By René J. Roy
PORT AUX BASQUES – The most recent meeting of council was held on Tuesday evening, May 17. Councillor Todd Strickland joined via video conference, as well as Deputy Mayor Mark Andrews. Coun. Melvin Keeping was not in attendance. Here are the highlights.
Court resurfacing and paving
Town Manager Leon MacIsaac stated that there is a delay in waiting for the proper material to be available before the court can be resurfaced. He also stated that the Town “will not see any paving gear unless theres a large project nearby, because we’re always one of the last to be done.”
Grand Bay West Trailway
Coun. Jim Lane expressed concern over the lateness of the season, and the lack or progress on repairs to the trailway, which was severely damaged by several storms over the winter months.
“We’re into May now, and there’s nothing being done with it.”
MacIsaac replied that the availability of town workers, and the fact that all 11 staff are currently occupied with patching the numerous potholes around town, has delayed the start of repair to the trail.
“Between trying to get paving done to the streets, down to the Clean-up Week, those bodies aren’t available to send crews over to the trail system as well.”
Lane responded with further concerns over the fact that trails might not get repaired in time for Come Home Year when tourists are expected to arrive in town. Mayor Brian Button also shared his concerns over obstacles in the trail, as well as a destroyed bridge, both of which pose potential safety hazards to users.
“It’s one thing to build these things, but if we’re going to build them through projects, we’ve gotta be prepared to repair them and maintain them. You gotta show some activity. And I know our resources are stretched. I know that. But if we got projects, and people are designated to be over there, why aren’t they over there?”
Coun. Lane also addressed the condition of the Newfoundland T’railway ATV track from Port aux Basques to Doyles, calling it deplorable and dangerous.
“There’s nothing being done with it.”
Mayor Button did state that the repair contract has gone out to tender and is closing at the end of May. MacIsaac also clarified the complexity of repairing such a vast network of trails, including access to washed out areas or damaged spots, as well as the difficulty of getting large equipment into remote spots.
MP Gudie Hutchings
Mayor Button expressed disappointment with MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains), Minister of Rural Economic Development.
“It’s getting very frustrating as Mayor and as Council. It’s getting very frustrating that we’ve been in office. The time that we’ve been in, and our MP, I know is in a busier position. But through her social media accounts, she’s been anywhere and everywhere, and meeting with small businesses in little communities in Newfoundland and all around. But we also have small businesses here in Port Aux Basques. We also have other things that are ongoing here. So I think it’s time that the MP take a little trip a little further down the highway, because I know she’s been in Corner Brook several times. So a trip to Port aux Basques is warranted, and it’s necessary. We’ve asked for a meeting to sit down and have a discussion, but it is getting frustrating when you can’t get a meeting. And not even get a timeline on a meeting.”
Work hasn’t yet begun on the Community Market excavation, due to a lack of excavators. MacIsaac stated that the excavator required is currently in use to demolish the former Municipal Depot site on Main Street. Mayor Button said that the depot work does not have to be completed until the end of June.
“Is that going to hold us up on our project, that we’ve got to wait for one excavator?”
MacIsaac clarified that the contractor currently has only one excavator operator until he is able to find a replacement, and the contractor had indicated he will attend to the community market location as soon as possible. Coun. Jim Lane is worried about projects being held up by contractors.
“We can’t have contractors holding us up. We’re so far behind now I think we’re going backwards. I really think that if the contractor can’t make it, he should make some arrangements to get another machine in. That community market is a thing that we were planning since last year.”
Button then asked the Town Manager about tenders.
“When it comes to our tenders that we have out, when it comes to equipment and stuff, do we not have a backup person that we can avail of?”
MacIsaac stated that the Town cannot break a contract, to which Mayor Button responded, “But if he’s not available, as Coun. Lane said, so we stop our project? We don’t do anything because we got one excavator that got us at bay? We can’t go nowhere?”
“The project will be completed. It’s not going to be done in two days, but we just have to wait,” replied MacIsaac.
Lane then spoke about the contract awarded, saying, “If it’s going to put us behind that far, then there’s got to be something in the contract where we can say ‘hey, there might be a little contractor we could hire’, because that’s not a big job up there.”
MacIsaac pointed out that the tender for the Community Market was awarded quite recently.
“We only awarded that tender two weeks ago, not months ago. It depends on the availability of the contractor. There’s no way to leapfrog over it.”
Lane then suggested revision of future contracts with tenders, should they be unavailable to fulfill their work requirements.
Mayor Button reiterated that, “We know that we’ve got projects that we just mentioned, up in the park, over in the trailways. We’ve got that work to get going up there. We’re going to have work coming up in Scott’s Cove Park. If at some point we don’t get some of this going, then at some point we’re going to have that much that needs to be done in this amount of time. There’s stuff thats not going to happen.”
MacIsaac pointed out once again that the tender was fairly recent.
“Again, its only been two weeks since the contract’s been awarded, and Council is showing impatience in a very short period of time.”
Button responded with “I don’t think it’s impatience on a two week window. It’s got nothing to do with that two week window. It’s not just that project. It’s all the other stuff as well.”
Lane repeated his suggestion that perhaps Council could hire a smaller contractor, to which MacIsaac stated once again that it had been awarded only two weeks prior.
Mayor Button became visibly upset, raising his voice in frustration.
“I gotta ask you Town Manager to drop the two weeks! Drop the two weeks! We’re not talking about the two weeks. You’re bring up about the two weeks. I got to ask you to drop the two weeks! It’s not about the two weeks! We’re not worried about that contract. We are worried about the overall contracts, and the overall work that we gotta do! I know it’s only been two weeks on that, but there’s others that have been carried over all winter. So they’re the ones that we need to get some action on.”
Mayor Button pointed out several other tenders and contracts that have not yet begun, and with no apparent progress.
Martin’s Corner Amber Light
Coun. Lane stated that due to not being permitted to use the existing poles to install an amber light at the intersection, Public Works requires another meeting to come up with an alternate solution.
A letter was received from the company who does the painting of road lines parking lots and crosswalks. In the letter the company stated there is a very significant shortage of the paint they use.
The Town Manager clarified that the shortage is Canada-wide and there simply is none to be found. Council ultimately decided to prioritize crosswalks to ensure pedestrian safety, and acknowledged that should they be forced to use plain yellow for crosswalks, then that would be preferable to not having anything at all.
Another letter was received requesting a donation to a YBC bowler who recently won a Provincial title, granting her a spot in a national tournament. There is no financial aid awarded for the trip, and town agreed to donate $250 to the youth.
Deputy Mayor Mark Andrews recused himself due to conflict
Run the Rock
Council agreed to donate $250 toward the charity event.
Leon MacIsaac presented the rec committee report, as Economic Development Officer Shauna Strickland was not in attendance.
Funding for Astrolabe days was approved, as was funding to hire a consultant to assess a potential new regional trail to run from Isle aux Morts to Cape Anguille.
Funding was also approved for information panels to be placed in key locations around town, in anticipation of Come Home Year celebrations.
Roof repair funding was approved for the Railway Heritage Train Museum, with work scheduled to begin as soon as weather permits.
The Town also has a new website, designed to be much more user friendly and up to date.