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Port aux Basques Council Focuses on Fees, Rats and Roads

Port aux Basques council in chambers in February 2021. From left: Town clerk Julia Ingram, Coun. Chester Coffin, Jerome Battiste, Deputy Mayor Todd Strickland, Mayor John Spencer, Coun. Justlin Blackler, Jim Lane, Melvin Keeping, and Town manager Leon MacIsaac. – © FILE PHOTO

PORT AUX BASQUES – Town Council discussed paving plans for the summer at their most recent meeting, held in chambers on Tuesday, Apr. 27. Here are the highlights.

Waste Management Fees

Greg Sheaves spoke at Council about letters he wrote in February to discuss the Waste Management fee increases. Sheaves owns the old Channel Hospital, a Commercial rated building that contains a number of residential units, currently classified as Class II Residential under the Western Regional Waste Management (WRWM) fee structure.

As fees for apartments have been raised to $160 per year per unit, Sheaves would prefer to opt out of the WRWM program and dispose of the waste himself, but opting out is only available to Commercial customers. He said that his rate increased to over $2,000 for that one building.

“I wanted to opt out because my place – the apartment building – is Commercial, yet the letter I got back from the Town – my request was denied,” said Sheaves, who presented documents that supported his contention that the building is considered Commercial.

Coun. Jim Lane then ascertained how long Sheaves has owned the building before asking, “You’ve been paying residential taxes for 35 years on it?”

Lane hypothesized that if Sheaves wanted to have the building re-classified as Commercial, that would increase his Town taxes. Sheaves replied that if that was the case, he wanted the Commercial water line rate.

“Just to advise you, under the Commercial water rates, people pay per unit or lateral rate, whichever is greater,” noted Town Clerk Julia Ingram. “And right now the Residential rate and the Commercial rate for water is identical.”

“Well, whatever, but I’m gonna tell you if they don’t do something about it, look forward to the building coming down. You won’t get nothing,” said Sheaves. “I got no problem tearing it down. No problem whatsoever.”

During a lengthy discussion, Council observed that if Sheaves wished to have the building re-classified as Commercial so as to allow him to opt out of the WRWM fees, that Town could consider it, but cautioned that municipal tax rates on that building and similar properties would have to increase to the Commercial rate. Council also noted that Town does not dictate the WRWM fee structure, nor do they share in any of the revenue, and that currently the $160 per dwelling rate doesn’t even cover the cost of the tipping fee.

Mayor John Spencer has invited Sheaves to write a letter to Council clarifying exactly what it is he would like them to do, so that they can hopefully help resolve the matter.

Stephenville Airport

Coun. Chester Coffin attended his first meeting of the Stephenville Airport Board, which was mostly an introductory one. Coffin shared that the board has been talking with Sunwing, but the airline that has shown the most interest so far is Pascan, which runs up to the Québec north shore.

“They figure if they can get that one there, they’re going to be doing two runs a day. And they’re going to be having a run from Stephenville to St. John’s every day,” stated Coffin.

Meanwhile, there is nothing new to report about Porter Airlines, which was supposed to start on June 2, but that’s now postponed to June 21 and may get pushed back even further.

Discussion about the Air Ambulance Service did not seem particularly encouraging.

“I left with the impression it’s not going in there,” admitted Coffin.

He may be able to provide more clarity after the next board meeting, which is scheduled for May 25.

Funding Application Rejected

Municipal Affairs has turned down an application for funding after a water main break occurred within the distribution system of the Town’s water treatment plant over the winter, calling it routine operation and maintenance. Council overwhelmingly disagreed with that assessment.

“Nothing about that situation was routine,” said Deputy Mayor Todd Strickland.

Council plans to write back to Municipal Affairs asking the department to reconsider.

“We were on the verge of a state of emergency,” concluded Mayor Spencer. “This is unacceptable.”

Rat Problems Persist

As part of the Public Works report, Coun. Melvin Keeping discussed the unsightly and broken wooden garbage boxes around town, as easy access to food waste within these boxes continues to make the Town’s rodent problem worse. The committee has recommended that garbage truck operators make a list of the unacceptable boxes.

“These owners will be written and advised of the Town’s regulations and advised to clean up, repair and/or replace these boxes,” said Keeping.

The Town’s application for a pilot project to install mobile plastic storage bins for residential use was unsuccessful. Instead the committee is looking at ways to perhaps get the bins on a cost-sharing basis between homeowners and the Town.

Road Work and Tenders

Thanks to the pandemic, road paint is going to be harder to come by. Town Manager Leon MacIsaac said that is likely to continue until more of the manufacturing plants can get back up and running. MacIsaac noted that this situation is reflected across not just the province, but Canada and the U.S.A. as well. The Town does have some left over from last year and will paint what it can.

Meanwhile the Town has issued tenders for various materials to both Manuels Construction and Clifford Sheaves Construction. A third application was refused as the bidder not able to meet the criteria listed in the tender. The other tender, awarded to C&C Enterprises, related to servicing of the excavator equipment.

Thanks to gas tax revisions from past years, plus a doubled rate for this year, the town will have more money to pave roads this construction season.

“We will get double allocation for 2021-2022. Our allocation is $182,000 as per our gas tax agreement, but we will get two lots of $182,000,” clarified the Town Clerk. “We’ve still got more money than that in our gas tax remand.”

MacIsaac promised the money will go towards asphalt.

“It’s no good in the bank,” said the Mayor. “We need to get it on the road.”

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