Mayor ex­plains se­crecy be­hind land ac­qui­si­tions

Here are three in­ter­est­ing take­aways from Sackville Town Coun­cil’s Oc­to­ber dis­cus­sion meet­ing

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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.”

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