and company officers.
CAO Jamie Burke has suggested previously that the bylaw revision came in response to recommendations from the consultants the town hired last year after Warktimes reported persistent bullying and harassment within the fire department had led to about 17 resignations over five years.
The town has refused to make the Montana consultants’ report and its 20 recommendations public on the grounds that they concern personnel matters.
Town Treasurer Michael Beal says that so far, Montana has been paid $27,548.90 for its workplace assessment of Sackville Fire and Rescue.
The company was also hired to conduct a workplace assessment for all town staff at a cost so far of $27,617.56.
Sackville Mayor Shawn Mesheau says the municipal reform transition committee will meet behind closed doors on Wednesday, May 11th to discuss whether to choose Tantramar Township or Beauséjour Township as the name for the new municipality now known as Entity 40.
He adds that, among other things, the committee will look at the many e-mails it has received about the names via the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s really good that there’s people who are engaged and that are providing the feedback,” Mesheau said in an interview on Friday after he and other municipal representatives met privately with Daniel Allain, the minister of local government reform.
The mayor described the meeting with Allain as “encouraging” because it focused on local services including the maintenance of highways, the Sackville hospital and schools.
He added that when they meet on Wednesday to discuss the new name, committee representatives from Sackville, Dorchester and the surrounding local service districts will also consider what they’ve heard from local residents.
Voters there preferred the name Grand Bay-Westfield over four others: Nerepis Valley, Westfield, Hillandale and Three Rivers.
Mesheau says the voting was a local initiative.
“That was something that Grand Bay-Westfield did on their own,” he says. “Their community paid for it, so everything that was done there was all financed through their budget.”
He says the transition committee here could have gone for a vote, but decided instead to be “clear and concise” by choosing names that resonate with residents, providing historical information and then soliciting other suggestions as well as feedback on the names.
The deadline for submitting the new name to the province is Monday, May 16.
Sackville town councillors Sabine Dietz and Bill Evans boycotted a meeting today with Daniel Allain, New Brunswick’s minister of local government.
Dietz served notice during Monday’s council meeting that she would not be attending.
She said she was protesting against Allain’s refusal to meet with town council before final decisions were made on municipal reform including the forced amalgamation of Sackville with Dorchester and surrounding local service districts (LSDs).
Evans echoed her comments, but said Monday he planned to attend to give Allain a blunt message.
“I’ve decided I have an obligation to go and say to the minister, ‘It would have been really nice if you had met with us when we still had things to decide and it wasn’t a fait accompli,'” he declared.
But, in a public letter he e-mailed to Allain the next day, Evans said he saw no point in the meeting, but would express his complaints about municipal reform in writing instead.
“This process has been flawed at every step: from dishonest assurances about no forced amalgamation, through an undemocratic process to an undemocratic outcome, with a sham of a consultation process,” Evans wrote.
Daniel Allain speaks with Councillor Bruce Phinney after today’s meeting
Today after his closed-door meeting at town hall with the mayors and councillors from Sackville and Dorchester as well as representatives from local LSDs, Allain repeated to reporters what he said in his e-mailed reply to Evans: the government had consulted widely about municipal reform.
“There’s some councillors that were in constant communications with me and constant communications with the department and [they] actually participated,” Allain said.
“If there’s some people on council that did not do their job, that’s up to the population to look at that,” he added.
“We’ve been clear, clear in all [of] the process. We have a website, you can check the kilometres on my car, we did over 65,000 clicks, so we did over 200 public sessions, meetings with municipal representatives [and] LSD representatives,” Allain said.
He rejected suggestions that all of the important decisions about municipal reform have been made in private and said today’s closed meeting was an opportunity for a free and frank exchange of views.
“Why couldn’t we [reporters] attend this meeting?” I asked.
“How would it have improved it?” Allain replied. “We had a great discussion.”
He suggested the municipal representatives who attended the meeting would take information from it back to their constituents.
“My job as minister of local government is to make sure we co-ordinate, make sure that we get this reform that we’ve been asking for, for 25 years,” Allain said.
“It’s not easy having these discussions. It’s actually emotional,” he added. “We’re making decisions for the next 50 years, so we’re going to take our time and there are some exercises that are in public, there are some exercises in private.”
The mother of a young daughter who lives in a three-bedroom home on Squire Street appealed to town council last night for help in solving Sackville’s housing crisis.
Ashley Legere, who works for a non-profit organization finding housing for 185 homeless people in Moncton, says she is now facing homelessness herself.
“As of Saturday, my rental has been sold and I have three months to move out of my home, the only home my daughter has ever known,” she told council.
Legere explained that her rent is $1250 per month including utilities, but that so far, the only comparable housing she can find in Sackville is an unaffordable $2400 monthly with nothing included.
She said she lives in Sackville because the town is a safe place for families and she knows from first-hand experience with her homeless clients in Moncton that the shelters there are scary places.
“The thought of having to give my daughter to someone, so I could end up there, is terrifying,” she said.
“I have a very good job, I’m educated, I’m articulate, I work very hard,” she added, “and the thought of having to leave here or be homeless here is unacceptable.”
Affordable housing group
Aside from her work with the homeless in Moncton, Legere serves as president of the board of directors at Sackville’s Playschool Inc., a licensed early childhood program and last night at council, she spoke as a member of the newly formed Tantramar Affordable Housing Initiative.
Alice Cotton, who helped organize the Housing Initiative, told council there are almost no apartments available in Sackville.
“Seniors, people on a fixed income and people on welfare cannot find anything appropriate to their income and needs, and many have had to resort to living with family members in substandard conditions, or couch surf, and eventually leave Sackville, thereby losing the connections and supports they had in this community,” Cotton said.
She added that many houses with apartments are being converted into single family homes creating a shortage of rental units even as Sackville’s population increases and Mount Allison is preparing this fall for its largest influx of students in 20 years.
Cotton said that rising rents have created hardship.
“Social Assistance income for a couple is about $850 per month, most rents for a one-bedroom apartment are above this amount, leaving nothing for other basic needs like food,” she explained.
“Since September, the Sackville Food Bank has added 51 new households, increasing by 50 per cent.”
Cotton appealed to town council to consider granting permission for mini-homes, recreational vehicles or other temporary structures while working on longer-term housing solutions.
Meantime, council heard from Reginald Beal, a father of three young children, a lifelong Sackville resident and full-time worker, who has been looking for housing for the last six months.
“I’ve been told by multiple, different people here in Sackville that they don’t want to rent to families,” he said. “It’s students only.”
He said he’s tried everything, but there’s nothing available.
“I just want somewheres to be able to take my family and call it home,” he added.
“It’s very scary, it’s a very serious situation,” he said. “We need solutions, we need help.”
Later, Teresa Estabrooks told council she left an apartment where she paid only $350 because it had rats.
“I came down with parasites because rats were living in my apartment,” she said, adding that after she moved into another apartment, she had to leave when the building was sold.
“I’ve gone through H-E-L-L the last couple of months, not knowing where I was going to live.”
Estabrooks said she is on a fixed income.
“I’m 52-years-old and they put me in a seniors’ home, that’s how the housing is here in this town,” she added.
“I took it because I had to, but I’m not ready yet.”
Members of council agreed that the lack of affordable housing is a crisis in Sackville as well as across New Brunswick and in other parts of Canada.
Deputy Mayor Andrew Black said the town should be ready to respond when promised federal construction money becomes available in Ottawa’s new $4 billion Housing Accelerator Fund.
Councillor Sabine Dietz
Councillor Sabine Dietz suggested that the Tantramar Affordable Housing Initiative invite one or two councillors to its meetings as representatives so they can keep the rest of council up to date on the latest discussions.
She also suggested that council should require developers to include affordable rental units as part of new housing projects when the province carries through on its promise to allow municipalities to do this.
Councillors Bruce Phinney and Bill Evans promised to help in any ways they could.
“It’s outrageous that anybody can be working full time and not be able to afford housing,” Evans said.
“That has to be fixed and that’s something that is beyond a municipal mandate, but the fact that we can’t deal with that explicitly doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do and so, I personally, can commit to working with you to do something, whatever we can do, to help resolve this crisis.”
To read Alice Cotton’s presentation to council on behalf of the Tantramar Affordable Housing Initiative, click here.
The town’s refusal to release a consultant’s report on the troubled Sackville Fire Department points to serious shortcomings in New Brunswick’s Right to Information and Protection of PrivacyAct (RTIPPA), according to experts.
They add that New Brunswick officials have too much leeway under RTIPPA to deny access to information that they want to keep secret.
Such long delays coupled with sweeping restrictions on the release of information and a lack of effective oversight have made New Brunswick one of the hardest places to get government information, according to two experts who have studied RTIPPA.
“Despite the early promise of New Brunswick’s groundbreaking right to information legislation, successive governments have undermined its purpose and value,” writes Mount Allison University librarian Anita Cannon in the conclusion to her study published in the latest issue of the Journal of New Brunswick Studies.
“Amendments made over the years have failed to address some of its most serious weaknesses and have instead introduced restrictions that have limited access further,” her study adds.
“The act now compares poorly with other provincial and territorial acts in Canada and is far from meeting international standards.”
During a telephone interview this week, Cannon explained that, as the university’s government information librarian, she is very familiar with RTIPPA, but conducting in-depth research for her academic paper was still a bit surprising.
“I was slightly surprised at how bad it (the law) was,” she says. “The more I learned, the worse it looked.”
Cannon’s comments were echoed by Toby Mendel, executive director of the Centre for Law and Democracy in Halifax.
During an interview this week with CHMA reporter Erica Butler, Mendel said that Canada ranks 52nd out of 136 countries on the Centre’s detailed right to information (RTI) rating scale.
And within Canada itself, New Brunswick and Alberta are tied for 13th and last place when compared with the federal government, other provinces and the three territories.
“The fundamentals are wrong, fundamentally wrong in New Brunswick, worse than anywhere in Canada, and that’s within a framework of fairly poor performance as compared to the rest of the world,” Mendel says.
Gaps in RTIPPA
Anita Cannon and Toby Mendel say the unsuccessful Warktimes request for the Montana report illustrates several key weaknesses in New Brunswick’s Right to Information law. Here’s a summary:
RTIPPA contains too many exceptions allowing officials to withhold broad classes of information without having to show that releasing it would cause significant harm. Two of those exceptions were cited to deny access to the Montana report.
(1) In justifying the town’s refusal to provide the report or any of its recommendations, Sackville Town Clerk Donna Beal cited Section 20 of RTIPPA, the section that bans the release of information: that would reveal (a) the substance of records made by an investigator providing advice or recommendations of the investigator in relation to a harassment investigation or a personnel investigation, (b) the substance of other records relating to the harassment investigation or the personnel investigation.”
Cannon points out that aside from vague wording, the term “substance of records” isn’t defined anywhere in the Act. Mendel says that weak laws like RTIPPA have “overbroad, vague exceptions” like this allowing officials who want to keep information secret to use them to refuse access. “It sounds a little bit like that might be what’s going on in this case,” he adds.
(2) In reviewing the town’s refusal as a public body to release the report, the Ombud’s office not only supported the town’s reliance on Section 20, but added another one of its own, Section 26, which states that any information can be withheld if disclosure could reasonably be expected to reveal (a) advice, opinions, proposals or recommendations developed by or for the public body…(c) plans relating to the management of personnel or the administration of the public body that have not yet been implemented…(e) information, including the proposed plans, policies or projects of a public body, the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to result in disclosure of a pending policy or budgetary decision.
Both Cannon and Mendel say Section 26 is so broad, it could be used to deny access to almost any information. Mendel also said he found it peculiar that an investigator in the Ombud’s office would go out of her way to justify the town’s refusal using arguments that the town itself did not use. “I thought that was peculiar and it doesn’t give me a great sense that this person wishes to strongly promote access to information,” he added.
The two experts also cited international legal standards requiring officials to show that disclosing information would cause harm to a legitimate interest. RTIPPA does not require officials to show harm, but allows them instead to exclude broad categories of information. Cannon and Mendel said it’s common in other provinces to release documents with information redacted or blanked out if its release would cause harm rather than withholding the whole document as Sackville has done with the Montana report.
(B) Public interest override
Cannon and Mendel say that international standards require a public interest override allowing information to be released even if it falls within an exception. “This story, which is sparked by complaints of bullying and harassment, obviously has very, very important…public interest benefits to it, so even if some private information was included, that would have to be very, very sensitive information to outweigh this public interest,” Mendel said.
(C) Oversight and appeals
Cannon and Mendel point out that New Brunswick had a dedicated Information and Privacy Commissioner from 2010 to 2017, but when Anne Bertrand retired, her office was folded into ones that handle a wide range of other matters. Since 2019, complaints about lack of access to information have been handled by the Ombud’s office.
“Despite the multiple mandates and heavy workload, the level of funding for the Office of the Ombud has been consistently low in New Brunswick,” Cannon writes.
“For a current picture that takes into consideration the combined mandates, per capita funding for the New Brunswick and Manitoba Offices of the Ombud was compared with the other eight provincial Offices of the Ombud and Information Commissioner combined, using each province’s 2020-21 Budget Estimates and Statistics Canada’s 2020 population estimates. Funding was highest in Saskatchewan at $5.51 per capita, well over double New Brunswick’s funding of $1.90, the lowest in Canada. Funding amounts were as follows: Saskatchewan $5.51, Newfoundland & Labrador $4.61, Ontario $3.33, BC $3.17, Quebec $3.13, Manitoba $2.93, Nova Scotia $2.88, Alberta $2.53, PEI $2.30, New Brunswick $1.90.”
Both Cannon and Mendel also say the NB Ombud should have the legal power to order the release of withheld information rather than just making recommendations.
Mendel says what he calls “binding order-making powers” would light a fire under recalcitrant officials bent on maintaining undue secrecy. He adds the Centre for Law and Democracy favours giving the Ombud the power to impose small fines on officials who obstruct access to information.
“Small fines…would be very visible and very embarrassing and I think (they) would also change behaviour quite a bit.”
To read Anita Cannon’s academic study of RTIPPA, click here.
To read Erica Butler’s story and listen to her interview with Toby Mendel, click here.
New Brunswick’s newly appointed Ombud has decided the town was right when it refused to release a consultant’s report that assessed working conditions within Sackville Fire & Rescue.
In a letter e-mailed today to Warktimes, Ombud Marie-France Pelletier writes that the confidentiality of the report from Montana Consulting of Moncton is protected under Section 20 of the Right to Information and Protection of PrivacyAct (RTIPPA).
That section excludes the release of records that pertain to investigations into personnel or harassment matters.
The town hired Montana Consulting after Warktimes reported a year ago that about 17 volunteer firefighters had resigned over a five-year period because of persistent bullying, sexism, intimidation and favouritism within the department.
Since it received the Montana report last September, the town has refused all requests to release it on the grounds that its results and 20 recommendations are “human resources related” and therefore, should remain confidential.
In today’s letter, Pelletier sides with the town and says no further investigation is needed.
Her ruling caps a year-long sequence of events including a series of legal arguments between The New Wark Times and the Ombud’s office.
April 13, 2021: Warktimes publishes its first report on the troubled workplace in Sackville Fire & Rescue. CAO Jamie Burke responds: “As these are personnel matters, we will not be providing further comment.”
July 6, 2021: Sackville firefighter Laura Thurston urges town council to make sure its members read and discuss the full report and recommendations from Montana Consulting rather than relying on a summary of it prepared by the CAO.
September 20, 2021: Warktimes writes to Town Clerk Donna Beal requesting a copy of the Montana report under New Brunswick’s Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
October 19, 2021: Beal responds by denying access to the report citing Section 20 of RTIPPA, which refers to personnel or harassment investigations.
November 22, 2021: Warktimes files a complaint with the Ombud arguing that:
I feel the town is violating the spirit of RTIPPA, which is that information should be public with specific exceptions. In this case, the town is refusing to release any part of the Workplace Assessment including any of its 20 recommendations. This is a matter of considerable public interest since local taxpayers pay almost a million dollars per year for the fire protection provided by volunteers. Aside from the complaints from the firefighters themselves, there are safety implications for the town, especially when firefighters are quitting the department. The town CAO has said all of the recommendations will be implemented, but it won’t be possible to judge that if they are kept confidential. The CAO is also in a potential conflict of interest since several current and former firefighters complained that neither he nor his predecessor responded to their concerns.
January 26, 2022: Chantal Gionet-Bergeron, senior legal counsel in the Ombud’s office sends a lengthy e-mail arguing, in effect, the town was right to refuse access to the Montana report under Section 20 of RTIPPA. She also cites a previous case in which members of the fire department in Tracadie were denied access to a workplace assessment report. To read her full e-mail, click here.
January 26, 2020: Warktimes responds disagreeing with her findings and explaining the reasons why. To read those reasons, click here.
January 27, 2022: Gionet-Bergeron replies that much of the information in the Montana report would be protected under Section 26(1) which concerns advice to a public body and that the threshold for public interest disclosure under Section 33.1 had not been met. To read her full response, click here.
February 4, 2022: After Warktimes asks that the matter be referred to the Ombud for review, I file additional arguments based on a newly released international training manual for judges on upholding democracy compiled by the Halifax-based Centre for Law and Democracy. To read that e-mail, click here.
April 12, 2022: Warktimes reports that Sackville Fire & Rescue is still in a state of crisis a full year after the initial reports of its workplace troubles.
April 22, 2022: Ombud Marie France-Pelletier denies Warktimes access to the Montana report. To read her letter, click here.
To read the official biography of the new Ombud, click here.
To read a CBC story in which opposition members question her independence as a former staff member in the office of Conservative Premier Bernard Lord, click here.
Residents of the area known as Entity 40 are being asked for their thoughts on either of those names for the new municipality that will include Sackville, Dorchester, Point de Bute and their surrounding local service districts (LSDs).
“We want to get as much feedback as we can, so we get an informed decision,” says Robert Corkerton, the deputy mayor of Dorchester, who serves on the committee that will choose the new name.
“The timing is very tight,” he added in a telephone interview.
“The province has given us a very short time window to be able to make the decision. I believe we have until the eleventh of May to have a final name chosen and then sent in to them.”
So far, Corkerton has posted the two suggested names to various Facebook groups where participants have questioned the use of the word “township.”
He explains that, as far as the province is concerned, the new municipality will be legally designated as a town because it’s not large enough to be called a regional municipality, but representatives from Dorchester, Point de Bute and the LSDs thought the word “town” did not apply to them, so they’re suggesting township instead.
Corkerton says he’s noting all of the Facebook reactions and will be bringing them back to the committee, which consists of the mayors and deputy mayors of Sackville and Dorchester as well as representatives from the LSDs.
Corkerton says names containing Tantramar, Beauséjour and Chignecto were all suggested after the committee consulted with local and provincial experts on historical names.
However, he adds that when Fort Folly First Nations Chief Rebecca Knockwood was consulted, she did not favour the name “Chignecto.”
He says he’s not sure why and so far, Chief Knockwood has not responded to phone messages asking for comment.
In his 1996 book Place Names of Atlantic Canada, William Hamilton writes that Chignecto is probably of Mi’kmaq origin and was applied both to Cape Chignecto on the Bay of Fundy as well as the isthmus that connects New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
In his Facebook posts, Corkerton points out that the names Tantramar and Beauséjour have deep historical roots (see his summaries below).
“Personally, I’m leaning towards Tantramar,” he says when asked about his own preference.
“Everybody recognizes that,” he adds. “Tantramar isn’t used anywhere else, it’s really specific to our area. I understand Beauséjour because that one fits as well, but I think Tantramar is the one that fits the best, everybody’s already using it.”
Corkerton emphasizes that the name will apply only to the new municipality while local communities will still be known by their current names.
Tantramar Township This place name has its origin in the French word tintamarre, which means a great noise. The first French Acadian settlers in the area who arrived around the last quarter of the 17th century are said to have heard great flocks of geese or maybe the incoming tide that made a great noise. They used the word tintamarre to describe this noise and, eventually, an Acadian hamlet was given the name Tintamarre before the expulsion of 1755. When anglophone settlers arrived in the region in the 1760’s, they kept the name, and after decades of different spellings, it became Tantramar in the second half of the 19th century.
Beauséjour Township When the French Acadian settlers arrived in the region around the last quarter of the 17th century, they gave French names to their new settlements, Beaubassin being the better known of them all. Eventually, the name Beauséjour appeared to identify a hamlet. When French military forces built a fort in 1750 close to the Missaguash River, they named it Fort Beauséjour or Fort de Beauséjour. It was renamed Fort Cumberland when it was captured by British forces in the summer of 1755. Today, the name Beauséjour lives on as the name of the federal riding in southeastern New Brunswick, an important hotel in Moncton (Delta-Beauséjour), and numerous businesses and cultural groups, such as the Moncton choir Choeur Beauséjour.
Sackville Fire & Rescue is still in a state of crisis one year after Warktimes first published stories about low morale caused by persistent bullying, favouritism and harassment that had led to the resignations of about 17 volunteer firefighters over a five-year span.
It now appears that the department is still plagued by morale problems with not enough volunteers responding to emergency calls leaving fire trucks sometimes understaffed, slowing response times and potentially putting public safety and the safety of firefighters themselves at risk.
CAO Jamie Burke indicated during last night’s council meeting that the town has not yet implemented the recommendations that were supposed to improve operating procedures and give firefighters access to an independent complaints process.
The recommendations, which have never been made public, were contained in a report from the Moncton consulting firm that the town hired to conduct a workplace assessment of the fire service. The town announced it had received the report from Montana Consulting Group just over seven months ago, but has refused to make any part of it public on the grounds that it is a confidential, personnel matter.
CAO Jamie Burke
“I can’t get into the details about the recommendations in the report,” Burke said in response to a question from CHMA reporter Erica Butler.
He added that there need to be fundamental changes to the bylaws governing the fire department in order to improve working conditions there.
“Our legal team is working diligently on a revised bylaw and we will be in a position shortly to bring that to council as well as the fire service,” he said.
However, Burke could not say when the revised bylaw would be ready.
He said he has not met with volunteer firefighters to explain what’s happening, but added that members of the fire department have “summoned” him to their next meeting on April 21st. Firefighters are believed to be angry about the CAO’s failure to consult them on implementing the Montana recommendations.
Burke also acknowledged that the are “rumblings out there” from firefighters about the prospect of a much heavier workload after municipal amalgamation on January 1st.
“The amalgamation process does not create any changes to the fire service,” he said, but added that with three fire departments under one CAO in the new municipality, people could certainly make assumptions about the resulting “challenges and complexities” that may cause.
Volunteer firefighter Travis Thurston questioning Deputy Mayor Andrew Black
During last night’s public meeting, firefighter Travis Thurston raised a concern over the current performance of Sackville Fire & Rescue.
He asked Deputy Mayor Black whether Fire Chief Craig Bowser reports on attendance at fires and response times to calls during liaison meetings.
Black serves on council’s liaison committee that oversees the fire service.
“I can’t say yes or no. I don’t remember if he talks about response time particularly or attendance to calls,” Black said.
“He talks to the number of calls that they have, usually what those calls are about and then often we’ll talk about the membership, just talk about how the fire department is operating, if there are any concerns, but not that I recall, not specifically to response time to calls or the number of people in attendance,” he added.
Sackville residents with radio frequency scanners can monitor fire calls including recent ones with response times from receipt of the call to arrival on scene ranging from 9 minutes, 13 minutes and 21 minutes.
Flood control pond south of St. James St., the 1st of 3 planned for the Lorne St. project
The town of Sackville is getting $4 million from the federal and provincial governments to complete Phase III of the Lorne Street flood control project.
The federal and provincial contributions represent almost 75% of the total cost of the $5.5 million project. The town will contribute the remaining $1.5 million.
At its next meeting on Monday, Sackville Town Council will be asked to give Mayor Mesheau authorization to sign the funding agreement. Council will also be asked to approve hiring the Moncton firm Englobe (formally Crandall Engineering) to go ahead with the engineering and design of the project.
Finally, council will be asked to approve buying the old Sackville quarry from Mount Allison University for $1.
Phase III of the Lorne Street project would include digging a 40,000 cubic metre freshwater retention pond behind the community gardens on Charles Street as well as constructing a smaller one (20,000 cubic metres) in the old quarry.
When combined with the 40,000 cubic metre retention pond that was dug east of Lorne Street and south of St. James during Phase II of the project, the town will have the capacity to store 100,000 cubic metres of freshwater, believed to be enough to handle a downpour from a one-in-one-hundred year storm.
The water from the first pond south of St. James is now being released into a drainage ditch that meanders past the Armtec plant near the old railway station. The water drains through a dyke via an old wooden aboiteau out across the marshes and into the Tantramar River.
However, plans call for part of the Phase III money to be used to construct ditches and pipes that would carry water from all three ponds a shorter distance across the industrial park for discharge into the Tantramar through an aboiteau in the dyke near the town’s main sewage lagoons.
The town is hoping to persuade the provincial department of transportation and infrastructure, which controls the dykes, to build a new, double-gated aboiteau to handle the outflow.
Sign posted on St. James St. explains functions of the first retention pond (click to enlarge)
Five year saga
The Lorne Street flood control project began more than five years ago when the town first applied for federal and provincial money to help build it.
In May 2017, town council approved the $5.9 million first phase which included replacing sewer, storm sewer and water pipes underneath Lorne and St. James Streets.
In July 2018, the $2.9 million second phase hit a snag when bids came in at $5.9 million forcing the town to abandon plans to dig two water retention ponds.
In December 2018, it awarded a $1.9 million contract to dig the first pond south of St. James on property acquired from CN Rail.
In April 2019, town council learned that 14,000 tonnes of soil contaminated with petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals had been unearthed on a site that had been used as an old rail yard for more than a century and that trucking it away for disposal would cost more than $500,000.
To view a comprehensive timeline of Phases I and II, click here.
To read the letter notifying Sackville that it would receive funding for Phase III, click here.
Sackville’s deputy mayor says the province wants to have a name chosen by the end of the month for what’s now known as Entity 40, the new municipality that will include Sackville, Dorchester and surrounding local service districts.
“It’s the end of April,” Andrew Black told council on Monday. “I think that was the absolute last date…
“The timeline is tight,” he added.
Black serves on a naming subcommittee that includes the mayor and deputy mayor of Dorchester as well as a representative from Point de Bute.
He reported that the subcommittee met recently with Paul Bogaard of the Tantramar Heritage Trust, Mt. A. Professor Lauren Beck and Bob Hickman of the Westmorland Historical Society.
“We met with those three individuals, got some sort of history and context of the area [and] got some suggestions for names,” Black said.
“We do have some names. I’m not going to say what they are currently,” he said, adding that the subcommittee would also consult with Fort Folly First Nations Chief Rebecca Knockwood.
“Once we have a compiled list of names, then we will start doing the public engagement session piece of it,” he said.
“We don’t exactly know what that looks like yet, but there will be definitely outreach and public engagement as to the choosing of the name for the new entity,” Black added.
“If we want to be able to get good engagement from the public, then we need to start pushing on it fairly hard and fairly quickly.”
Municipal reform worries
Meantime, Sackville Town Council is expected to hold more discussion next week on a question that could have implications for local taxpayers.
“They will do a lot more than they’re currently doing and how are they going to do that and with whose money?” Councillor Sabine Dietz asked during Monday’s council meeting.
She was referring to the province’s plan to give the RSCs, including the Southeast Regional Service Commission, added responsibilities in such areas as economic development, tourism promotion, regional transportation and the cost-sharing of recreational facilities.
“We know who’s going to pay for all of those services and yet we don’t know how much it is going to be,” Dietz said.
“It’s going to have a major impact on municipalities.”
The Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick (UMNB) is asking its members to support its appeal to the province to delay expanding the powers of the RSCs until after the elections for new local governments have been held in November.
In a letter sent to the provincial minister of local government on March 11, the UMNB expresses worries shared by municipal leaders across the province.
“We have been told by our members that there are concerns about the mandates and financial implications of the new RSCs,” the letter says.
“The expanded mandates have also caused concerns on how the proposed new services will co-exist with municipalities that currently offer affordable and effective services,” it adds.
Both Dietz and Councillor Bill Evans advocated endorsing the UMNB’s calls for delay.
“It [would] also give us as a community…more time to better understand what financial and service delivery implications these changes will have,” Dietz said.