Mayor explains secrecy behind land acquisitions
Here are three interesting takeaways from Sackville Town Council’s October discussion meeting
Sackville’s mayor says the town works under a legal framework when making land purchases that require the municipality to keep details under wraps until the deal is sealed.
“If local governments seek to acquire land, they have to do it in-camera, and do it in a manner that doesn’t increase the potential for taxpayers to have to pay higher prices,” said Mayor John Higham during council’s recent discussion meeting.
Higham was responding to a recent letter to the editor in the Sackville Tribune-post in which a local resident questioned recent land acquisitions related to the Lorne Street flood control project, why they were kept secret, and why the money for these lands didn’t come out of the infrastructure fund for this project.
Higham explained that sometimes, when the buyer is government, some sellers see it as an opportunity to drive the price up, hoping to get more than market value for their properties. That’s why provincial governments began asking municipalities to conduct these acquisitions behind closed doors, to limit outside involvement.
“Every step along the way is designed to protect our local taxpayers in acquiring land.”
The mayor also pointed out that cost-shared programs, such as the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund from which the town obtained funds, are limited as to what can be expensed – and land acquisition is not on that list. So that’s why these purchases were funded separately.
Student leaders stepping up to further enhance town-gown relations
It’s only a month into their school year but members of the Mount Allison Student Union (MASU) have been busy on campus and in the community.
From promoting the New Brunswick election to organizing an upcoming off-campus housing fair, student representatives have a list of priorities they are working on this year, a list they shared with Sackville town council last week as they made a presentation at the monthly council meeting.
Yana Titarenko, MASU’S vice president of external affairs, said one of her first duties for the academic year was to help bring the polls to campus this year, where students and staff as well as community members had the opportunity to cast their ballots. She also helped organize an allcandidates’ debate leading up to the Sept. 24 election and a live results party.
Titarenko said 457 votes were cast at the advanced polls at Mount A this year, more than doubling the numbers from the 2014 election.
Coun. Bill Evans said he was impressed with the student engagement on this issue, really hitting home the idea of every vote counts – particularly in an area where the new MLA won by only 11 votes.
“You could have been instrumental just by getting students engaged,” he said. “And I think that’s wonderful. I love it when people participate.”
Also on MASU’S list of priorities is: off-campus student housing, town and gown relations; campus accessibility; and helping to promote not only Sackville businesses but local events happening in the community.
Titarenko said she’d like to see more students explore “outside of the campus bubble.”
“I’ve spent two summers here, I absolutely love Sackville so I really want to show people all that.”
Lauren Doane, vice president of communications for MASU who is helping to raise awareness of community events this year, agreed.
“It’s really important to keep students engaged in town events as well as the town members engaged in what Mount Allison has to offer them.”
Date of municipal byelection up in the air With plenty of uncertainty hanging over the province following last month’s election results, which sees New Brunswick in a minority government situation for the first time since 1920, municipal governments are left wondering how long they may have to wait to fill vacant council seats.
There are a number of vacancies around the province following the Sept. 24 election, including in Sackville, where town councillor Megan Mitton was elected as the new Memramcook-tantramar MLA.
Mayor John Higham said he is unsure as to when Elections NB will be able to move forward with a byelection as there are many factors now in play that may keep them from committing to a date.
He said although initially there was talk of a byelection happening sometime in December, the possibility of that happening now is looking dim. Political pundits say they are not expecting the Liberals or the Conservatives to be able to make government work and anticipate voters could be back at the polls within 12 to 18 months.
“They are concerned there could be another election arising somewhere in that period of time for which they’ve got to prepare, which would take precedence,” said Higham.
Mitton has yet to resign her seat officially but will likely do so soon, as it’s a requirement before she takes oath of another elected office, said Higham.
Council will then pass a resolution indicating that seat has been vacated, which will be forwarded to the minister of local government.
“Then we are at the mercy of Local Government and Elections NB of setting a time for that byelection to take place. We do not have any control over when that will happen,” said Higham. “The date is up to the province to declare.”