Ayer’s Cliff Mayor is on a Mis­sion

Stanstead Journal - - FROM PAGE ONE - Made­line Mulholland Ay­ers’cliff

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.

Photo Made­line Mulholland

Mayor van Zuiden brings pros­per­ity to Ayer’s Cliff

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