Town council is exploring ways to better enforce municipal bylaws. Here are some more details on that issues and other matters from the most recent meeting of council, held at the fire hall on Monday, Nov. 9th.
A delegation of residents living on Matthews Lane asked council to once again vote to take ownership of the road, pave it and commit to snow clearing. All of council would like to honour the request, but Mayor John Spencer told the delegates that things must be done properly as advised by the town’s legal representatives, and will take some time. The Mayor believes that there will be room in the 2021 budget to have the surveys done. The road is unlikely to get paved this year, but the town has committed to take care of the snow clearing. Council noted that the estimate for paving the road is high and will examine ways to offset the expense, such as the gas tax fund or through Municipal Capital Works.
Deputy Mayor Todd Strickland noted that vendors are still parking across from the hospital on weekends. Town clerk Julia Ingram said that the town does not have staff working on weekends to ask them to move to the designated farmer’s market area in front of the Train Museum, which in turn prompted discussion about the possibility of having a municipal enforcement officer.
Mayor Spencer wondered if the dog catcher’s duties can be expanded to include enforcement of municipal bylaws, which is something that Stephenville did.
“Community policing came up at MNL this weekend,” said Spencer. “Of all the 300 towns in this province, very few of us have the budget for it.”
The mayor went on to say that Port aux Basques is one of the larger towns in this province. Some towns share the expense of an enforcement officer and Strickland asked if perhaps the neighbouring towns in the area would consider that. Ingram informed council that this had been attempted in the past without success due to limited budgets.
“It’s very difficult without regional government to get a lot of things done. This would be one of the big advantages of a regional form of government,” said Spencer. “Being a small municipality we have very little voice.”
Spencer believes that the cost of the enforcement officer would be paid for in permits alone. The town did use students in the past to enforce permit compliance for construction and may revisit that idea as well. Parking enforcement is also among Council’s concerns when it comes to bylaw enforcement.
Go Western Newfoundland (GWN) has wrote a letter to Council asking for $1,000. Julia Ingram stated that in the past, the membership fee was $50 per year but no invoice has been received since 2018. Council used to advertise in their magazine as well, but not for that amount. The town is also a member of Tourism Southwest, and Economic Development Officer Shauna Strickland is a member of that committee. The request will be sent to the Economic Development Committee for review prior to making a decision.
Council is looking at possibly purchasing the land at 88 Main Street. Not only will it facilitate snow clearing, but Mayor Spencer said, “That would be a great idea for senior housing if we ever get that funding.”
In its Nov. 9 edition, Wreckhouse Weekly published a letter seeking support to oppose the provincial government’s proposal to halt mandatory advertising in community newspapers throughout the province.
Coun. Jim Lane expressed worry over government transparency and accountability should the motion pass. Town Manager Leon MacIsaac observed that delays with the town’s new municipal plan were a result of not advertising effectively enough, and doesn’t understand why the government would even consider such a proposal.
Clerk Julia Ingram concurred, sharing that proper advertising has even been proven relevant in court cases.
“Just assuming people look at Facebook is the wrong assumption to make,” said Spencer. “I see it in the same vein as if the government announced tomorrow that they were going to cancel the Newfoundland Gazette.”
Coun. Melvin Keeping clarified that the town could continue to advertise proposals for tenders and other official matters even if the act does pass. Council intends to send a letter to MNL opposing this change to the province’s Municipal Act.
During council’s recent visit to St. John’s, the matter of the provincial weigh scales being closed during peak hours was raised. Coun. Keeping said that after speaking with the minister, he learned that there were some issues related to staffing. Council has been concerned at the loss of possible revenue because the scales are often closed during the ferry offload.
Mayor Spencer stated that on Nov. 1 he passed the scales sometime before noon only to watch trucks roll past.
“There was nothing open. A tractor trailer, with a load of lumber – it looked like the top of it had shifted – going through at the same time. It brought back all kinds of horrible memories about an accident we had quite a few years ago,” said Spencer, who then wondered if drivers were waiting until the scales closed to pass by the area unchallenged. “It needs to be open for safety reasons.”
Coun. Keeping says he will follow up with provincial officials, including MHA Andrew Parsons, to see what progress is being made with regards to staffing and keeping the scales open more often.