Year in Review: County works to improve services for rural residents
The Municipality of Pictou County could call 2018 a year of getting things done.
Major water projects were completed, new sidewalks constructed and progress was made in improving services in several areas including recreation and rural internet to name just a few highlights.
In regards to capital work, residents of Alma -Springville Estates in Alma were able to hook up to water and wastewater services. The $2.1 million project for the 25 residents of Alma-Springfield Estates was cost-shared through the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund which saw the federal and provincial governments contribute to 75 per cent of the costs and the Municipality of Pictou County covering 25 per cent.
About 30 Abercrombie residents also were able to access new wastewater services following the completion of this line. Similar to Alma, this $1.6 million project was also cost shared through the same fund. Packages outlining how hook up takes place has been sent to residents in both area.
Water work continued on the MacLellans Brook Road that included the replacement of a water main. The replacement project began in November by S.W. Weeks Construction and stretched a kilometre and a half along the road. The work is in addition to the Plymouth and MacLellan’s Brook Water Project which took place in Districts 10 and 11 in 2017 that allowed residents to receive wastewater services. The cost of this phase of the project is $432,976.35 which was shared between the federal government and the Municipality of Pictou County.
Paving took place on Second Street and Third Street in MacLellan’s Brook under a 50/50 cost share agreement with the province in regards to J-Class roads. J-Class roads are roads owned by the province, but fall under a cost-sharing agreement between the Nova Scotia Department of Infrastructure & Renewal and Municipalities.
For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the Municipality of Pictou County has requested that repaving take place on MacKenzie Road in MacLellan’s Brook as well as paving on First Street and Fourth Street. A section Harbour View Road in Pictou Landing is also on the Municipality’s wish list for repaving in the next fiscal year.
In addition, three major sidewalk projects were completed in 2018 in Alma near Northumberland Regional High School, Riverton near Riverview Home and on MacGregor Avenue in front of the Pictou County Wellness Centre. The total cost of the sidewalk project was $438,251.
In addition to building up its infrastructure, the Municipality also reduced the amount of properties it owns in 2018. Council approved the sale of the former River John School to a local resident and it declared the former Linacy School as surplus property that would be divested the Linacy Volunteer Fire Department. The demolition of the former Linacy school was approved during a December property service meeting. It also declared the former Hillside School property as surplus in October and this was sold to the Hillside Community Society for one dollar. The society plans to build a new community centre on the land.
The Municipality has taken ownership of the former Chignecto-Central Regional School Board office on Westville Road in December and will determine in the next fiscal year what it plans to do with it.
Councillors also focused on the services the Municipality provides to its residents in 2018. In February, it awarded a $94,400 contract to I-Valley for better rural and cellular service project management.
The scope of I-Valley’s work includes preparing a project understanding and current condition report, project development, assessing whether First Nations, provincial and federal lands could be used for optimal placement and reduced costs of the proposed internet backbone and last mile infrastructure among many other things.
It also made recreation a priority in 2018 by hiring a consultant to develop a Municipal Recreation Strategy. Peak Experiences is currently working with Municipal staff, Council and communities to develop a strategy that will meet the recreation and active living needs of rural residents. Community sessions are planned for January in Merigomish, Thorburn and River John that give residents a chance to express their views on this important topic.
Discussions on improving health care took place in Council chambers in 2018 that included the approval of an annual five-year commitment of $24,000 towards the establishment of an administrative position within the Aberdeen Health Foundation that is dedicated to supporting the efforts of the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s recruitment work in the Northern zone.
The Municipality of Pictou County also focused on making its own communities safer by purchasing eight automated external defibrillators in 2018. They will be placed in local community halls as well as one arena. A random draw was made to determine which Districts would receive the AED machines this fiscal year and remaining Districts will have the same opportunity in 2019-2020.
The Municipality of Pictou County set aside $12,000 in its 2018-2019 fiscal budget for the purchase of seven machines, but because of cost sharing with two community groups, as well as a preferred rate on the machines, it was able to purchase a eighth one.
The establishment of the Pictou County Regional Enterprise Network took place in 2018 with an independent board of directors being appointed. The PCREN is currently in the process of hiring a CEO and continues to work towards its mandate of supporting and strengthening economic growth in Pictou County.
The Municipality of Pictou County will operate on a $17,443,018 budget for 2018-2019 fiscal year which is an increase of 1.2 per cent over the previous year’s budget.
The general tax rate remained unchanged at $0.81 per $100 of assessment for residential and resource accounts and $1.82 per $100 of assessment for commercial accounts.The 2018-19 operating budget continues many of the programs that Council supported in the past including maintaining its community and recreation grants. Council’s grants have been increased to $229,000, up $28,000 over the previous year while recreation grants remain at similar levels to the previous year.
The Municipality of Pictou County 2017-2018 financial statements saw the County end its year with a surplus of $1.3 million in its general operating fund as well as a $6.5 million surplus in its consolidated statements.