Now that former town manager Louise Villandré has pleaded guilty to embezzlement, can the town collect from its insurers?
Perhaps, her latest replacement Jean-Pierre Roy told the second sitting of last night’s double-barrelled council meeting — but we can’t know more because the town doesn’t want to tip its hand.
I had asked whether the town had insurance to cover losses due to managerial malfeasance. From Roy’s comments it would appear the town proposes to wait until after Villandré’s sentencing Feb. 22 to discuss the matter with its insurers.
Residents also learned the town is embroiled in some 30 lawsuits. Some are of the administrative variety (council approved a $95,000 payout to the province to cover its share of deductions that were never made from town employees’ paycheques) while others are like the $200,000 lawsuit initiated by a Pine Lake resident or the action instituted by the town’s former auditors for non-payment, or the flurry of claims and counterclaims involving Hudson’s last DG, Roy’s immediate predecessor Catherine Haulard.
One Cameron resident grilled the mayor and council on rumours it was thinking of bringing defamation suits against its Facebook detractors. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear a denial.
Highlights from last night’s Hudson 2016 budget meeting:
— Taxes go up 1.85 per cent, or $68 on the mythical average Hudson home worth just under $400,000. The owners will be billed $3,753 compared to last year’s $3,685. $550 represents their share of Hudson’s debt, now down to $28.9 million. Gone is the $25 eco tax, which brings the tax bill down to just $43, a 1.17 per cent hike.
Mayor Ed Prévost on Hudson’s long-term debt situation:
“We’re in relatively good shape…we could be in better shape.”
— Hudson’s notoriously uncollectible business tax has been rolled into a higher non-residential tax rate (74.73 cents per $100 compared to 69.73 cents on residential and agricultural properties.)
— The town has decided to turn Hudson’s business-tax deadbeats over to a collection agency.
— DG Roy and treasurer Serge Raymond have opted against expressing fixed costs (SQ policing, public transit, regional and metropolitan taxes) as a separate line item. So we don’t know how much more we’re being dinged for policing, public transit and regional government. We learned the MRC will cost us $61,000 more next year, mostly to cover the cost of the regional municipal court.
— We’ll see sizeable increases in administration ($2.25M, up from $2.05M last year), public works ($2.2M compared to $1.9M) and debt service ($1.2M to last year’s $963,000).
— Public security and Parks, Recreation and Culture will cost $100,000 less next year, prompting Hudson Music Festival impresario Blair MacKay to demand why the town has money for its third skatepark but none for culture. MacKay and the mayor have been going at this for months because of the town’s refusal to donate the old firehall to the artistic community.
— Council last night adopted a resolution to buy the town’s fleet of fire trucks back off lease, a $833,000 expense. Asked why the town was reversing a policy adopted three years ago to lease the fleet from the province, the DG said it would save $45,000 a year. What about maintenance costs? Curious citizens received no clear answer. We did learn Ladder 402, the only remnant of the town’s old fleet, needs $65,000 in repairs because the firm which rebuilt it didn’t supply the correct certification. (One would think this would be the best argument for a fleet leased from the government.)
— Roy presented Hudson’s new three-year capital expenditures program, to the confusion of many of those in the hall. (This is a Hudson first.) In vain did Roy try to explain that the $25.4M PTI is a wish list. Some items, like the $40G cost of excluding some of Hudson’s farmland from the CPTAQ’s iron fist, are likely, especially since landowners pay the town to get it done. Ditto the $1.45M for a new well even though Hudson is investing in the recertification of Well #265, supposedly good for 3,000 cubic metres a day. So why does Hudson need another well? Residents got no clear indication.
Other PTI items didn’t sit well, like the $5.825M for a new town hall. Hudson is already dropping 25 grand on merging offices and another 25 grand on an assistant to the assistant treasurer, so where, asked a Quarry Point resident, did this come from?
“It was on the books,” said Mayor Ed. “…Louise Villandré.”
This was the tone of the evening, the evocation of the ghosts of administrations past. How long will it take to exorcise them to the point that they can no longer provide excuses for a council midway through its term?