By JAYMIE L. WHITE
STEPHENVILLE – The most recent town council meeting took place on Thursday evening Nov. 4. Items discussed included funding for the Stephenville Emergency Food Services Christmas Hamper Project, the annual expenditure report, letters to ministers requesting a meeting, the location of the playground at Blanche Brook Park, the Health Accord, and Christmas on Main Street.
Food support assistance
Council unanimously approved a grant to Stephenville Emergency Food Services in the amount of $2,500 for their Christmas Hamper Project,.
Mayor Tom Rose said that, especially in the colder months when finances are tighter, it is important for council to show support during the upcoming holiday season.
“The strengthened demands on families, especially with children, when they’re trying to determine whether they can buy a present for a loved one or buy food,” said Rose.
Mayor Rose said that the Town of Stephenville is extremely fortunate as a community and that a lot of great volunteer work takes place, and that now is the time to look at getting a permanent location for the food bank.
“We need to look at what the scope would entail. It would be everything from teaching people how to prepare meals at a cost-effective rate, providing meals, and cold storage where, if a local farmer decides they want to donate a thousand pounds of potatoes and carrots, you have a place to store them. You have to be ready,” said Rose. “Maybe that’s something in the New Year that we can take a look at with our council and our community, and hopefully in a year or two we can have a brand-new facility.”
Annual expenditure report
Council adopted consolidated financial statements for the period ending Dec. 31, 2020, and annual expenditure report. Mayor Rose said the town had a great year from a financial perspective, as it posted a significant surplus at the end of the year.
“When you run a roughly $8.5 million budget and you come up with a $900,000 surplus, there were extraordinary reasons for that. Additional funding came in from the province with COVID, our costs of operations actually slowed in some perspectives because, with COVID, we had a lot of people home at times,” said Rose. “It was a good year for us, management, staff, and past council is to be commended for the work they’ve done.”
Letters to NL Ministers
Mayor Rose said the letter inviting ministers to Stephenville is currently being worked on, and once it is finished, a copy will be sent to each member of council.
“We’ve identified all of the significant minister portfolios, because every single one of them has an impact on our town. It is the provincial government and in the letter, we are requesting the ministers to come to Stephenville and meet us so we can talk about the priorities in each of the divisions,” said Rose.
Examples of topics council wants to address include lighting on Indian Head between Stephenville and Stephenville Crossing, and the issues that arise with bridges and access for emergency vehicles during flooding.
Coun. Laura Aylward also brought up that the provincial highway should be something that the Town of Stephenville should take the lead on.
“We need a proper highway from Port-Aux-Basques to St. John’s,” said Aylward. “We should really lobby and get the other councils to join us because we don’t have a proper highway and we should have,. We deserve it.”
Blanche Brook Park playground
Coun. Myra White raised concerns that the location that has been decided on for the playground will pose a risk to the children playing there due, in part, to the high amount of traffic flowing through the area.
“On the end next to McDonald’s we have the pavilion. We have a lot of people walking, the parking that is taken up every time there is an event there, the streets are lined with vehicles,” said White. “Putting a playground on top of it, next to McDonald’s, I think, could be very dangerous for our children.”
Mayor Rose agreed but noted there are ways in which to make the street safer for those enjoying the area.
“Maybe what we can do is we can enhance some things that can make it safer for the children and anybody walking to or from. It could be reducing the speed limit, putting speed bumps to slow down, and maybe we can look at in our capital works projects – the fact that there are no sidewalks there,” said Rose. “It’s only a very short street. Maybe we can look at that in 2022 to consider, because when you have sidewalks, people walking are much safer because they’re not walking right on the street.”
Coun. Lenny Tiller asked if anyone has spoken to the government about the Health Accord, stating that it seems like something that they are trying to push through quickly and doesn’t align with the town’s plans.
Mayor Rose said a strong message is going to go to the MHAs, the Minister, and the Premier that Stephenville is a town that is growing, and this is a major issue that needs to be discussed.
“The bottom line is, right from the get-go, we are not losing any of our services because, it’s almost like a chair. You start knocking the legs off the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital and before you know it, you are down flat,” said Rose. “We want Stephenville taken out of that equation.”
Deputy Mayor Susan Fowlow said that this was discussed even before the Dymond Group purchased the airport and an expected labour growth.
“We discussed it back then that we weren’t prepared to let the hospital do anything except get better, not have them downgraded at all.”
Christmas on Main Street
Coun. Lenny Tiller inquired as to whether any decisions have been finalized when it comes to Christmas on Main Street.
Mayor Rose shared that dates are being looked at so it doesn’t clash with any other events happening in the town, and there have been discussions about potential incentives for the businesses showing the most Christmas spirit in their decorations, and the possibility of putting $10,000 toward additional decorations.
“We will probably have our first meeting next week and get a committee going, because we are only weeks away,” said Rose. “I think it’s really needed for the community. It’s a great mental health event and it’s a great event for downtown businesses. When we did it two years ago it was the business day for sales for many of the businesses.”