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Two councillors resign from Stephenville council

Stephenville Mayor, Tom Rose - file photo

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

STEPHENVILLE — The first council meeting of the year was held on Thursday evening, Jan. 11. Matters discussed included the tax agreement with the Port Harmon Authority and the tender for a new fire department work truck.

Port Harmon Authority

On behalf of the Finance Committee, Deputy Mayor Susan Fowlow moved council approve the termination of the tax agreement between the Port Harmon Authority and the Town of Stephenville.

“The town received four payments of $20,000 as a grant in lieu of taxes. Be it resolved that the payments totaling $80,000 and interest adjustments of $11,724.40 for the total amount of $91,724.40 be applied to Port Harmon Authority Limited and 69385 Newfoundland and Labrador Incorporated tax accounts,” said Fowlow.

Mayor Tom Rose wanted to clarify what this means.

“So most municipalities within the province or within the country often engage into grants in lieu of taxes, and just for clarity, that means that they issue a grant and an agreed amount between council and the entity and they actually get to be recognized as sustainable infrastructures or very significant economic drivers of a community. So, for example, in Stephenville, we have ports and airports. They would be renowned as enduring, sustainable pieces of infrastructure. It would be no different than when we had our main industry here with Abitibi Price,” said Rose.

“Abitibi Price was a major driver of economics, and instead of receiving full taxes, there was an agreement made by former councils that they would receive a grant in lieu of taxes and that gets negotiated by the powers of council and the entities who request it. So this is an agreement we have with the former port authority, but since May 31, the new owners who purchased the shares are now the new entities and owner of the Port of Stephenville, which would be World Energy. This was a previous agreement because the shares change in the company, the agreement had to be terminated.”

The motion was passed.

Fire department work truck

Fowlow also moved that council award the tender of the new fire department work truck to the lowest bidder, Dennis GM in Stephenville who priced the 2023 GMC Yukon XL at $87,377.

“This is a new addition to our fire department and it came from a demand on an MOU (memorandum of understanding) and a financial arrangement we received with Emera,” said Rose. “We now have the ability to respond to the substation in Bottom Brook in the event of confined space emergency response. So this unit will actually enhance the town's emergency disaster response, whether it's airport, whether it's Bottom Brook, and it's a good addition to our fire department. And remember, at the end of the day we have a professional team of firefighters, but they need to have the tools and the equipment to carry out the necessary work to save life.”

The motion was passed.

Four-plex on West Street

On behalf of the planning and traffic committee, Coun. Myra White moved that council approve a permit for a new four plex located at 837-839 West Street.

“I do believe that these were one of the projects that the provincial government supported in creating affordable housing across the province,” said Rose. “We need good housing with low cost to the residents from an energy perspective, but it's also important — and we've got some good data from our planners that we need to infill — so when we have vacant land within the community where our water and sewer and infrastructure exists, it's great to infill rather than do an urban sprawl where you got to push out more water and sewer lines, because that is very expensive.”

The motion was passed.

Subdivision extension

White also moved that council approve the subdivision extension for Whelan Crescent.

“We have a private contractor that has expanded his subdivision, with new lots going in. There's going to be a heightened demand for single residential units, a heightened demand for apartment complexes, a heightened demand for affordable units, tiny homes, executive level flats and estate lots, and I think it's critical when you look at your complement of residents and the demand that you have mixed development that's happening. So here we got two permits — one is for affordable housing and one is for single residential,” remarked Mayor Rose.

2023 in review

Mayor Rose said 2023 was a good year for Stephenville.

“We've had a lot of milestones, but I’d like to cite about five of them. One is May 31, the Port of Stephenville sold, a private capital with investments coming to build a hydrogen plant. Number two, August 25, the Stephenville Airport sold to private capital and they have invested — in addition to purchasing the airport — by completing the LED lighting system, which is a $3 million project, where I believe about $2 million came from the Feds, 1 million had to come from the Dymond Group to complete that. In October, I believe, or November, we received a decision of the provincial government to build a brand-new collaborative care clinic on a significant site next to our hospital. The site plan is nine acres, major construction is undergoing, and it is a $40 million contract. A commitment by provincial government with health services on the new health accord to bring in new standards of health care in facilities with a wraparound service of all the different needs, from mental health to GPs to nurse practitioners to social workers and so forth,” said Rose.

“We actually are selling the land for market value, so that's a good price tag for the town of Stephenville as we complete those sales transactions that will come into our 2024 budget as extraordinary income. The other one is there's continued work going on with the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women's Network as we're building a $4 million transition house. There will be several workers working into that brand new facility.”

Rose added that the paper shed also sold in 2023.

“It's a paper shed that was built in the 70’s, so we're talking regional loans and that is 50 years old. We sold it for market value and it will accrue $10 million into the coffers of the Town of Stephenville over the next eight years. That'll help with infrastructure, recreation and all the requirements that come on council for capital works and so forth. So it was a big year, and I have to say that as council, we strive to make decisions for the best interests of the town. A goal of any council is to walk in and when you leave council after your four year mandate that the town is a better place. I feel comfortable that we can say that, even into our third year, we are there,” said Rose. “I also support anybody who wants to complain against council. They have the right, and they have the right to use the social media platforms, complain. It just gets challenging, as when their communication comes out that it's not accurate and that often happens, but that's the game of communications media and social media.”

Resignation of two councillors

Council received two resignations before their meeting from Tracy Boland and Lenny Tiller.

“We did receive the first resignation from Coun. Tracy Boland, citing that she has taken on a new business, but between business and family, it was becoming overwhelming, but we want to thank her for her service. It was going into the third year, and it is not an easy job to be on council. You have to have thick skin, because not everybody agrees with the decisions we make, and they tend to come at us, but when you sign up for the job, you got to be able to handle it, but it's still very tough. So I want to wish her the very best,” said Rose.

“A few days later, Coun. Lenny Tiller decided to step down. He cited that from family reasons, taking care of his grandparents, that it was becoming overwhelming for him, and I got to say that for anybody who's in our gallery who's interested, we do have a by election that will be coming up within three months. I think under the Municipalities Act, we'll have to determine through staff and management when that will happen, but I will say that a couple of things that are critical is, first of all, you must be a resident of Stephenville to run, you must have your taxes paid, but you have to be committed, and you have to be committed to time.”

Serving on council doesn’t consist merely of meetings.

“For anybody who's living in Stephenville, you have the right to step forward. It is a good time to be a councillor because we're a town that's growing, but I'm saying it's a good time and an exciting time, but it's a time when it's going to take a lot more work than ever,” said Rose. “We anticipate more staffing, more permitting, more work, more meetings, and you got to be able to step up to the table and commit to the work that has to be done to make Stephenville a great town.”

Council thanked Boland and Tiller and wished them the best.

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