Feb. 26 council briefs

Council passes first reading of alternative voting bylaw

Amherst residents may get the opportunity to use the internet or a phone to cast a ballot during the next municipal election.

Council, at its February regular council session, passed the first reading of the Alternative Voting Bylaw, which would enable citizens to vote through the internet or via the phone during an extended advanced polling period during the 2020 municipal election.

Traditional paper ballots would still be used on Election Day.

The bylaw must go through a second reading before it becomes law.

 Electronic messaging signs may be coming to the downtown core

Council has approved the first reading of an amendment to its land-use bylaw that would allow electronic signs to be erected in the core area of the downtown zone.

The amendment is the result of an application by Holy Family Parish to install a LED messaging board on its Church Street property.

The acceptance of the amendment was recommended by the town’s planning advisory committee, with conditions on where signs may be placed. They must be on a facia wall, be a canopy sign or installed in the ground.

A public meeting on the proposed amendment will be held on March 26 at town hall at 6:30 p.m.

The amendment must also go through a second reading before it becomes law.

New mobile generator to be purchased

Council has approved the cost of a new $84,000 mobile generator being added to the contract the town has with Maritech Construction Ltd., the firm building the new water reservoir.

The new generator will operate the new reservoir, a backup well and a communications tower at the reservoir site in the event a power outage affects that location. Being mobile will also provide the town with greater flexibility for backup electrical generation at other locations, such as lift stations, during power outages that don’t affect the reservoir site.

Purchase of the generator will have little impact on reservoir replacement project’s budget as the project is about $2 million below the approved $7.7-million project budget.

Mandatory provincial contribution set

Council has set the mandatory provincial contribution rate at 39 cents per $100 of assessment for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The rate covers the costs borne by the town for provincially mandated services, including education, Property Valuation Services Corp. assessments, correction services and housing.

Last year’s mandatory rate was 41 cents per $100 of assessment. Reduced provincial housing costs resulted in this year’s lower rate.

Police chief, deputy chief getting raises

The town’s police chief and deputy chief are getting raises following council’s approval of amendments to the town’s salary administration policy.

The chief’s salary, effective April 1, 2017, is set at $120,549, while the deputy’s is set at $111,138.

The two salaries are historically linked to the collective agreement with the police union. A new contract with the union was ratified earlier this year, four years after the last contract expired. During that period neither officer received a raise.

Council also approved that beginning on April 1, 2018, the salaries for the chief and deputy-chief will be calculated each April 1 at 141 and 129 per cent respectively of the first-class constable rates.

Concerns over Rainbow Ridge to be sent to province

Coun. Terry Rhindress expressed frustration over the time it is taking to repair the Rainbow Bridge in Nappan. While the bridge is not inside town boundaries, he said its closure “impacts travel to and from the town.”

“Its continued closure can only hurt our economy,” Rhindress said. “It may also impact the response times of emergency service providers like the Amherst fire department.”

His motion to send a letter to the provincial transportation minister expressing those concerns and asking for an update on the plan to repair or replace the bridge was approved by council.

Uncollectable accounts written off

Council approved a staff recommendation that $4,217.36 in uncollectable accounts be written off after all reasonable attempts to collect them were exhausted.

All of the accounts belong to businesses that went into receivership or bankruptcy, and therefore cannot be legally collected, the staff report indicated.

The last time the town wrote off uncollectable accounts, an established process used in sound financial planning for reconciliation of accounts, was in 2014

Terms of reference for ad hoc tourism strategic planning committee adopted

Terms for an inter-municipal ad hoc tourism committee were approved council. Its goal will be to develop a tourism strategy that maximizes the value of tourism to the Cumberland region’s economy.

It is expected the committee will exist for eight to 12 months.

The voting membership of the committee will be two councillors from Cumberland County, one each from Amherst, Oxford, the Nova Scotia Indigenous Tourism Enterprise Network, the Federation acadienne de la nouvell-ecosse and six tourism industry representatives.

Non-voting members will include one staff member from each municipality and Tourism Nova Scotia.