GUYSBOROUGH — Director of Public Works for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) Glen Avery’s report to the monthly committee of the whole meeting on April 5 kicked off a lengthy discussion about spending, the need for sidewalks in the community of Guysborough and increased costs for capital projects.
In describing the project, which entails four new sections of sidewalk – Main Street to Guysborough Memorial Hospital, Church Street to Chedabucto Mall, Route 16 intersection with New Road to Sunnyville Road, and from Route 16 along Green Street to Chedabucto Education Centre/Guysborough Academy – Avery noted that the Class ‘C’ estimates for the project 10 years ago have significantly increased in the intervening years, and further increase with every construction season.
Only two tenders were received for the sidewalk project in Guysborough. The lower bid was received and, in a special council meeting held after the committee of the whole, the work was awarded to S.W. Weeks Construction for $4,135,397, plus HST.
Avery told council that MODG staff and Strait Engineering have worked to identify potential areas of saving in the accepted tender proposal and, to date, have found almost $200,000 in savings on items like traffic control and seeding versus sod.
The project received federal funding of $2,377,000, with an initial approval of a municipal contribution of $1,583,000. The capital cost allotted for the project in the 2023/2024 budget is $3,960,000. With the accepted tender above budget, the MODG may now need to make up the shortfall which, with HST, engineering and contingency is $481,741 – including the above projected savings.
Discussion around the council table mainly focused on the increased cost of the project. Councillor Hudson MacLeod voiced concerns about the rising capital cost of such projects, given the loss of revenue in the municipality with the conclusion of the Sable Offshore Energy Project.
MODG’s Director of Finance Danita Imlay explained that some of the monies listed for capital projects in last year’s budget had been carried over into the 2023/2024 budget.
“We didn’t spend that money; we carried it over, so they’ve been re-budgeted. So, a lot of what you saw last year, you’re seeing again,” Imlay said.
Deputy CAO Shawn Andrews explained this appearance of a significant increase in capital spending year over year was due to a change in budgeting procedure, where projects are now re-budgeted for each fiscal year, which includes money that was budgeted but not spent in the previous year.
“I know it is a lot of extra money but I think, overall, down the road, its big benefit and I’d hate to see us send back $2.377 million to the federal government,” commented councillor Neil DeCoff as discussion continued on the heavier bill the municipality would have to pay in order to bring the sidewalk project forward.
Councillor Mary Desmond questioned the price we put on lives, when it comes to paying for sidewalks. The proposed sidewalk extension covers key areas in the community such as the school, hospital and shopping centre, “and it’s all around an area where there’s high traffic…to me I think it’s well worth it.”
In the special council meeting held after the committee of the whole, council voted in favour of placing an additional amount of up to $485,000 from the capital reserve into funding the sidewalk project.
One of the last items on the meeting agenda was a note that the province had approved a one-time grant through the Sustainable Services Growth Fund from the Department of Municipal Affairs for the municipality to the tune of $471,837. The municipality has two projects that qualify for the funding: Cutler’s Brook Subdivision and the sidewalk project. Council can determine, at a later date, which project the money should go towards.
In other business, Deputy CAO Shawn Andrews noted a March 16 announcement by the Department of Municipal Affairs that all volunteer fire departments would receive $10,000 from the province.
Director of Finance Danita Imlay told council in her monthly report that the tax collection rate in the municipality was a commendable 96 per cent.
“These numbers are on par to what they have always been, in terms of having an outstanding collection rate. They’re really good,” said Imlay.
This year’s municipal tax bills should be in the mail starting this week.
Debbie Torrey, MODG’s development officer, told council the first of the building permits for the new apartment complex on the corner of Church and Queen streets should be issued this week.
MODG Warden Vernon Pitts said he had been invited to a meeting with representatives of the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) regarding the opening of a French language school in Larry’s River. He told council that the fire department in Larry’s River had agreed to let the CSAP use their sewer system and water for portable classrooms, which will be located behind the Communities Along the Bay Multi-use Facility [in which the fire hall is located] in the coming year.
Director of Recreation Angie Tavares spoke on a safety inspection of the playground in Little Dover and improvements that will be coming forward.
“Although we determined that the equipment is safe, we also determined that the structure could use an upgrade. We’ll do a pressure washing of the equipment and wire brushing the surface rust, some prime paint to those areas and paint the exposed wood with a recommend stain,” said Tavares. One piece of additional equipment may also be added.
Ashley Cunningham Avery, executive director of the Guysborough District Business Partnership, told council about the Mashup Lab program that facilitates the growth of new businesses, and the potential for career, volunteer and newcomer fairs.
Councillor MacLeod brought up the issue of the medical centre in Isaacs’s Harbour, which is facing the burden of rising operational costs. The lease on the building, owned by the MODG, expires at the end of April. MacLeod asked that the lease be extended to June, so the community can explore possible options. If no options can be found by that time, the building will be returned to the municipality, which will then decide what should be done with it.