By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to the Appalachian
STEPHENVILLE – The most recent Stephenville Town Council meeting took place on Thursday evening, Nov. 18. Matters discussed included various tax adjustments, an equipment rental tender, a grant request, Christmas preparations, the Stephenville Airport Corporation, the Guardian Angel Volunteer Program, and the proposed Health Accord.
Councillor Myra White moved that it was the recommendation of the Finance Committee that property tax write offs in the amount of $5,399.44, water and sewer tax adjustments of $672.00, remission of tax in the amount of $699.29, and business tax adjustments of $13.78 all be approved. Motions for all adjustments were carried unanimously.
Tender for Equipment Rental 2021
The Finance Committee recommended that the tender for equipment rental be awarded to Boyd and Bungay and ELC Contracting LTD., which council approved. Mayor Tom Rose clarified the town's need.
“We don’t have all the equipment in the Town of Stephenville for everything we need,” said Rose. “It would not be prudent or financially smart for us to have something that we rarely use. But with our local contractors, we put out a tender so that if we need a specialized piece of equipment within the community, we can source it. By going through the Public Tender Act and the Procurement Act, it allows us to stabilize what our cost is for the next three years.”
St. Stephen’s High School Bursary
The Town awarded a grant of $500 to the St. Stephen’s High School Bursary Committee. Mayor Rose said it is nice to see scholarships supported.
“We’re very proud in Stephenville and the region because we’ve had some phenomenal students move on and do so well with institutions like Harvard,” said Rose. “And we’ve had a lot of leadership within the school, the teachers and the support staff.”
Christmas on Main Street
Council approved a budget of $10,000 for the Christmas Adventure on Main Street event taking place on Dec. 22, 2021.
Coun. Tracy Boland provided an update that the committee visited businesses on Main Street earlier that day, and all businesses expressed their excitement at being involved.
Mayor Rose said he believes this event is going to be more significant than the event they threw a few years ago, even before the pandemic.
“It was the first time we tried it. We were nervous on council because we didn’t know what the turnout was going to be,” said Rose. “There was a crowd of people. People loved it and I think people have been waiting for it again. We are expecting a big turnout and we pray for a perfect night of nice, Christmassy, snowy weather.”
Stephenville Airport Corporation
Coun. Myra White motioned on behalf of the Finance Committee that the operational grant of $39,997.10 be given by the Town to the Stephenville Airport Corporation, which was passed by Council.
Mayor Rose said this last installment is part of their budget for 2021.
“With the transfer closure by December 31, it’s our hope that in 2022 the airport authority will start paying us money instead of us paying them money. That’s the game plan and that’s the goal."
Guardian Angel Program
The Planning and Traffic Committee recommended that council recognize and support the Guardian Angel Volunteer Group created by Coun. Tracy Boland to assist seniors. Council approved the motion.
“As you get older, especially the most vulnerable who live by themselves in their own home and during the harsher months from December to March, you need help, whether it’s a step being shoveled, getting a hot meal, or being visited and being read to,” said Mayor Rose. “COVID has actually created a lot of stress in our communities, people are nervous about going out, and this is a great initiative.”
Mayor Tom Rose stated there is an issue that he is going to bring up at every public council meeting until the matter is resolved and leaders in the province recognize that the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital is not taking any cutbacks.
“The Health Accord was formed to find efficiencies in healthcare. You can go all the way to the wall and shut down every health centre in the province except for the Health Sciences Centre and I am sure you will save a couple of dollars, but that’s not reality."
He said it is critical for Medevac transport, people in rural communities, and emergency response for the hospital to remain as it is.
“We’re doing our part to grow the province, repatriate Newfoundlanders, grow the population, and we’re hearing that this Health Accord is saying there should only be three hospitals: Corner Brook, one in central, and St. John’s. Well that’s not going to happen on our watch and I’m sure I have the support of this council, this community, and every mayor, every citizen, and every child from the Southwest corner of this province."
Rose also suggested it is time for council to send word to every mayor whose community is impacted and set up a meeting for January to come together and challenge the proposed Health Accord.
“Somebody in power is going to soon have to come in and meet with us and that is why we are writing letters to the ministers, to explain to them the importance,” said Rose. “They don’t know what’s happening on the ground here. We've got to inform them. We’ve got to educate them.”
Coun. Laura Aylward said the meeting with the government needs to take place before Christmas, because this government took a break until March and it’s 'time for them to have something to do'.
“I worked in the old hospital for 33 years. The bad news I got last evening is the fact that our surgeon, Dr. Hassan, one of the best surgeons we’ve had, is leaving. He is leaving the end of January and he’s going to Gander,” shared Aylward.
Aylward said those in power at Western Health made the decision for the library, which is used by doctors, nurses, people taking medical courses, to be taken away.
“They are going at it piece by piece,” said Aylward. “Sneaking things out. Our doctors here are not getting the support they need from some of the senior management.”
Mayor Rose said that in light of the seriousness of this file, the Town will reach out to Minister John Haggie and Premier Andrew Furey to set up a zoom meeting.
“Lets lead the charge,” said Rose. “When you think about it, because of this political mismanagement, they are defrauding the taxpayers. They spent $35 million on a modern hospital and they’re not allowing it to be functional. They’re not using it to its capacity. The decisions that are being made are so political that it is a fraud to the taxpayers of our province. So let's put it all on the table. Let's throw down the gauntlet; whatever we’ve got to do.”
Deputy-Mayor Susan Fowlow suggested it would be good to not just say what they don’t want to happen, but explain what they need to have in order to achieve the proposed growth.
“We should say ‘Here’s what we see as necessary over the next 10 years. This is the hospital we’ve envisioned that is going to provide the services we need in the region'," suggested Fowlow. “Ask them how they are going to ramp up and meet our needs instead of telling them ‘I can’t believe you’re taking this away’."