Former town manager Louise Villandré’s shadow hung heavy over Monday’s council meeting as mayor Ed Prévost drew a gloomy picture of next year’s budget and told residents development is the town’s only road to salvation.
The 2017 budget and tax rates will be presented at a special meeting Dec. 21. It begins at 7 p.m.
Hudson, carrying $28M in long-term debt, will see its valuation roll increase by $30 million on a total municipal evaluation of $1.3B. The jump means automatic cost increases for policing, public transit and regional government.
“We thought we could make up the difference by cutting,” Prévost told residents. “That will be impossible — or close to it […] Development is the only option.”
Council proceeded to approve a rezoning request that would permit construction of row housing on Mayfair near the Hwy. 342 entrance to the Hudson Valleys and Alstonvale developments. It is subject to approval by the residents of adjacent sectors.
Also adopted was a resolution approving a public information session sometime next spring for a revised Sandy Beach development project. A 2001 rezoning bylaw approved a mix of townhouses, semi-detached and single-family dwellings but the project was blocked by subsequent administrations on a variety of pretexts.
The latest effort to head off development is being led by Wharf Road resident Richard Grinnell. During the first question period he told the meeting he and others have gathered in excess of 500 signatures in hopes of convincing council to explore the possibility of buying more of the beachfront and adjacent forest.
Following the meeting, director-general Jean-Pierre Roy said the 2001 development plan can’t be applied because of changes to the provincial laws that apply to wetland and waterfront development. Some no longer exist, while others have been updated.
Sandy Beach owner/developer Hans Muhlegg was visibly moved when Louise Craig publicly thanked him for permitting public access, bringing applause from residents. Muhlegg, now 75, never sought public recognition for having contributed more than $100,000 toward the cost of bridges and boardwalks that make the beachfront and adjoining Jack Layton Park a regional destination of choice.
Council approved disbursements that included $86,500 to the town’s lawyers Dunton Rainville. Ron Goldenberg brought gasps from the crowd when he revealed the town’s legal bill reached $395,000 as of Sept. 30. The town has yet to release a file-by file breakdown of the bill.
One was the town’s failure (on Villandré’s watch) to withhold federal and provincial income tax for an unspecified number of municipal employees. As Goldenberg explained, the town is hoping voluntary declarations on behalf of the employees and issuance of revised T-4s will be sufficient to prevent fines and penalties. Questioned as to the number of employees affected and whether the town was “on the hook” for fines and penalties, DG Roy refused to get specific.
Villandré’s name was also invoked in connection with the retroactive abolition of the town’s 2014-15 environmental tax on privately owned sections of 99 public streets. Total cost of the reimbursements: $5,155.50. Cost of legal advice: Unknown.
The mayor invoked the failure of previous administrations to repair the Pine Lake dam as the reason why the structure failed two winters ago. He hinted at the existence of a report urging immediate repairs which had been ignored. Questioned about why the current administration hasn’t moved to replace the dam, Prévost told residents it’s a matter of priorities — and there are plenty more important.
Villandré served as both DG and treasurer for most of her 34-year career under mayors Bradbury, Elliott (twice), Shaar and Corker. She was released from prison in October after having served six months of a 30-month prison term for defrauding the town of in excess of $1M over a seven-year period. The Crown didn’t seek restitution due to Villandré’s bankruptcy and age, although some on council think the town should try to seize her pension. Villandré, now on parole, is living in the region.
The municipal payroll has expanded to include 128 full and part-time employees. Newest hires to be approved:
– a full-time temporary employee to prepare grant applications;
– a permanent Culture, Tourism and Communications resource;
– a Youth Centre co-ordinator to replace the retiring Donna Brazeau.
Monday’s meeting was the first for Hudson’s new town clerk, lawyer Cassandra Comin Bergonzi. She replaces Vincent Maranda, who left earlier this fall to resume private practise. Meanwhile, the search is on for a treasurer following last month’s abrupt departure of Serge Raymond, Hudson’s fourth treasurer in three years.