Ayer’s Cliff Mayor is on a Mission
Ayer’sCliff held their April municipal meeting on Monday evening. It opened with the adoption of the minutes of the previous month’s meeting, followed immediately by an open question period for citizens in attendance.
Some of the highlights of the council meeting were focused on developmental improvements voted upon by council. They included issues such as access to Lake Massawippi for local residents, the reduction of summer camp registration fees and the purchase of dirt for the town ball park. The council also addressed speed limits within school zones, hiring street sweeping employees on an ‘as needed’ basis and the construction of new sidewalks.
The town has been investing money on an ongoing basis for the beautification and development of Tyler Park. This winter a new rink and outbuilding were constructed, while installation of a water-sprinkler park and new landscaping are slated for this Spring. New sidewalks are also being constructed through the town’s infrastructure upgrade initiative, which will see in excess of $300,000 invested by 2013.
The infrastructure work is not coming out of the taxpayers’ pocket in Ayer’s Cliff. The town, whose population is only two thirds that of Stanstead’s, recently had their municipal taxes reduced by 9% for 2012, which equates to an average savings of $180 per household. The municipality is operating at a profit under a balanced budget and anticipates having an approximate surplus of almost $800,000 by the end of 2012, despite all of the urban development and infrastructure work being done this year.
The town is seeing considerable growth and is in sound financial shape due
primarily to the leadership of a Mayor on a mission. The town elected Alec van Zuiden, a former business CEO, as mayor and, as a result, the municipality’s financial health has never looked better. This Mayor has a clear vision of prosperity, business savvy in abundance and a non-political, outside-thebox perspective on municipal governance. The town recently received a subvention from the government in excess of $300,000. The town applied for the subsidy under the Gasoline Excise Tax Refund program offered by the Federal Government and distributed through SOFIL, or the Société de financement des infrastructure locales. So, while the taxes in Ayer’s Cliff drop, the quality of life rises and the taxes citizens paid on high-priced gas come back to this little town in the form of almost one third of a million dollars in free infrastructure work.
Van Zuiden is not a typical mayor. He spoke to the Journal of his dream of purchasing a for-profit business or organization in the name of Ayer’s Cliff in order for the town to generate a profit and support itself through business endeavours rather than taxing its’ population. He also spoke of intentions to develop lake front property for public use. His philosophy of fiscal responsibility is simple; measured risk-taking coupled with financial prudence. The outcome for Ayer’s Cliff is tangible, presently it equates to a large sum of money set aside in a contingency fund, huge cash subsidies, tax reductions, improved infrastructure, and the realization of numerous developmental improvements for its’ citizens.
These benefits all occur while Ayer’s Cliff operates at a profit. Their municipal meetings include, and respond to, citizens’ input, while counsellors work cooperatively to arrive at decisions founded in law but ‘administered in the spirit of the law’. Van Zuiden stated that his philosophy in administering the town’s bylaws is simple. “The letter of the law tends to death, while the spirit of the law tends to life.” He went on to say ‘I am all about the spirit of the law.” The self-effacing Mayor doesn’t profess to have all the answers, stating a lot of credit belongs to the council and town’s administrative staff, who he claims are knowledgeable and work very hard. He gave the impression of being passionate about the challenges his town faces and being determined to leave the town better off than when he began, which is a noble goal in this age of instant gratification and lack of political accountability. It certainly defies the political ideology that allows a council to make a $500,000 investment in a fountain, without thought to the fact it will precede an unnecessary tax hike in a town where citizens have no local jobs and cannot afford to feed their kids or paint their own homes. Ayer’s Cliff ‘s Mayor gives us a standard to consider when it comes time for our next election.
Mayor van Zuiden brings prosperity to Ayer’s Cliff