By RYAN KING
PORT AUX BASQUES – The most recent council meeting was held on Tuesday evening, Aug. 24 in chambers at the town hall. Deputy Mayor Todd Strickland was not in attendance, and Coun. Justin Blackler resigned to relocate, but the mayor and four councillors were sufficient to form a quorum.
Among the topics discussed were municipal tax funds, work on Carson Crescent, roadside vendors, the municipal gas tax, the Bruce II and the Fire Hall upgrades, accessibility, the Love of Paws animal rescue, RCMP staffing, and management positions at Western Health.
Mayor John Spencer opened council to discuss adoption of special meetings of council.
On July 29, consultants Meridian Engineering Inc. agreed to provide engineering services for a new salt shed for $40,826. Spencer then addressed a meeting held on July 20, 2021. The department of transportation agreed to cost share the funding for the salt shed, with a total value of $692,275. The town will submit a capital investment plan to the gas tax secretariat 2021 Street Rehabilitation program for total amount of $348,942.52. Council adopted the minutes unanimously.
The road work being done on Carson Crescent was discussed. A delegation from residents had previously come to a council meeting with concerns over how much the road would be repaired.
“Carson Crescent, I understand that’s done and so thank these people for coming in and presenting their case,” said Spencer. “I’ve walked it a number of times, it’s a nice job overall.”
Town Manager Leon MacIsaac, noted that when the contractor finished that project, they were to complete more of the asphalt program, but are obligated to perform work elsewhere rather than incur a financial penalty.
“They have another large contract that they are currently completing now. When that’s completed, they will be back in town to complete the remainder of our asphalt program,” said MacIsaac.
Difficulties with vendors that set up shop across from the Dr. Charles L. LeGrow Health Centre that resulted in traffic issues appear to have finally been resolved. Town Clerk Julia Ingram informed Council that a vendor has rented three kiosks in Scott’s Cove for the remainder of the summer.
Gas Tax Amendment
A piece of correspondence from the Department of Provincial and Municipal Affairs advised Council of an increase to the gas tax.
“The total allocation over a period of from 2021 up to 2024, including 2019, is $1.3 million in gas tax funds. So next year we’re entitled to $365,000. Year after that $186,000. Year after that, $194,000,” clarified Spencer.
Further Funding Needed
Fundamental Inc., the consulting group designing the Bruce II and Fire Hall retrofit for greener technology, have informed Council that additional funding will be needed as the $1.3 Million from the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund is not enough.
“They realized that the amount of funding is not sufficient to do all the fuel switching in the building envelope,” explained MacIsaac.
The project will proceed while Council seeks those funds through the programs suggested, but the priority of what will be tackled first will be assessed.
“There will be a list of items for what we can accomplish with this amount of funding, and they will make a note to Council on what we wish to have first,” said MacIsaac.
Salt Shed Turned Down
The gas tax funding the town applied for at a 40 per cent share was denied for the construction of the new salt shed.
“I did make contact with the gas tax secretariat. They confirmed it was turned down based on their criteria. But it would certainly help to ask the MHA if there can be a difference there,” said MacIsaac.
A resident wrote in to outline concerns of accessibility in the town caused by sidewalks that are incompatible with mobility devices.
The Mayor agreed with much of the content of the complaint.
“We certainly do have a long way to go, in terms of accessibility. I’m strongly in favor of possibly seeking funding to do an assessment,” said Spencer.
“Any new sidewalks are now constructed to the standard moving forward,” said MacIsaac.”Old sidewalks in the town do not meet the national guidelines that are in effect today. So it would either have to be widening the street and widening the sidewalk, but that’s not possible in a lot of areas due to the amount of sheer rockface that we encounter.”
“We are trying to make things better, but we have a long ways to go,” replied Spencer.
For the Love of Paws animal rescue group has long been seeking a place to establish a shelter. They noted that Grand Bay West was suggested by the Town as a favourable site and asked if the town could donate or sell property with sewer and water access. Mayor Spencer suggested a spot near the new town depot might be suitable.
“It would be the easiest parcel of land and the least restrictive for getting movement to make possible that structure,” agreed MacIsaac. “Donate a parcel of land thats got water and sewer access, and it’d be good lighting there.
The Mayor ceded his chair to Coun. Chester Coffin to discuss the Port aux Basques RCMP detachment. Spencer shared that through meetings, community leaders from LaPoile to the Codroy Valley have been invited to meet at the Bruce II Sports Centre to discuss the RCMP staffing issue.
Through these meetings, and meeting with the police superintendent in Corner Brook, Spencer maintained that the number of officers serving the Southwest coast is inadequate.
“We have five regular officers in this area, compared to twenty-nine in the Stephenville area. It’s cause for great concern,” said Spencer.
The meeting will be held at the Bruce II on Sept. 8. Meeting with community leaders will be Superintendent Butt of the RCMP for the West coast. Mayor Spencer also has a call scheduled with the province’s police commissioner.
“In the last virtual meeting it was stated that the new reality for rural Newfoundland is that police will be a call of last resort. I totally disagree with that statement,” said Spencer. “I think RCMP should be the first call, not the call of last resort.”
Western Health Position
Stemming from discussion surrounding the RCMP staffing issues, Coun. Jim Lane shared that an important management position in Western Health will be moving from Port aux Basques to Corner Brook. Lane is a Council representative for the local health board.
“I had a call just a couple of days ago, and I was told that the Director of Health Services, that’s here in Port aux Basques, the individual filling that position that’s been here for the last year or two years, I understand that he is now moving to Corner Brook to live. He’s going to be traveling back and forth. So this is another case of management positions being pulled out of these smaller areas,” said Lane.
That news did not appear to sit well with Council either.
“Like police services, I think we need a site administrator here full time,” said Spencer.