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Topics of doctor recruitment, high-speed internet and renewable energy discussed at Bear River public meeting

Shown from left are: Michael Gunn, Jimmy MacAlpine, Terry Thibodeau and Jonathan Riley at the Dec. 6 public meeting in Bear River. JAMES MALLORY
Shown from left are: Michael Gunn, Jimmy MacAlpine, Terry Thibodeau and Jonathan Riley at the Dec. 6 public meeting in Bear River. JAMES MALLORY

Districts of Digby and Annapolis hosted Dec. 6 talks

BEAR RIVER, N.S. - Doctor recruitment, high-speed internet, trails, renewable energy, roads and waterfront upgrades were just a few of the many topics covered at a recent public meeting in Bear River.

On Dec. 6, a joint district public meeting was hosted by the Municipality of Digby and Municipality of Annapolis at the Bear River Fire Hall. Guest speakers included Municipality of Digby Warden Jimmy MacAlpine and Municipality of Annapolis councillor Michael Gunn. Also representing the Municipality of Digby were Renewable Energy/Climate Change coordinator Terry Thibodeau and Trail and Open Spaces coordinator Jonathan Riley.

Coun. Gunn spoke about the importance of regional cooperation considering half the village sits in the Annapolis district and the other half resides in the Digby district.

Gunn said he would also like to develop a waterfront project in Bear River to take advantage of the water and natural beauty that surrounds the area. 

Another point of interest among the audience was bringing high-speed internet to the village. Gunn said his district is working with a company to bring service to the Annapolis side.

“Annapolis county has made a deal with Mainland, and that’s a valley run company, that they would put fibre-op cable right through…I know the contract is 99.9 percent ready to be signed…and Mainland says they need 18 months…of working weather and they’ll have the wiring of Annapolis county done.”

Gunn said the county of Annapolis could guarantee a loan of up to $18-million to Mainland to make the project possible.

MacAlpine also talked about high-speed internet for rural areas of the Digby district, such as Bear River. He said the municipality is working with the Western Regional Enterprise Network to acquire federal funds to set up the much-needed technology in Bear River. MacAlpine said the counties of Yarmouth, Argyle and Barrington are also partners in this venture.

“It’s going to be over $20-million to put internet in, is what we’ve been told…We have to tap into that program to make it happen.”

Doctor and other health care professional recruitment was also a major highlight of MacAlpine’s presentation.

“It’s very important for our region and our community to have doctors. I think everybody knows how hard it is and when you go to Annapolis, they don’t seem to have that concern or issue that we have in Digby. For Digby, and especially for Weymouth when Dr. (Don) Westby retired they haven’t been able get another doctor. So that is something we are working on and hopefully in the upcoming year, we have some success.”

Thibodeau spoke of several initiatives involving energy efficiency programs for home owners, the conversion to LED street lights, improving the electrical grid capacity and renewable energy projects in the areas of wind, solar and tidal power.

Setting up an electric vehicle charging station in Bear River was also discussed and Thibodeau also spoke of the need to address the rising sea level.

Riley said he wants to promote Bear River as an outdoor attraction in areas such as cycling, hiking and canoeing.

Just over 20 people attended the hour-and-a-half meeting. Following the presentations, the audience was invited to ask questions and the majority of inquiries focused on roads, sidewalks and snow removal.

“What’s happening is when the plows go through they bring the snow up on the sidewalk so by the time the snow is plowed up onto the sidewalk portion, you’re up a foot high or sometimes more,” said Don Rice.

Glendon Milbury added that the overall condition of sidewalks is concerning.

“Our sidewalks are just about as uneven, holes into them and in the last few months, I’ve seen two people fall down on our sidewalks,” said Milbury.

“The sidewalks does get plowed but sometimes we wait a week-and-a-half to get them plowed.”

Another concern brought up by several audience members was motorists speeding through the village. Adding speed signs, flashing warning signs and an increased RCMP presence was recommended by several residents.

MacAlpine responded that municipalities have no control over road signs and speeding, but he added that he would bring up the residents’ concerns to the appropriate sources.

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