Sunday, September 26, 2021

Council notes
MODG looking for answers from ECRL

Funding, service cuts and use of Drysdale bequest all on the table

  • May 26 2021
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – Matters of concern regarding Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL) funding and service hours at branches in Canso and Guysborough continue to dominate discussion around the council table at the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG).

At a May 19 council meeting, a motion was made and unanimously passed to invite ECRL CEO Laura Emery and ECRL Board Chair Shirley McNamara to council to answer questions.

Many questions, few answers

During council discussion about ECRL matters, MODG’s CAO, Barry Carroll, commented on the ‘one-year rule’ about government funding that impacts municipalities, saying “…there’s some confusion about the one-year rule and whether it applies to boards or not. Normally, if the government is doing anything in their budget to affect our budget, they have to give us one year’s notice. Indirectly, the money flows through from the province to the board and provides a service.”

The one-year rule, as it impacts the recent increased funding requested by the ECRL from the districts of St. Mary’s and Guysborough, was brought to the attention of the province, when St. Mary’s recently questioned the legality of the sudden increase.

MODG Warden Vernon Pitts said written communication from the province has allowed the municipality to defer the increase in funding to the ECRL until next year. There has been no further communication with the ECRL regarding the recent service cutbacks, which were linked to the municipalities’ (St. Mary’s and Guysborough) unwillingness to accept the spike in ECRL cost this year. Hearing nothing, Pitts suspects the ECRL cut to hours at locations in Guysborough County will not change.

During the meeting, Carroll questioned why the ECRL was asking municipal units to pay approximately $10,000 more per year when the organization has gotten a significant increase in funding from the province this year. “They got a bump of over $200,000 … and they took most of that money and put it into the head office. They hired additional staff and, as far as I can see, they put all that money into head office.

“One of the things that we do as a municipality is that we want to keep the services closest to the people. We’ll cut in here, in this building [administration] if we have to, to keep our service levels the same for our residents. But here you are seeing the library CEO and board clearly has that inverted,” Carroll said.

One question the MODG hasn’t had satisfactorily answered by the ECRL is an accounting of use by the board of the Drysdale bequest – monies earmarked especially for the Cyril Ward Memorial Library in Guysborough.

In 2019, when the issue was raised by a local resident in a letter to the editor of this newspaper, Emery stated, “For the 2018-2019 budget year $22,033 from the bequest was used for staffing to implement the Open Library system at the Cyril Ward Library. In 2019-2020 an additional $8,696 will be used to work on the Open Library. There have been no other funds from the Drysdale bequest used for the Open Library project.”

Canso Arena

The Canso and Area Arena Commission issued a press release May 18, one printed in this newspaper, stating that the operation and management of the Canso arena would be handed over to the MODG and the commission would be dissolved after 40 years of dedicated volunteer service.

Deputy Warden Janet Peitzsche attended the meeting where the decision was finalized and told council that, “Everybody was pretty positive. There is going to be an influx of funds from the municipality. The recreation director is going to take over, public works will do the maintenance … it takes a lot of stress off of the volunteers, a lot of stress off the staff and a lot of stress off the commission.”

Warden Pitts said of the hand-over, “The municipality was doing a lot of work in that particular area. The municipality is firmly entrenched in all aspects of recreation; it [the arena] is a municipal property. We have the facility here in Guysborough – the CLC [Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex] – we operate and maintain that… [the] people of Canso, they shouldn’t be given any less service than what the people of Guysborough receive. We are going down that road – I think we’ll maybe end up enhancing their service a bit.”

Drum Head boiler

An item added to council’s agenda last Wednesday by Councillor Rickey McLaren was a letter asking for support from council to request that the scheduled removal of a boiler from a 100-year-old wreck, in the waters off Drum Head, be halted.

Prior to the day of the meeting, council had been unaware of the situation and decided that without more information they could not make any decision on the issue. Council voted to turn the matter over to staff for further investigation.

After council, Warden Pitts told media, “My understanding is that it is not contaminating the site, it’s more of a navigational hazard, or that is what they are saying. If it is an inert material that is not going to harm the environment, I’m not opposed to leaving it there but let’s see what the residents have to say. Council won’t be making a decision for or against until such time as we have all the information.”