Get­ting equipped in Clarke’s Beach

Town mak­ing no­table in­vest­ments into ve­hi­cles; tak­ing on snow­clear­ing

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

The Town of Clarke’s Beach is ven­tur­ing out into the cold this win­ter, but it will be do­ing so in fine style.

For the first time, the town has de­cided to pro­vide its own snow­clear­ing ser­vices, rather than de­pend on an out­side con­trac­tor. In prepa­ra­tion for this, the town has in­vested a con­sid­er­able amount of tax dol­lars in the pur­chase of new equip­ment, with town of­fi­cials say­ing they are con­fi­dent the move will re­sult in im­proved ser­vices, and some cost-sav­ings.

“We are wast­ing money on ten­der­ing out,” said Coun. Garry Ben­dell, who chairs the town’s pub­lic works com­mit­tee.

Ben­dell said cit­i­zens can ex­pect a “first class” ser­vice, but cau­tioned that it may take some time to iron out the wrin­kles in the early go­ing.

“Res­i­dents will see if we’re not do­ing a good job, and they will tell us,” Ben­dell added.

Here’s a summary of the town’s re­cent pur­chases:

• A new fully equipped JCB back­hoe ar­rived in April, at a cost of some $ 130,000. The town bor­rowed the money, to be paid back over a pe­riod of 10 years at a monthly pay­ment of $1,100.

The back­hoe is be­ing used for ditch­ing, road main­te­nance and water and sewer work, and will also be fit­ted with an 11-foot power-an­gle blade for snow­clear­ing op­er­a­tions this win­ter.

It’s the first time the town has owned a back­hoe.

Ben­dell said ac­tiv­i­ties such as ditch­ing and shoul­der main­te­nance have not re­ceived the nec­es­sary at­ten­tion in re­cent years, largely be­cause the town would have to call in a con­trac­tor in ev­ery in­stance.

• The lat­est pur­chase was a 2011 Dodge Ram 5500 Se­ries 4X4 truck. The truck is pow­ered by a diesel en­gine, fea­tures a dump, sand/ salt spread­ing equip­ment and a snow­plow. The truck ar­rived in late Septem­ber at a cost of more than $79,000, which will be re­paid over five years at a monthly cost of $1,318.

• The town also pur­chased a new Chevy Sil­ver­ado pickup in Fe­bru­ary 2009, which is used by the town’s water/wasterwater op­er­a­tor.

Tax rates un­changed

The town was able to pur­chase the equip­ment with­out rais­ing tax rates, largely be­cause prop­erty as­sess­ments have in­creased in the town in re­cent years, which has es­ca­lated the amount of taxes paid by prop­erty own­ers.

Of fi­cials say the town is in a “healthy fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion,” and re­ported a $35,000 cash sur­plus in its 2010 op­er­at­ing bud­get.

The town, which had an op­er­at­ing bud­get of just over $761,000 in 2010, serves some 560 house­holds, and is sand­wiched be­tween the towns of South River and North River.

“We are show­ing res­i­dents we are in­vest­ing in our com­mu­nity, and not just con­tract­ing out,” Ben­dell stated.

Ben­dell be­lieves the in­vest­ments will ac­tu­ally save the town money, which can be redi­rected to ar­eas such as water and sewer in­fra­struc­ture, and street paving.

Last year, the town bud­get­ted more than $55,000 for snow­clear­ing. The con­tract with the pri­vate firm ex­pired in Septem­ber, say town of­fi­cials.

Garbage col­lec­tion, mean­while, is still be­ing done by a pri­vate firm, and costs the town some $70,000 an­nu­ally. But mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers in the re­gion con­tinue to hint at the idea of a re­gion­al­iza­tion of the ser­vice among towns that make up the Bay de Grave re­gional mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices cor­po­ra­tion — North River, Clarke’s Beach, South River, Makin­sons and Cupids.

Note­wor­thy in­vest­ments

The new ve­hi­cles are just the lat­est in a se­ries of ma­jor in­vest­ments made by the town. A new mu­nic­i­pal garage was com­pleted ear­lier this year, and there’s al­ready talk of build­ing a $20,000 ex­ten­sion be­cause the town needs ex­tra stor­age space for ve­hi­cles and other items.

The town also pur­chased the former Sal­va­tion Army ci­tadel in the town sev­eral years ago, and con­verted it into a town hall and com­mu­nity cen­tre. The provin­cial govern­ment paid $82,000 of the roughly $175,000 price tag, and the town re­cently paid off its share of the mort­gage.

There’s also been paving work done in re­cent years, with much of it be­ing one with­out any as­sis­tance from the prov­ince.

But one area that hasn’t seen much in­vest­ment is the water and sewer sys­tem. Roughly 55 to 60 per cent of the town is ser­viced by mu­nic­i­pal water and sewer.

The town has ap­plied to the prov­ince for cost-shar­ing agree­ments to ex­pand the sys­tem, but has not been suc­cess­ful. In fact, there’s been very ilt­tle water and sewer work done over the past decade.

“With our new mem­ber, maybe we can have some dis­cus­sion about this in the near fu­ture,” Ben­dell said, in ref­er­ence to newly elected Port de Grave MHA Glenn Lit­tle­john, who won the seat for the gov­ern­ing Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party on Oct. 11.

Mean­while, Ben­dell said he’s en­thu­si­as­tic about the town’s fu­ture.

“I’m re­ally up­beat. Peo­ple are in­ter­ested in see­ing the town move for­ward and stop wast­ing money. It’s time for us to have our own equip­ment and do our own thing,” he said.

Mayor Betty Moore cred­its the town’s im­proved fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion to a de­ci­sion to re­fi­nance its debt dur­ing the mid­dle part of the last decade. At the time, she said, the town was strug­gle to man­age some $1 mil­lion in debt, but that num­ber has since dropped to roughly $400,000.

“We’ve been get­ting our­selves equipped, been do­ing some road­work and run­ning the town, and still hav­ing a bal­ance in our bank ac­count each month for any emer­gency that might come up,” Moore said.

The Town of Clarke’s Beach has made some no­table in­vest­ments in re­cent months in an ef­fort to im­prove ser­vices to its res­i­dents. Town em­ploy­ees Paul Mc­carthy (right) and Ron Laracy are shown here with the town’s new back­hoe and dump truck/snow­plow. The pickup truck was pur­chased a lit­tle over two years ago. A new mu­nic­i­pal garage (back­ground) was also built in re­cent months.

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