Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Random Thoughts...: Who's Running for Clarenville Town Council?

Random Thoughts...: Who's Running for Clarenville Town Council?: I ask because people are declaring their intentions all over the province. The current Mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor will be running again. T...

Assessing the Impact of the Provincial Budget

I have had a day to digest the potential impact of the of the Provincial Government's budget cuts on the town of Clarenville.  As I noted in last week's blogpost on this same subject, we have good reason to be concerned.    

As a service centre for the region, Clarenville has a high proportion of jobs that are filled by professional people in various government departments & agencies - most notably in health and education.  In fact,  one in four jobs in this town are government type jobs.
Based on the information/calculations below, I estimate that the 2013 budget could potentially lead to the elimination of between  45-54  jobs in Clarenville this year - most of which are occuppied by well educated, younger individuals with families who are making over $50,000 annually. 
No doubt, the Hebron ramp-up will cushion the effect of these potential government layoffs on the community and on local businesses, however if our experience from Hibernia is any indicator, many of the people who will come to Clarenville for the Hebron  project will also leave Clarenville when the project is complete.  Hebron will be good for Clarenville in the next few years but it will not offer the same  permanency of opportunity and place that government jobs provide and it does expose us to the uncertainty of a Boom and Bust cycle. 
If these layoffs become reality, they will have a significant impact on this town's business community in the near term and the sustainable growth of Clarenville in the longer term.  

Our Town Clarenville

Monday, March 25, 2013

Clarenville Kiwanis - Select Highlights

Here's a few of the great performances from Thursday's show - more will be added.  If you are looking for a particular performance and would like to see it here email me and I'll add it...

Riverside Choir

Anthony Paddon Elementary Choir

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Co-op Investment in Clarenville vs. Ticky Tacky Boxes

The Clarenville Co-op held their annual general meeting this past week and I see from their financial statements that they invested just over $4 million into the development and construction of their new store/carwash/gasbar on Shoal Harbour Drive.  By any measure, that’s a substantial investment by the Co-op in its future.   

I use the word “investment” purposefully.   Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit that new facility will know that it is as good, or better, than any comparable facility anywhere – It came at a high absolute cost but it stands as a testament to the Co-op’s commitment to Clarenville (and the region) and its members. 

I want to see that same commitment shared more broadly in Clarenville by developers and businesses.  To illustrate my point,  drive past (or better, walk past) some of the stuff that has been built in Clarenville lately and take notice.  The vast majority of the commercial buildings that have been “erected’ over the past number of years are simple steel box, industrial type structures that resemble more of something found in a mining camp rather than something more substantial and permanent found in a town people establish roots in – these tin can buildings exude function over form and are most certainly designed to generate revenue and quick return on investment for their owners rather than instilling a commitment to the long term and a pride of place. If these buildings look awful now, imagine what they will look like in 10-40 years (Imagine many many eyesore buildings similar to our former stadium!)    I would go as far to argue that these constructions will perpetuate the old notion that Clarenville is a "transient town" rather than instill a notion of Clarenville being a great place to call "home" for its community of residents.  

Our Town's building regulations and approvals, must go further than just defining the placement of buildings, they should encourage aesthetics in design so as to create a much stronger sense of commitment to our community and a pride of place.  Developers too need to feed off the Co-op example and build for the long term.  Sadly the growing sea of ticky-tacky steel and plastic boxes that we call Clarenville may symbolize statistical growth but it does not represent the development of a sustainable community.  

The Co-op’s efforts and commitment to place should set the standard – it’s more expensive,  but it’s worth so much more than the cost.    

Monday, March 18, 2013

On Budget Cuts, Clarenville and Silence

Discovery Board "Closing", Employment Assistance Services (EAS) "New Delivery Model",  Service Canada Offices "De-staffed", School Board offices ????…

These are just some of the latest non-headlines that have not raised the ire of our local government in our town.  Essentially these all spell job cuts in the publicly funded sector and there are strong signals of more to come.  As we await budgets at the Federal and Provincial levels we are probably going to see more of less in Clarenville.  Unfortunately, other issues, like potholes in parking lots have taken the limelight.  I would argue that the Fed’s and the Province love our focus on our potholes because it keeps our focus off what they are up to!

Headlines & the Twitterverse are filled with announcements of government belt tightening at both the Federal and Provincial Levels these days.  The impact of these cuts is starting to be felt in government dependent towns such as Clarenville.  For the most part, these planned cuts/cuts have been met with relative silence from our Town’s leaders.

That’s too bad. 

Regardless of what you feel he worth of these former organizations/agencies have been, these organizations, in-and-of themselves, have been a source of high skilled, relatively well paid jobs that have been filled by relatively young & relatively skilled people.  These are just the type of jobs and people that this town needs to grow and prosper.

Further, each of these organization's clients will be affected is some way or another and that will impact their quality of life and potentially their employability in this region.

In this age of spin, you can bet that the Provincial or Federal Government will continue to look at government town’s such as Clarenville as preferred places to “re-evaluate spending priorities” (translation: impose spending cuts)  because these towns simply don’t have the political clout or the media presence capable of publicly analyzing the impact of the cuts and critiquing every such move.  Put simply: cuts in the rural areas are much easier to pull off.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you just how many people have been and will be affected in Clarenville by this belt tightening, but rest assured that for every government job lost there is a ripple that flows out to private service businesses in our community and our region.  That’s bad news for all of us and something that we should be working harder against.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Regulations without Enforcement

At this past week’s Council meeting, it was revealed that a home builder had built a house in such a way to contravene the town’s building regulations.  The house was built closer to the road than is allowed by the current code.   This situation was discovered only AFTER the house was built. 

So the Town was, once again, left in a pickle prompting Mayor Best asked: “How did we get to where we got?” Unfortunately, that fundamental question was never addressed at Tuesday’s meeting – it needs to be.   (listen to the PACKET’s March 5 Meeting Coverage starting at the 15 minute mark )

There are essentially three choices when a breach of the regulations is discovered. 1) Get the home owner to bring the build into spec.  2) Ignore the contravention or  3) Change the regulations.  Unfortunately this latest situation is not an isolated occurrence. It has happened before and from previous experience the Town’s attempts to force builders to fix their contraventions (option 1) have amounted to no more than a headache for Council and Town staff alike. So, option 2 has been followed by default.  

On this most recent contravention, Council has taken a different tact – they have gone to option 3 and changed the regulations to allow for the build.  As Councillor Bailey pointed out, this is backwards thinking, and I would argue that such a move undermines our Town's regulation system.   

To truly solve the problem we need to learn from this and previous incidents.  Clarenville needs to put a system in place to monitor all builds before and during the build process (this is a potential role for an Enforcement Officer, should the Town choose to hire one and baring that, it is a role for Public Works).  Even with 60 or so builds a year, establishing a building monitoring process should be within the Town’s capacity.  We need to learn from this latest incident and stop these “oops” situations from happening again.    Unfortunately, it was not at all clear from the meeting that this experience has motivated Council to put a better monitoring process in place.  

Let’s face it, if we can’t monitor construction in our own town, then our building construction regulations become moot.   As we get larger and as new residents expect more, we need to put the processes in place to ensure our growing community’s best interests are looked after.  

Clarenville Named to Host 2015 Allan Cup