Getting equipped in Clarke’s Beach
Town making notable investments into vehicles; taking on snowclearing
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.
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.