Sackville man de­mands apol­ogy from town man­ager

Mer­lin Estabrooks ques­tions why his con­ver­sa­tion with con­trac­tor was in­ter­rupted


Should res­i­dents have free reign to pri­vately ques­tion con­trac­tors on a project be­ing com­mis­sioned by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity? And if so, will it come with a heftier price tag?

These were ques­tions up for dis­cus­sion at town coun­cil’s re­cent monthly meet­ing, sparked by a lo­cal res­i­dent’s ir­ri­ta­tion over be­ing in­ter­rupted in his at­tempt to have a hall­way con­ver­sa­tion with an engi­neer­ing con­sul­tant on the Lorne Street flood con­trol project fol­low­ing a pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion the week be­fore on the topic.

Mer­lin Estabrooks said he and an­other Sackville res­i­dent, Percy Best, had fol­lowed Pierre Plourde of Cran­dall Engi­neer­ing out of town coun­cil cham­bers af­ter his brief­ing on Sept. 4 to clar­ify some of the things Plourde had said and to pro­vide the con­sul­tant with ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion they thought he should have.

Estabrooks al­leges that Jamie Burke, se­nior man­ager of cor­po­rate projects for the town, came out af­ter them and “very rudely in­ter­rupted our con­ver­sa­tion.” He said Burke had no busi­ness in­trud­ing on what he says was sim­ply a friendly chat, and feels an apol­ogy is in or­der.

“Why didn’t he want us to talk to this man?”

Estabrooks said Burke told them they couldn’t speak with the con­sul­tant un­less they were will­ing to pay for his time.

Mayor John Higham de­fended Burke’s de­ci­sion, say­ing he was

“We cre­ate in our process, and we cre­ate in the con­tract, times in which the pub­lic have pub­lic ses­sions in which those ques­tions can be asked.”

Mayor John Higham

sim­ply “do­ing what he un­der­stood was his job.”

“The con­trac­tor was not sup­posed to be pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion about the spe­cific con­tract ex­cept to coun­cil (at that meet­ing),” said Higham.

The pub­lic brief­ing was pre­sented dur­ing coun­cil’s monthly dis­cus­sion group meet­ing, and although these meet­ings are open to the pub­lic, they have no ques­tion pe­riod.

Higham said the town does, how­ever, hold pub­lic ses­sions on projects like Lorne Street so res­i­dents have an op­por­tu­nity to ask ques­tions at that time.

“We cre­ate in our process, and we cre­ate in the con­tract, times in which the pub­lic have pub­lic ses­sions in which those ques­tions can be asked.”

Higham said con­trac­tors like Plourde could bill for their time to an­swer in­di­vid­ual ques­tions from res­i­dents – and that could start get­ting ex­pen­sive.

“We have 5,500 peo­ple in this town,” he told Estabrooks. “If they all said ‘I have the right to talk to that con­trac­tor,’ and they have the right to bill you, well, we’d have to dou­ble or triple the con­tract costs.”

The mayor said the coun­cil­lors are elected by the peo­ple to rep­re­sent them and it is their re­spon­si­bil­ity to ask ques­tions of con­trac­tors and make pub­lic de­ci­sions on con­tracts.

In this still photo taken from a video of this month’s Sackville town coun­cil meet­ing, lo­cal res­i­dent Mer­lin Estabrooks asks why a town man­ager in­ter­rupted a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion he was hav­ing with a con­trac­tor in the lobby of town hall the pre­vi­ous week. He said he was told he wasn’t able to dis­cuss the project pri­vately with the con­trac­tor un­less he was will­ing to pay for his time.

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