Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who'll Run for Council? Part 3 – The Municipality of Clarenville

On Tuesday September 24, townspeople in the Province's municipalities will vote for new municipal councils. Nomination Day is Tuesday, August 27.  In Clarenville there will be two votes; one for the position of Mayor and another for the 6 other councilors who will constitute our Town's government for the next 4 years.   If you are interested in running, Municipalities NL and The Department of Municipal Affairs have created a great resource called MAKING YOUR MARK - it has lots of useful information for would-be-councilors.

Here in Clarenville, I expect there will be a lot of interest from people considering running.  I’ve been there and I have some insights on what a new Councilor should know about the town.  Here is a summary of publicly available information on our Town.

THE MUNICIPALITY THAT WE CALL CLARENVILLE

Population Serviced
Clarenville has one of the fastest growing populations in the province.  With an official 2011 population of just over 6000, up 14% from 2007, we are the 13th biggest municipality in NL.   Clarenville’s prosperity comes not from just its own population.  Our current and continued success is predicated on Clarenville continuing to be a full service centre for the surrounding population of approximately 30,000 and the industry at Long Harbour, Bull Arm and Come-By-Chance.

With only 45 births in Clarenville in 2011 the bulk of the population growth is attributed to in-migration – pointing to the critical need for attraction and retention strategies to maintain the current rate of growth.  Clarenville’s median age is a full 3 years younger than the provincial average of 41.


2012-13 Staff


The Town has 30-35 employees - most long-serving.    The Town workers are also unionized   Click to See the Organizational Chart below.    Source: Clarenville.net


Budget 2013

The Town of Clarenville is a $9 million a year operation.

30% of the budget Revenues comes directly from Residential taxes – and another 30% coming from Business Taxes.  Jointly, Residents and Business contribute another 17% through Water and Sewer Taxes. Approximately 13% comes from Provincial sources.


Where Clarenville Plans to get its money for 2013
Revenue Category
Budgeted Revenue
(in thousands of dollars)
Percent of Total budget
Percent Increase(decrease) over previous year
Residential Property Tax
$2,680
30%
Commercial Property Tax
$840
9%
Business tax
$1,780
20%
Water and Sewer tax
$1,540
17%
Contribution to Debt Servicing
$877
10%
Other Revenue
$101
1%
Recreational revenue
$498
6%
Poll tax
$260
3%
Gas Tax
$226
2%
Provincial Op. Grant
$145
2%
Interest revenue
$60
1%
Grants in Lieu of tax
$35
0%
TOTAL Planned Income
$9,041
100%
6%


Where Clarenville plans to spend its money in 2013
Clarenville planned expenditures are broken into seven broad categories:

Budgeted Expenditure
(in thousands of dollars)
Percent of Total budget
Percent Increase(decrease) over previous year
General Administration
$1,176
13%
4%
Fire and Emergency Services
$277
3%
(10%)
Transportation
$1,953
22%
7%
Environmental Health
$1,200
13%
1%
Planning and Development
$148.4
2%
25%
Culture and Recreation
$1,014
11%
11%
Fiscal Expenditures
$3,274
36%
6%
TOTAL Planned Spending

$9,041
         100%

6%




Significant Assets
·                 Water Treatment Plant/Water tower
·                 Clarenville Events Centre
·                 White Hills Ski Resort
·                 Town Hall/Fire Station
·                 Several Front End Loaders, Grader,  2 Sidewalk plows, 1 mini excavator,  Several Tandem Trucks  and several Pickup Trucks


Accepted Plans and Strategies:



Friday, July 26, 2013

Who'll Run for Council? Part 2 – What to Expect in Council Chambers


On Tuesday September 24, townspeople in the Province's municipalities will vote for new municipal councils. Nomination Day is Tuesday, August 27.  In Clarenville there will be two votes; one for the position of Mayor and another for the 6 other councillors who will constitute our Town's government for the next 4 years.   If you are interested in running, Municipalities NL and The Department of Municipal Affairs have created a great resource called MAKING YOUR MARK - it has lots of useful information for would-be-councillors.

Here in Clarenville, I expect there will be a lot of interest from people considering running.  I’ve been there and I have some insights on what a new Councilor can expect in his or her role.


MEETINGS

General Meetings: Structure and Schedule
If you like meeting lots of people with great ideas, Council is the place for you.  Clarenville’s Council meets every second week on Tuesdays.   The work of Council however is done in Committee and there are several formal committees – eg: Public Works, Finance, Economic Development, and Beautification(Arts and Recreation).   These committees are comprised of councilors and staff and are chaired by a councillor. These committees review applications, finances, opportunities and develop initiatives.  Some committees such as finance and public works meet bi-weekly while others meet less often.  Normally these subcommittees meet  in opposite weeks as council meetings and they meet during the day (Early morning, Lunchtime, after 4:00 and the meetings last an hour to an hour and a half.)  

As I pointed out in Part 1, this town is largely run by volunteers.  There are many groups and each group want and need to have input into the direction of the Town.  As such, you can expect meetings over and above the usual committee meetings.  Sometimes groups meet with a councillor(s) or sometimes they request to meet with council. 

All committee or outside meetings are brought back to the regular public Council meeting.  The Council agenda is set up so each committee can report.  I found that it is essential to have written minutes of meetings and it is helpful to get these out to other Councilors prior to the council meeting.   Better decisions are made and the likelihood of action increases with a full written report.


COUNCIL

Public Council Meetings
Council usually comes together as a full group only at the Public meetings.  I found this to be unfortunate in one sense because the group is really seven independent minds rather than a cohesive group. As I've already noted, the bi-weekly Council Meeting  is always a public meeting. There are about a dozen chairs for the public in the Council chambers.  Unfortunately few of the public ever attend these meetings.   I found that having the public present makes for a better meeting – I'm not sure why, but I guess that it forces councilors to be more accountable.  The PACKET newspaper is always there and they doa fantastic service recording all meetings and publishing them to their website- in a timely fashion (within 24 hours). With these records anyone can “be there” and listen to not only what wassaid but how it was approached.  You canfind these meeting records HERE.   Official minutes of any public meeting of council can be found on the Town’s website HERE, however these may take some time to get posted. (Minutes of the previous Council meeting are approved and become ‘Official” in the subsequent Council meeting  - then they are posted.

Once decisions are made by Council it is important – essential - for the members to stick to the decision of “the council”.   Some decisions can be quite decisive and it is important to have your say and influence the discussion BEFORE the decision is made so that a better, well discussed decision can be made.  As a new Councillor, don’t get caught making quick decisions, with limited or no facts and limited discussion.  Things that are not as well thought out as they should have been will come back to haunt you and the council.       


WHO ENFORCES THE DECISION?

Council represents the townspeople and it is its responsibility to direct the employees of the town to put this decision into action. This is a critical point that some Councillors – me included – often lose sight of.  Council’s job is Policy formation, not garbage collection.  Referring back to my point about the importance of well thought out decisions, this is most critical from an employee’s point of view.  He/She is the one that is carrying out the decision – Council needs to be there to back them up.  Waffling and lack of support makes for justifiably upset employees. 

ODDS AND ENDS

Deputy Mayor
The mayoral election is separate from the candidates election so the mayor is selected by voters.   The choice of the  Deputy Mayor is selected by Council.  Normally the candidate receiving the highest number of votes is selected as Deputy Mayor.

Council Stipend
Being a good Councillor can be expensive in terms of you time and treasure.  It will take up time and energy, not necessarily in meetings but also in considering decisions and researching issues.   You'll also be the Town's representative so it's important to be seen at as many events as you can - people (like me) will notice Councilor's presence (and their absence).  Of course some of this comes at a cost too - some costs are directly reimbursed by other costs are not.  To compensate Councilors to get a quarterly stipend that works out to approximately 7,000 a year for regular councillors, 8,000 for the Deputy Mayor and $9,000 for the mayor.

Go to Part 1
Go to Part 3

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Arts Under the Stars 2013



Arts Under The Stars (AUS) is a free evening in-the-park concert series on held on Thursday evening's in Clarenville throughout the summer.  This summer's series marks the 8th year for Ats Under the Stars and each year hundreds of people from Clarenville and surrounding communities come out to take in the shows. We've had notables such as Ron Hynes, Hey Rosetta and Rising Tide theatre. This year, the series starts this coming Thursday evening and have/will feature(d) such acts as Craig Young & Leeland Wareham, Shawn Wiseman, Gavin Simms, Katie Baggs, Sweet Voices of Youth, Morgan Davis, and the Quidi Vidi Dirt Band (See attached Brochure) -- Thursday's @ 7:00pm at Elizabeth Swan Park

Juno Award winning Morgan Davis - Aug 15
Sweet Voices Of Youth - Aug. 8



KATIE BAGGS www.katiebaggs.com - Aug. 1




PAST SHOWS





















Past Year's Shows


Who'll Run for Council? Part 1 - Making Your Mark in Council Chambers

On Tuesday September 24, townspeople in the Province's municipalities will vote for new municipal councils. Nomination Day is Tuesday, August 27.  In Clarenville there will be two votes; one for the position of Mayor and another for the 6 other councillors who will constitute our Town's government for the next 4 years.   If you are interested in running, Municipalities NL and The Department of Municipal Affairs have created a great resource called MAKING YOUR MARK - it has lots of useful information for would-be-councillors.

Here in Clarenville, I expect there will be a lot of interest from people considering running.  Here's my take on what I perceive to be the key issues a new council/mayor/councillor will face...  

Immediate Issues

Municipal Waste - Clarenville is one of the only communities in eastern NL to have twice a week, all you can throw away, garbage collection. We have no curbside recycling and no composting (These make up about 50% of garbage by weight).  With new provincial regulations, the local dump will close within the year and all garbage will be trucked to St. John's. The cost to ship it there will be borne by local taxpayers and that cost will largely depend on the weight of the garbage being shipped.  More weight equals more cost.   No plan has been formulated to reduce the amount of waste shipped nor has there been any plan put in place to run curbside recycling/composting.  There is a lot to be done quickly. See my Blog Post Here

Paying for Infrastructure - The building boom of the late 60's and 70's has meant that we have a lot of half-century old infrastructure that needs at best, upgrading or at worst, replacing.  This is expensive and although the Town only spends 20 cent dollars (80% funding by the province) the costs add up quickly as the list of demands grow.  Prioritizing and paying for these demands is and will continue to be a challenge.  

Mall Parking lot - the Old Mall area on Memorial Drive (Coop/SaveEasy/Shoppers) was built in the mid-60's. Back in the day, the Town built the parking lot, and later paved it, to help move the development ahead and grow the town.  Unfortunately the original agreement neglected to include a clause to facilitate the passing over of the lot to the mall owners in due time. Because of this, the responsibility of maintenance and liability has been borne by the Town ever since.  The Town wants out and with the lot requiring almost $1m worth of upgrades, this current deal is just too sweet for the mall owners to let the Town walk away from. (See My Blog Post Here)

Amendment-itus -  There is not a section of Clarenville that is not affected by developers who are busy planning or doing development.  We have a Municipal Plan that outlines the guidelines for development, but - and it's a big BUT - guidelines can be requested to be amended.  A year and a half into the current municipal plan the amendment requests are coming fast and furious.  Expect many more amendment requests.  (See My Blog Post Here

Looming Retirements - Looming Requirements

Town Staff - The average age of the compliment of Town's staff is getting up there and many are about to retire.  While this provides an opportunity for renewal, it also means that a lot of the collective knowledge about running the Town will soon be lost.  In the current economic environment, Recruitment and Selection of new & qualified staff will be a challenge. 

Town Entities - to make up for the lack of resources to hire management people, Clarenville is highly dependent on good volunteers to get things done.   Many of these volunteers are getting ready to retire.   Town owned entities that are so critical to the livability of this Town such as the Fire Department, White Hills Ski Resort and the Clarenville Area Recreation are largely managed and run by volunteer boards.  Finding and keeping volunteers will be critical to their success and the Town's success. 

In the Longer Term...

Municipal Planning - The current reality is that the Town has limited planning capacity. This means that in Clarenville planning is largely being done by developers (whose primary motive is profit driven).  Despite that fact that their development meet town imposed standards - they are very much in control of what, where and how things get developed.   Internally, the Town has very limited planning and vetting capacity and this has resulted in the lack of integration with the hodgepodge of independent developments.  With so many developments, the problems that come from untamed growth this have been magnified. (See my Blog Post Here)
  
Economic Development - We've had some valiant efforts and plans for economic development in this town however the gap between vision and action continues to be problematic.  A series of Economic Development officers have filled the role of ED Officer in the past few years and a solid vision and tangible developments towards that vision have not been documented and communicated as well as they could and should have been. (See my Blog Post Here)

Municipally Taxed - Regionally Responsible - Like any service town, Clarenville has the opportunity and challenge of being the regional service centre for this region.  Firefighting, Parks, Recreational facilities and Roads are all critically important to the region's collective health, however the costs of running and maintaining these is largely borne by the taxpayers of the Municipality of Clarenville.  Provincial grants have not grown as fast as the region and because of this, the Town is spending money on regional services at the expense of local taxpayers.      

Waste Water Treatment - New legislation at the federal level means that the days of dumping raw sewage into the ocean are coming to an end.  With a dispersed population and 8 sewer outfalls the cost of meeting the regulatory requirements for Clarenville will be HUGE.  As of yet, this eventuality has been ignored.  It's time to start planning, preparing and paying   (See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/11/18/bigfix-sewage-municipalities.html )


My Experience
For anyone interested in local politics, serving on council is a great privilege and excellent experience.  Many viewpoints sharing the same goal around the council table in a public forum make for a better ideas a better town.  If you have the time and the patience, coupled with a thick skin - I'd recommend it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Fleeting Opportunity to Improve Safety on Shoal Harbour Drive

Shoal Harbour Drive is well travelled, there is no doubt about that.  The road itself was never designed for the load of traffic that is on it currently - let alone into the future.  Some arguments have been raised regarding if the road should or should not be the main road - the fact of the matter is however that regardless of what should have been, Shoal Harbour Drive is now the de facto main artery for traffic from the Bonavista peninsula and Shoal Harbour valley to upper Clarenville. Traffic volumes will only continue to increase over the next few years and the road must be made to meet this challenge.  Something must be done NOW to make that road capable of more safely handling the traffic on it.  

With the reworking of lower Harbour Drive owing to problem pavement (see my blog post COUNCIL DOOVERS -  http://ourtownclarenville.blogspot.ca/2013/07/councils-overdue-do-overs.html ) , and the development ongoing in the Parkview subdivision, now is the opportune time to fix some big problems in a cost effective way - all that is needed is foresight and will.

1) Eliminate the Harbour Drive and Hutley Intersection Dip.
This picture is taken in the "dip" and looks at the Hunley intersection from the crosswalk
There is a dip in the road as you go east of Huntley drive.  This dip hides the view of traffic coming from the east and it also impedes driver's ability to see anyone crossing the crosswalk going west.   This dip can be filled and cut accordingly before new pavement is applied - increasing safety.

2) Add turning lanes to Parkview/Clearwater subdivisions and make a single entrance and exit path for each.
A driver coming down Shoal Harbour Drive, rounding the turn - at the speed limit - will not have enough time to react if left turning traffic is allowed going into the new Parkview subdivision - especially if there is no turning lane installed 
With the increased volume of traffic on Shoal Harbour Drive and the growing number of exit/entrance points, Turning lanes have become a necessity.   Further, to enhance safety with minimal inconvenience, the designation of a single exit and a single entrance would reduce congestion, reduce the number of accidents and reduce the cost of installing lanes.

3) Add sidewalks/pathway right along Shoal Harbour Drive.


No Sidewalks connecting new subdivisions to each other and the trail mean people are discouraged from walking and if they do walk it is at their peril
An increased number of subdivisions will inevitably mean more people and more walkers.   There needs to be sidewalks that lead somewhere and a pathway/sidewalk that links the subdivisions along Shoal Harbour Drive is key to doing this .  Additionally the installation of flashing lights on the crosswalk is overdue.

4) Pave the "leaders" onto the trailway.

A paved leader into the trailway would reduce rocks on road and give trailway riders fair warning of an intersection.
Paving 20-30 feet of the trailway on each side of a road crossing would improve safety, visibility and reduce the number of slip-inducing rocks that are being deposited on the sidewalk and roadway.