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Municipality of the District of Clare
COUNCIL-IN-COMMITTEE MEETING
Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.
Meeting held at 1185 Highway 1, Little Brook, NS

PRESENT: Council: Warden Ronnie LeBlanc, Deputy Warden Yvon LeBlanc, Councillors, Nil Doucet, Danny Hill, Philippe Gaudet, Brian Comeau, and Eric Pothier
Staff: Director of Community Development, Pam Doucet, Executive Assistant, Ashley Hanks (virtual), and Director of Finance, Ginette Cheff
Presenters: Bob Stephenson, Western REN
ABSENT:  Councillor Carl Deveau, CAO, Stéphane Cyr, and Communications Officer, Amy Paradis

1) Call to Order
The Warden called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

2) Approval of the Agenda 
The Warden asked that the following item be added to the agenda:

  • 1 Acquisition and Sale of Municipal Property

MOVED BY Councillor Danny Hill and SECONDED BY Deputy Warden Yvon LeBlanc that the proposed agenda be approved with the above noted addition.
MOTION CARRIED          

3) Declaration of Conflict of Interest
The Warden asked for any declarations of conflict of interest.
None declared.

4) Presentations
4.1 Continuous Improvements Project and Virtual Advisor Project – Rob Stephenson, Western REN
Rob Stephenson, the BusinessNOW Lead for the Western REN presented the Continuous Improvements Project and the Virtual Advisor Project (pdfSee attached).

Councillor Brian Comeau asked if businesses would be able to contact the Virtual Advisor Project if they are having difficulty hiring employees or are looking to renovate our upgrade their facilities. Mr. Stephenson stated that there are advisors with experience in all domains and would be able to meet the needs of businesses. Businesses are welcome to fill out the form found at https://westernren.ca/ to apply to this project.

The Warden thanked Mr. Stephenson for his presentation.

5) Staff Reports
5.1 Financial Update – Director of Finance, Ginette Cheff
The Director of Finance provided an overview of the Municipality’s financial position (pdfSee attached)

6) Business arising from Previous Meetings
None.

7) New Business
7.1 Low Income Property Tax Exemption 2021-2022
The Director of Finance Ginette Cheff updated Council on the Low Income Property Tax Exemption. In 2018, the maximum income level allowed to still qualify for the $300 property tax exemption was raised from $18,500 to $19,000 and has not been raised since. In 2019, letters were sent to previous recipients and 43 people received assistance. In 2020, letters were not sent, and 21 people received assistance. The Low-Income Property Tax Exemption is for eligible residents that do not receive the Senior’s Tax Rebate from the Province of Nova Scotia. Ms. Cheff did an analysis of the low income rebates in other towns and municipalities and they all have slightly different approaches. Some municipalities use a table to determine the amount, some consider the number of people in the household, others raise their amount annually with the CPI. This information was presented to Council in preparation for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

After much discussion, Council agreed that the income level required to qualify for the $300 property tax exemption should be raised to at least $20,000 but would like to wait until the appeals come in next month before making their final decision.

7.2 Property Tax Amount Write-Off
Due to a house fire in October 2020, a request was sent to the Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) to determine how much the assessment on AAN 04662865 could be lowered, since the owners were not able to use the house. PVSC determined that the assessment for this property for 2020 should be $17,600. Accordingly, the Finance Department completed a pro-rated calculation for the time the property was usable and determined that $302.40 in taxes should be refunded to the owners. Council agreed and made the following motion to recommend:

PROPOSED BY Councillor Eric Pothier and SECONDED BY Councillor Danny Hill that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend refunding the following tax amount in accordance with the assessment reduction of the Property Valuation Services Corporation for the reason described herein:

Account # Assessment Amount Tax Refund Year Resaon
04662865 $17,600 $302.40 2020 Fire Damage

MOTION CARRIED

7.3 Tax Sale 2020–2021
The property tax sale was scheduled for March 3, 2021 and would have been announced this week. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Director of Finance is seeking guidance from Council before proceeding. With the current gathering restrictions, the tax sale cannot be held at the municipal office in its usual format. A modified format was considered for the Clare Veterans Centre but would cause logistical difficulties in ensuring receipt of payment for the properties sold. The Finance Department spoke to several municipalities and towns across the province. Some are having tax sales by appointment while others are having tax sales by tender. The Director of Finance also spoke to our municipal advisor and was directed to speak with our lawyer for guidance regarding the interpretation of COVID-19 restrictions.  There are currently 63 properties listed on the tax sale for a total of $59,183 in taxes owing. These properties can be further broken down as follows: 10 accounts over $2,000 and 53 properties under $2,000.

After much discussion, Council concluded that the best and most prudent course of action is to postpone the tax sale to a later date and readjust should the restrictions around COVID-19 relax. Postponing the tax sale will also allow those experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 more time to pay their taxes. Council made the following motion to recommend:

PROPOSED BY Councillor Danny Hill and SECONDED BY Deputy Warden Yvon LeBlanc that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend postponing the 2021 tax sale to a later date.
MOTION CARRIED

7.4 Request for Letter of Support – Salmon Hatchery, Centreville, NS
The Warden and CAO met with representatives of Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. to discuss their request for a letter of support for a new land based post-smolt facility in Centerville Nova Scotia. This facility will grow salmon to 500g before putting them into outdoor pens. This will allow for treatment of salmon with antibiotics on land, before they are introduced into the ocean, and will create healthier salmon. The proposed facility will provide 453 FTE’s during the construction phase and will create 16 new full time jobs and another 18 indirect jobs once completed. This facility is part of an ongoing $500 million dollar expansion into Nova Scotia. Both the Town and the Municipality of Digby have sent letters of support for this new facility, focusing on the economic and social benefits to the area and less on aquaculture operations.

Council believes that this construction will have a positive economic impact on our area but has reservations regarding the potential impact on the lobster fishery. After much discussion, the following motion to recommend was put forward:

PROPOSED BY Councillor Nil Doucet and SECONDED BY Councillor Danny Hill that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend sending a letter to Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. supporting the construction of their new land based post-smolt facility in Centerville, NS.
MOTION DEFEATED (4-3)

7.5 Request for Signage (Blind Crest / Hidden Driveway) – Second Division Road
The Warden was contacted by a resident in Meteghan concerned about a blind crest when turning right onto the Second Division Road from Peter Dugas Road, going towards the Meteghan Connector. There have been several near accidents on this section of road and the resident is requesting an evaluation be completed as to its safety.

The Warden is meeting with the Area Manager for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal next week and will discuss this issue. Nevertheless, the Warden is asking for a motion to send a letter to the Minister if after the meeting, it is determined that a letter to the Minister is the best course of action. Council agreed and passed the following motion to recommend:

PROPOSED BY Councillor Danny Hill and SECONDED BY Councillor Philippe Gaudet that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend sending a letter to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal asking for an evaluation to be completed on the blind crest near the overpass on the Second Division Road between the Peter Dugas Road and the Meteghan Connector.
MOTION CARRIED

7.6 Request for Speed Limit Reduction – Meteghan
The Warden was contacted by a resident in Meteghan concerning the speed limit on Highway 1, between the Peter Dugas Road and the Meteghan Connector, where the speed limit increases from 50 km/h to 80km/h. There have been several near accidents in this area and the resident is requesting the speed limit be reduced to 50km/h up to the Meteghan Connector. With the new Villa Acadienne being constructed on this section of Highway 1, the Warden believes it prudent to have the speed limit reviewed by the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

The Warden is meeting with the Area Manager for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal next week and will discuss this issue. Nevertheless, the Warden is asking for a motion to send a letter to the Minister if after the meeting, it is determined that a letter to the Minister is the best course of action. Council agreed and passed the following motion to recommend:

PROPOSED BY Councillor Eric Pothier and SECONDED BY Councillor Brian Comeau that the Council for the Municipality of the District of Clare recommend sending a letter to the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal asking that a speed limit evaluation be completed to extend the 50km/h zone along Highway 1 in Meteghan up to the Meteghan Connector.
MOTION CARRIED

8) Questions and Comments from the Public
None.

9) Closed Session
PROPOSED BY Councillor Nil Doucet and SECONDED BY Deputy Warden Yvon LeBlanc that Council proceed to closed session.
MOTION CARRIED

Topics Discussed:
9.1 Acquisition and Sale of Municipal Property

PROPOSED BY Councillor Nil Doucet and SECONDED BY Deputy Warden Yvon LeBlanc that Council proceed to the Regular Council Meeting.
MOTION CARRIED

9) Date and time of the next Council-in-Committee Meeting
The next Council-in-Committee Meeting will be held on March 3, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.

10) Adjournment
PROPOSED BY Councillor Nil Doucet to adjourn the meeting at 8:50 p.m.

Submitted by

Ashley Hanks,
Executive Assistant