Once council got past its arguments earlier this month over how to resolve conflict of interest matters when it comes to revoting on the town plan, it managed to clear away a sizable agenda full of business.
Topping the list was a decision to hire a consultant to compile a topographical survey and develop a conceptual design for a proposed redevelopment of its recreational grounds off Southside Track.
The work, valued at some $6,060, is necessary for the town, along with the Bay Bulls to Bauline Athletic Association, to apply for a federal grant to redevelop the park.
The town and the BBBAA are proposing to contribute $50,000 each towards the project and will ask Ottawa to chip in the other one third of the funds for the $150,000 redevelopment.
Council approved a motion at this past month’s public council meeting to hire the consultant. “The first step in doing this is to make an application and a necessary part of the application is to have a conceptual design drawn up and a topographical survey done,” said Mayor Sébastien Després. “In order to apply for funding we need much more detail, plus schematics and once they’re done we’ll always have them. Right now we don’t even have a drawing of where our pool is, we don’t even have a survey.”
In fact, the town doesn’t own the land where the nearby community centre, christened the Puffin Centre last summer, is located. The town tore down the old Rec Centre two years ago and built a bigger one in its place, but has yet to receive an occupancy permit. For a while, the approval was delayed because of issues with the septic field. Then it emerged the town had never obtained a Crown Land grant for the site where the centre is located. The town and provincial government are waiting on a survey as part of the next step in the process of transferring ownership of the land.
Council is finally getting around to hiring an additional maintenance worker for the summer. Money for the position was earmarked in this year’s budget.
Mayor Després said a job description will be drawn up by council’s public works committee and the finance committee will be empowered to establish the pay.
Councillors Albert Murphy and Ken Brinston, who were elected to council in late February, after the budget was prepared, asked how long the person will be employed.
Després wasn’t sure.
“There is lots of work for him,” said Murphy, who seconded the motion to approve the position.
In the black
Council has had a meeting with its accountant, said finance committee chairman René Estrada, and has some $365,000 in reserve to cover expenses for the rest of the fiscal year.
“It was a very interesting meeting and we can see where, if we have to, we can cut corners here or there,” Estrada said.
He noted council has decided to start preparing its annual budget a little earlier than usual, with discussions on the 2016 financial blueprint set to begin in October. By law, municipalities in the province have to submit their budgets to the provincial government for approval by the end of the previous year.
The big variable in the budget every year, Estrada pointed out, is the cost of snow clearing. “Once we get into November we start hitting the snow season,” he said. “And of course that takes a big chunk, as it has this year. However, we’ll have to see how the weather is shaping up at that time.”
One of the items in this month’s payables register was a $5,400 legal bill from law firm Stewart McKelvey for advice given to the town during its recent deliberations concerning allegations of conflict of interest against three councillors.
“It’s obvious that it has to be paid,” said councillor Brinston, who made the motion to pay the bill.
A group of senior citizens in the town are cleaning up the old cemetery behind the Town Hall and planning to take imprints of the information contained on some of the oldest stones.
But they’ve also encountered a bit of a mystery. Councillor Kevin Smart, who is a part of the town’s heritage committee, said the cemetery doesn’t seem to have a name.
“That’s surprising, but it’s true, I’ve never heard a name for it,” said Mayor Després.
Smart said the committee has consulted old church papers to find a record of people who have been buried there, “but it’s very difficult to find it.”
Speeders in Witless Bay had better beware: council is about to try out some speed bumps.
The move comes at the urging of councillor Brinston.
“I was sitting on my brother’s front deck the other day and a vehicle was coming down the road and I can guarantee you it was doing at least 100 or 110 kph,” said Brinston. “It was flying. I know we’ve had this discussion in the past. I think we should really, really take a look at some of the trouble spots we have here in the community and see what we can do.”
Brinston suggested the town look at using temporary speed bumps, such as the ones located around Stavanager Drive in St. John’s that are removed before winter snow clearing operations begin.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hit and killed,” Brinston said, adding the turn near the mayor’s house on Harbour Drive is also a dangerous spot where some people navigate it like they’re driving in the Indy 500.
“It’s a blind hill in front of my house and I’ve seen cars going 140,” Després agreed.
“How good are they?” asked councillor Smart, referring to the temporary speed bumps.
“They’re fantastic,” said the mayor. “They’re just expensive. But it is worth looking into.”
Brinston agreed. “What is the cost of somebody’s life?” he argued.
Mayor Després suggested council investigate the prices of the speed bumps and that the public works committee draw up a list of specific places where they should be installed. “I’ll warn you that once you install five, you’re going to get requests for 50,” he added.
“My big concern right now would be up around the playground,” said councillor Murphy. “I’ve met cars and trucks up there flying.”
Fishermen’s Road is also bad Brinston said, as is Gully Pond Road. “Dean’s Road is another one,” he noted. “People walk these roads … and it’s a ticking time bomb as far as I’m concerned… We’ve got to take care of the residents, we’ve got to take care of the community.”
Murphy argued council should install the first two speed bumps near the playground on Southside Track and then look at other problem spots.
“That’s a good idea,” Després said. “Install one, see how it works, not spend much money, and if it works, install more.”
Murphy then put forward the mayor’s idea as a motion, which was seconded by councillor Smart. Put to a vote, it passed unanimously.