Local towns present ideas at pre-budget consultation

Rudy Norman
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The minister of Service NL, Dan Crummell, along with MHA Kevin Pollard, were in Springdale on Friday past to hear suggestions from local people on how the province should lay out its next budget.

The meetings were one in the series of pre-budget consultations this year.
The consultation, held at Riverwood Inn this past Friday, drew the largest crowd that Springdale CAO Rick LeDrew can ever remember.

pre-budget

"It was great to see so many municipalities represented and to see what, I think, was one of the biggest turnouts to a budget consultation in a number of years," he told The Nor'Wester.

Town of Springdale along with the municipalities of Baie Verte, Triton, Beachside and Little Bay each made presentations.

"There were four things that we talked about," said LeDrew. "One is no more important than the other but the first one we dealt with was a new health care facility.

"We're really looking for something in the budget this year, and we're hoping for the big announcement that it'll go to tender this year."

A new health centre for Green Bay Health has been in the works for several years and LeDrew says council has been working closing with the province on the file.

"Our approach has been one of cooperation, collaboration and respect, and in every meeting we've been in with government we feel it's moving forward positively."

The second item on Springdale's agenda was the much-talked-about waterfront development.

"We're going to be making application shortly for funding for a feasibility study for a marina," explained LeDrew. "The crown land issue is pretty much settled, and we're hoping that we'll have a proposal into ACOA and IBRD by the end of February for funding. We're just encouraging the government to continue funding things like IBRD, so we can access money."

Springdale also raised the issue of the federal wastewater affluent regulations, and what LeDrew calls "the importance of getting some support from municipal affairs to local municipalities in terms of funding and direction."

Finally they emphasized their 2014-2017 multi-year capital works funding; the town is applying for $7.8 million to upgrade local infrastructure.

Mayor Clar Brown of Baie Verte, in his presentation, reiterated some of the issues raised by LeDrew.

"I talked about Health Care, specifically the Ambulance Service," he said. Brown raised concerns about the Baie Verte/Springdale shared ambulance service, and highlighted ways he feels it can improve.

He also talked about the proposed new fiscal framework for municipalities, specifically about the Municipal Operating Grants.

"Towns need a new fiscal framework," he said. "Government has to explore rebate on its provincial portion of Gas tax, and should rebate some of the HST."

In addition to that, he says, the new formula used to calculate the Municipal Operating Grants is too complicated and has resulted in a decrease in operating grants for Baie Verte.

"Some towns actually got an increase under the new formula, but we got a decrease," he explained. "Thankfully, any towns with a decrease were red-circled until the next census, where it'll be reviewed again."

Brown says the new formula seems to have something to do with the population of a community, and the growth of that population. However, he says, Baie Verte still got a decrease, despite having a 7.5 per cent increase in population from the 2006 to 2011 census.

"The main message we have is that it isn't acceptable to lose any more money off our MOG," he said.

In addition to operating grants, Brown also raised concerns over aging infrastructure, which he says is a problem for just about every town. He also noted the waste disposal plan for the region and the Federal waste water regulations.

Finally, the mayor took the opportunity to bring up their proposed fire hall, which he hopes will go to tenders by the end of this month.

"We've gone back to the drawing board and eliminated some costs," he said. "Now we feel the tenders should come in within the budget."

Brown also expressed his feelings that government should look at standardizing some of the design and engineering for fire halls across the province, similar to how they've handled the building of new schools.

"There's an over capacity of Engineering and Design firms in the province, and it's becoming an increasingly large portion of our budgets for infrastructure projects," he said. "I think a lot of the things can be streamlined and can save costs for municipalities who are building new fire halls."

All-in-all, Mayor Brown says he was pleased with the pre-budget consultation, and felt the points raised were well received.

CAO Rick LeDrew says he thinks it's important for opportunities like the one on Friday to be taken advantage of by people and groups in the area.

"I think it's important for municipalities and any organization to come out and make presentations," he said. "It gets you out there. If you need something, and you don't ask and keep pushing then you're not going to get it, but if you do keep at it then you might get something."

 

Organizations: Health Care, Ambulance Service

Geographic location: Baie Verte, Little Bay

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  • Misanthrope
    February 13, 2014 - 10:57

    Baie Verte can't afford to loose any money.... They can't even get the potholes in the town filled as it is. I don't know what is keeping the town alive other than a few mines, some fisheries income, and fort mcmurray camp jobs.