7 stories from city hall
Hendsbee’s pension proposal halted, Otter Lake landfill fund trashed and a $25-million fuel tender runs out of gas.
David Hendsbee won’t be getting any public money to top up his pension. Council shot down a request from the longtime Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore representative, who wanted HRM to match costs so he could more easily buy back years of service. “No way, no how, not on my watch,” said Lisa Blackburn. “You have my sympathy, but not my support on this.” The 57-year-old Hendsbee only bought into the municipality’s pension plan last October, despite 20 years of public service.
Landfill fund trashed Halifax has thrown out plans for a new Otter Lake community fund. Staff argued the idea—cash for public improvements per tonnage of waste processed at the landfill—went against policy. Historically, similar funds have only been used on new projects (like Harbour Solutions) or expanding old projects (like the Sackville dump). Since the provincial Otter Lake Act sets the landfill’s cell heights in stone, expansion isn’t a possibility.
Gaslighting A potential $25-million contract for the city’s fuel needs has been deferred because of staff’s brevity. The multi-year agreement to pay Highland Fuel, Bluewave Energy and the Irvings close to $12 million annually for heating oil, propane, diesel and gasoline only warranted a two-page report. “It’s almost embarrassing to have so little information,” said Shawn Cleary. “There’s no way I can vote without actually knowing what the heck we’re voting on.” Staff will return in two weeks with more info on the joint-tender offer, which is expected to save Nova Scotia $14.25 million annually by letting the province and its municipalities buy in bulk.
In-camera secrets Council met behind closed doors late in the day for a verbal update on an unidentified personnel matter. Tuesday was the first council meeting since the city also fired its planning director, Bob Bjerke, two weeks ago. The sudden staffing change by CAO Jacques Dubé came as a surprise to several councillors and mayor Mike Savage. No word on if Tuesday’s meeting is related.
Pay to spay Feline advocate Stephen Adams made some last-minute alterations to the city’s proposed spay and neuter program for feral cats. The councillor convinced his colleagues to vote down an administrative order that would have given $50,000 a year to any charity working with HRM’s wild cats, and instead put forward a motion to direct that money solely to the SPCA. The SPCA has already been running a similar spay and neuter pilot project, and Adams says the divisive local cat organizations are all on board. “This is the first time in my memory that the cat rescue groups are all on the same page.” A vote on the matter was deferred until council’s next meeting.
Rails to trails Staff will look into securing land between Windsor Junction and Hantsport in hopes of turning an unused railway into an active transportation route. Deputy mayor Steve Craig put forward the request, which was born out of Halifax’s own greenway plans, along with talks already occurring between local trail organizations and officials in Hants County.
Library’s new life There’s finally some hope for the old Spring Garden Road Library. Council endorsed Waye Mason’s request for a staff report on formally withdrawing HRM’s offer to return the derelict property back to the province, and instead pursue other potential public uses for the site. Mason said several organizations have been “kicking the tires” on using the space, but so far no one has come forward with an executable plan. “What we need is money on the table so we can give somebody the keys.”