The RQM may be faced with losing five to seven per cent of the tax base as a result of Resolute closing. How do you propose dealing with this?
David Dagley said it represents about a $500,000 to $700,000 loss of the overall budget, and if the mill is not sold it could see the tax base reduced further through assessment reduction.
To help offset this, he said there are a variety of things that can be done. An increase in events at Queens Place could help mitigate losses, as well as a detailed budget review, increased efficiencies and taxes from new residential and commercial construction.
"Through positive efforts, hard work and wise decisions by future councils and staff, the Region can continue to live within it's means without a tax increase," he said.
Chris Clarke said they have some advantages with the budget being set for the 2012-2013 year. They have six months to review all of the budget, to make sure all programs earn their way.
"We have to look at each one, and ask if it helps us achieve our goals," he said.
He added they would also need to look at increasing the economic development budget.
"It's a small sum when you compare it to the amount we spend on recreation. I think we need to adjust our priorities going into this new post-Bowater era," he said.
Mervin Hartlen said one area they could look is the capital construction project budget. Some projects need to be completed, such as the Brooklyn sewer and water line, however others may have to be put on hold until the economy recovers.
"We have been in this situation before, and by working together have survived. We will again," he said.
Owen Hamlin said in his time on council they have been talking about the loss of revenue, and have also been dealing with the loss of the Nova Scotia Power taxes as well. They have managed so far, he said, and will find ways to deal with this as well. One way is to stay open to public ideas, something he did through his open meetings as councillor with District 3.
"As Mayor what I am going to be is a coordinator of good ideas and make them work," he said.
Addressing Clarke's point on recreation, he said the budget covers a wide variety of activities that are important to the council.
"I will fight tooth and nail to keep our recreation department," he said, adding it is even more important these days with declining fitness in our population.
As Mayor, what would you do to lead a vibrant economy in the RQM?
Clarke said he was impressed with the work done so far by the Transition Committee and other groups in the community looking at revitalization. He is supportive of the arts council and an arts centre, whether it is at the town hall or another location. He also said investing in economic development is important, dipping into the Region's reserve funding.
"I look at reserves as being useful for a rainy day, and I can't think of anything much rainier than the present time," he said
He also hopes to see a business take control of the Bowater assets, and will work with anyone expressing an interest.
Hamlin said council needs to act on recommendations that come forward from work being done by the previous council and the Transition Committee. He said the Region needs to capitalize on its history, and marketing the vibrant past of the county.
He also sees the North Queens Fair Grounds as an underutilized site, which could be boosted because of its proximity to Kejimkujik National Park and being part of the South West Biosphere Reserve.
"It needs some development. I think there are many activities that could go on out there," he said.
Dagley said the future depends on positive change and progress, and the need for employment diversification.
"Our focus must be to actively and selectively target employers, to entice them to bring jobs to the Region of Queens," he said.
He also said supporting expansion of existing employers is important, as well as advocating for a new Yarmouth ferry to help tourism.
Another boost might come from bringing assisted living care facilities, bigger long-term care facilities, education facilities and government jobs, he said.
Hartlen said he would use his 40 years of experience with the construction industry, from surveying to real estate to work with any developer looking to come to the Region of Queens.
How do you plan to connect to and engage in the younger population in Queens?
Hartlen said to get the youth involved, they first need to engage the parents. Getting them engaged will get the youth engaged, he said.
Council recently had a presentation on building a skateboard park in the Region, which he would look at as Mayor.
Clarke said there are many volunteers in the school system, such as the Key Club at the high school. High achievers are not the hard ones to engage, he said, it is the rest that are the ones to pursue. Clarke said he likes the idea of a skateboard park, though he was not sure where the money would come from.
"Maybe we don't need a Rolls Royce when a Cadillac will do," he said.
Hamlin said youth is a shrinking population, and can be difficult to engage. However he said his career as a teacher would help bridge that gap.
A skateboard park was tried in the past, but failed due to the culture at the time. Now kids are much better though, he said. A skateboard park now is worth the money to build it well, for safety and maintenance reasons.
"We have had a presentation, we have a group interested. I'm sure council is looking to take this further down the road," he said.
Dagley said a focus on Queens Place is important to engage the youth.
"Youth needs to busy and their minds active"
He said it is incumbent on them to foster programs that will help, such as "Learn to Fish," which paired kids with experienced fishermen. He said there are other opportunities out there, and is up to council and staff to get public input on what the community is interested in.
What is the net savings of having all the construction equipment?
The issue was addressed recently in council at Region of Queens. The net savings is about 25 per cent.
Clarke said they will continue to look at equipment from time to time to make sure they are not overspending, however said with net savings of 25 per cent they can do more with the same amount of money
Hartlen has seen tendered projects go out and be done very badly, and by doing it themselves they can do it well and the way they want. Construction equipment goes all around the county for projects he said, not just highly visible ones in Liverpool.
Using their own equipment also keeps employees in the community, where a tender would just leave the building. Those employees instead live and spend money in the community. He added anyone questioning the usage can come to the Region and see the figures on how their tax dollars are being saved.
Dagley said the Region employs skilled and efficient employees, where contracting would likely go to outside firms. He said the Region needs to make sure the equipment is used efficiently, and is useful to purchase rather than rent.
For the equipment rented, he said they will try to use local operators.
Hamlin said the Region was able to do ground work for Queens Place, and the architects from the project would recommend their crew for any project like that.
He said there is a lot of due diligence when doing the work themselves, and they must prove to the province of Nova Scotia there is a savings before they can go ahead with the work.
Safety issues of the three-way crosswalk in Liverpool by Post Office and the sidewalk on the town bridge.
Hartlen said the three-way stop is working better than any previous configurations. He said as a walker himself he supports adding a railing to the town bridge.
Dagley said there are too many close calls on the corner.
"Streetlights may not be the solution, but we need a solution," he said.
He said the railing was taken out for snow removal equipment, and an option might be looking at getting equipment that could deal with small space. He would encourage council to look at the issue.
Hamlin said there is a problem at that corner, though the solution is expensive. Becuase it is part of Highway 3, they also need to work with the Department of Highways. However it is something they need to pursue.
The bridge is safer in the summer, but winter is not good. In the past he has pushed for an offset sidewalk, but it was rejected. The railing before wasn't much better, because it gave a false sense of security, he said. The wire rope did little to stop people from slipping onto the road. He said it is an issue he would pursue.
Clarke suggested consulting the traffic authority, local or otherwise, to have a look at the crosswalk. He also said there might be too many crosswalks in that area, and might need to be reduced.
As for a railing, he said there should be one on at least one side.