By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
STEPHENVILLE — The most recent council meeting took place on Thursday evening, May 4, and matters discussed included a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Nova Scotia Power, the decision by council not to raise taxes this year, campers on the beach, and the Bay St. George Medical Clinic
MOU with NS Power
Councillor Myra White, on behalf of the Finance Committee, requested approval for the Town Clerk or the Mayor to enter into a MOU agreement with Nova Scotia Power (NSP) Maritime Link Inc. for the Stephenville Fire Department to provide rescue service through the Bottom Brook converter station belonging to NSP.
“There’s been some good work done by our captain, Don Gibbon, of our fire department on this file. We do know Bottom Brook is in adjacency to the closest full-time fire department in the region, and there’s been some really good work done by our CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) coordinating this MOU with our fire chief,” said Mayor Tom Rose.
“What this does, it creates opportunity for some revenue sources to buy specialized equipment that reinforces the ability of our fire department to raise the bar when it comes to professionalism.”
Rose said this isn’t just a good opportunity for the Town of Stephenville to help out Emera of Nova Scotia, but it’s an equal opportunity for the town who will get an annual grant as a result of this agreement.
“Whenever we provide a service, cost recovery and the cost even to administer services takes money, so I will commend the team for executing this.”
The motion was passed unanimously by council.
No tax increase
Mayor Rose said that because of the financial position the town of Stephenville anticipates to find itself in due to the projected revenues for this year, the Town will do its part to help out residents who are all feeling the pinch thanks to inflation.
“This year, it’s a bit of an austerity move for us in the next quarter of this year, and maybe into the third quarter depending on revenues that are anticipated to arrive in the Town of Stephenville, but we made the conscientious decision not to raise taxes this year and to show a deficit over the next three years because, with inflation and interest rates, a lot of people are hurting,” explained Rose.
“ The price of fuel, the price of groceries, I think it was a very conscientious decision of this council to take the measures that we have taken. The easy thing for us would be to raise the taxes and not have a deficit. It took a little bit of work on behalf of our staff, but it was the right decision.”
Mayor Rose said council has come to an arrangement regarding beach camping.
“In the past few years, we’ve had increased activity of camping on the beach area, and we’ve had a lot of complaints, but by not allowing those campers on that beach, we get a lot of complaints from the people that utilize it. So there’s both sides of the equation. At the end of the day, on the beach area, people camping, whether it’s a tent or a camper, it was becoming a bit more permanent, a bit more established, with people there for three, four, or five months. There were structures in place, wood piles and tarps, and so aesthetics were starting to be a concern for this council because we heard concerns from the residents.”
Council has tried to find a way to try to make everyone happy.
“At the end of the day, having Kin Court, which is adjacent to the beach, we will, through our Public Works, clean up that site, put additional bins there for trash because, even though it’s not heavily utilized by campers now, the trash seems to be increasing there,” explained Rose.
“Keeping our town clean, creating a little bit of order. But I agree with allowing these campers a spot because those campers create a bit of economic activity for our town. They come here, they shop, they buy pizzas, they go to Walmart, what have you, and that’s very important.”
Rose hopes this decision by council will prove effective and satisfactory to everyone.
“I think, because the town is going to provide an adequate space with some additional services that we provide anyways, just enhancing those services, it’s a good measure and a good happy medium to keep giving those campers the same access to the beach, not in the same spot, but not very far away.”
Coun. Lenny Tiller said that when the ‘no camping’ signs were placed up, there were a lot of calls coming in wondering why the signs were there and what solution the town was going to come up with, but he also thinks this was the best option available.
“Is this a perfect solution? No. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution, and this is the best one we could come to as a collective,” said Tiller. “I applaud staff for working so hard on that. I applaud you folks for sticking with it and making sure there was a decision because it would have been just as easy to put up the signs and just say, ‘no more’. So I really appreciate all the work that was done.”
Bay St. George Medical Clinic
Bay St. George Medical Clinic has severe accessibility issues but progress has been made to address that, though it will take a while.
“At the end of the day, the building can be used for something else, but it’s not conducive with an aging population,” shared Rose.
“The accessibility issue with that building is not acceptable, and we’ve worked with Western Health, which is no longer in existence. It’s now the Provincial Health Authority, and we’ve had some great meetings with Minister (Tom) Osborne and his team, lobbying, and I got word on Monday from Tara Freake, the tender is out for a new collaborative care clinic in Stephenville.”