© Jonathan Riley
This picture shows the normal attendance at town council meetings – however six town residents showed up for the Jan. 6 meeting.
Tax crusaders still attending council
Six people sat in on the Digby town council meeting Monday, Jan. 6 – six more than normally attend. Among them was Charlotte Sabean who told council in December she and others wanted to be more informed about council decisions.
Sabean presented to council twice this past fall about taxpayer displeasure with a recent tax hike and the tax system in general.
Sabean says she doesn’t want to miss the consultant’s report on the town’s organizational review and she wants to make sure council does schedule a public meeting to discuss and explain the budget.
The organization review looking at how the town delivers services should be finished by Jan. 20 and council expects to have a public presentation of that in early February.
Mayor Ben Cleveland said Tuesday, Jan. 7 that he expects to hold a public meeting on the town’s finances by late February or early March at the latest. He said they will also be presenting some information from the Nova Scotia Towns Taskforce about the challenges facing towns.
As for when the budget will come out, he said council will be talking about when they’d like to see some numbers or drafts from staff.
In the past they have had to wait for information about some costs like policing, but now they are part of the provincial justice contract.
“We’ll be having those discussions in council but I feel safe saying council would like to see a draft by June or July,” he said.
The town councillors will meet for a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. at town hall.
Committee of the Whole has the same make up as a regular council meeting but they generally don’t make decisions at those meetings. Instead they consider and discuss and then make recommendations for a vote at the next council meeting.
New member added, one more needed for Water Commission
Digby town council approved Charles Ross as a member of the Digby Water Commission but they are still looking for one more member.
The Water Commission is the body that sets the water rates for the town and makes sure the infrastructure is maintained.
The seven-member board meets monthly, the third Tuesday of the month at 6:00 pm at town hall.
Town CAO Tom Ossinger told council on Monday, Jan. 6 that the commission had been short one member for the last year and has been short two members the last week.
Jeff Sunderland recently resigned from the commission since accepting the position of deputy CAO with the Municipality of the District of Digby.
Ross has lived in Digby for 29 years, and has just retired from his position of Emergency Dispatcher with the Municipality of the District of Digby.
Town residents interested in serving on the Digby Water Commission can send or drop off a brief letter or resume to the town’s CAO.
Food bank and staff policy
Council approved a small change to their Christmas bonus policy – previously all town employees received a turkey at Christmastime and townhall donated the same amount of money as they spent on the turkeys to the Digby Foodbank.
Starting this year, the town gave each employee a $25 gift card instead and then donated the total they spent on gift cards to the foodbank.
This year the town’s donation will be $725. The town donated $500 before Christmas and now that exact figures are available they will send a second donation of $225.
Best use of the Heritage Centre
Councillor Bob Handspiker added a discussion of the Heritage Centre to the agenda for town council on Monday, Jan. 6.
Handspiker told council he didn’t think the building was being used to its fullest and that renting to the Farmer’s Market has meant the building can’t be used for anything else.
If the space were kept cleaner and in better repair, Handspiker says it could be used for public meetings or events which are now often held in the town’s council chambers.
For example he said the chambers were too small for the town levee and other meetings.
Councillor Brian Manzer agreed that by renting to the Farmer’s Market only a “select few” were able to use the building.
“We’re not making any money off it as it is, so why not open it up for more members of the community to have the use of it?” he said.
The town’s director of finance Matthew Raymond said they receive about $700 a year from the Farmer’s Market in rent.
Councillors Manzer, Mike Bartlett and Peter Turnbull sit on the Heritage Centre committee.
Bartlett says he had chance to speak with Leo Dugas of the Farmer’s Market at the New Years Levee and he says Dugas has some good ideas for adapting their use of the building.
The Heritage Centre committee should meet in January says Bartlett and will bring a report back to council about the best use of the Heritage Centre.
Reporter Jonathan Riley usually tweets the discussions at town and municipal council on Monday evenings using the @DigbyNews twitter account. Those tweets are available on Twitter but also on the right side of the Digby Courier webpage (www.digbycourier.ca). Readers can follow along as he tweets or it is always possible to scroll down through those tweets the next day to find tweets you may have missed.