Too bad

 

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The Legion entrance to the Community Centre. The Centre roof is in fine shape but the Legion and curling rink roofs need replacement and the Centre needs a thorough upgrade. $555,000 for this? Transparency, please.

This Tuesday, April 18th between 9 a.m and 7 p.m., Hudson residents who oppose Bylaw 687 will have the opportunity to sign a register at town hall. Bylaw 687 supposedly authorizes the town to borrow up to $555,000 for renovations and modifications to the Community Centre at minimal cost to the town.

I wish someone would explain how this is supposed to work.

At April’s council meeting residents were told the loan was a necessary first step in getting a grant from the federal government’s Canada 150 infrastructure program. The loan would cover the cost of a new roof, windows, flooring and other renovations. It would also allow the replacement of the current kitchen, which does not conform to workplace health and safety norms or commercial-kitchen standards.

According to what District 2 councillor Barbara Robinson told us, the town had to go ahead with the renovations, then submit the bills to get the grant money. From the way Robinson talked, the town had already gotten pre-approval from Canada 150, much like you and I would get pre-approved for a line of credit before we call the contractor.

To get a better idea of what she was talking about, I spent a couple of hours last Thursday visiting the Community Centre to see for myself what the town is proposing to upgrade.

The roof of the Community Centre itself is fine. It’s a stainless-steel batten roof, good for 50 years or more. The problem is the Legion and curling club roofs. Both are in bad shape. The curling club roof vents leaked onto the ice during that heavy downpour two weeks ago. The Legion is the town’s tenant, having signed over the property for a dollar and a promise of perpetual maintenance when the Community Centre was built in the ‘90s.

In other words, the town, as the Legion’s landlord, has an obligation to repair the Legion’s roofs and kitchen floor.

Like any well-used twentysomething public structure, the Community Centre needs a thorough reno and systems upgrade, with new windows, door locks, electrical overhaul and flooring. As for the Community Centre kitchen, I’ve been told it would fail a provincial health inspection. I’m not an expert but I’ve been told the town knew of this the last time it bought appliances, when Mike Elliott was mayor.

When Robinson told us at the April council meeting the deal would allow the town to go 50-50 with the feds, I believed her. I didn’t question the $134,000 stainless steel batten roof, the new windows and flooring or the updated kitchen. Like most of us, I use the Community Centre. I know how much traffic it gets and the need to bring the systems up to date.

But then the town posted the following on the municipal website that doesn’t jibe with what I understand about how municipal grants work.

“First and foremost, we want to reaffirm that the acceptance of our project in the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program (PIC150) is an absolute prerequisite to go forward with the loan bylaw 687-2017 as stated in the motion and in section 5 of the bylaw. If the Town does not receive the grant, the loan bylaw will be cancelled.

“Why now?

“As part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, Canada Economic Development (CED) has established a program to assist municipalities in rehabilitating and upgrading existing community infrastructures, including expansion. The announcement of this program has come at the right time for the Town of Hudson, given the repairs required at the community centre. The grant is for 50% of the eligible costs, up to $250,000. However, this program, like all programs, sets out certain conditions, including the requirement that all the works be completed by December 31, 2017. This grant is independent from any other provided by the MAMOT and is not conditional on the acceptance of the intervention plan.”

That got me to wondering. Has Canada 150, or any other federal or provincial government body, approved the town’s funding request? Under which program was it applied? When was the request submitted? Is there a letter acknowledging receipt of the town’s request?

Yes or no?

Then, last week, residents discovered a pamphlet in their mailboxes. Although it carried the Town of Hudson logo, it urged residents to sign the register to stop the town from spending “over half a million dollars for unspecified expenses.” Concerned citizens were urged to contact Olympic resident Veronique Fischer, a lawyer who ran against Robinson in the last election.

The pamphlet’s appearance triggered an angry Facebook debate about the morality of using the town’s logo. It also prompted the administration to release a statement denying any connection with the pamphlet and calling the author’s conclusion “misleading and inaccurate.” It directed residents to the town’s website and Facebook page as well as to the Local Journal, the same paper two councillors recently criticized for its inaccuracy.

Fischer hasn’t let up on her attack, questioning whether the town filed a funding request in time for the deadline. Fischer infers the promise of the Canada 150 grant is a deliberate smokescreen to cover the adoption of an omnibus loan bylaw to cover a shopping list of unfunded projects, ranging from new boat docks at Jack Layton Park to that notorious eco-trolley to convey fascinated visitors to the town’s many tourist destinations.

Hudsonites may not remember this, but we’ve been here before. When Mike Elliott’s council adopted a $7.2 million loan bylaw to residents for the new firehall and Public Works upgrade, residents were assured the town would be eligible for provincial subsidies. As it later turned out, it wasn’t eligible because the grant approval process had not been initiated before the town began the process of approving a loan bylaw. Hudson taxpayers ate the entire $5M-plus cost of the project, part of the 11 cents per $100 on our tax bills.

I’ll be voting against Bylaw 687 at Tuesday’s register. Not because I oppose spending money to keep up the Community Centre, but because we can’t get a straight answer from this council about whether it has filed  for which grants in timely fashion. Too bad. The Community Centre needs a facelift.

This has been updated to clarify the reason why the town was ineligible for subsidies for the firehall.

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17 thoughts on “Too bad

  1. You hadn’t even finished posting this and Véronique is already sharing how youll be voting against it because you don’t have satisfactory answers to your questions. Fair enough. Although you could have put you’re voting against it because you disagree with the beers on tap at the legion and Véronique would have said “Yes, exactly” as well.

    Simply put, there’s no satisfying her questions. Even if everything adds up perfectly she’ll say it doesn’t.

    Like how we missed the deadline and this whole thing is a sham and were trying to apply for a closed grant. That was Posted so on every community site- turns out wrong, in fact the application was well received within the timeline. Looks like that argument or deliberate piece of misinformation ran out of gas all of the sudden, so best to drum up another at rapid speed.

    I’m a little too old to endulge in a personal vendetta of Fisher Vs. Robinson. I hold no sour grapes. You lost the election, you lost the election, that’s it that’s all. Even Jim McDermott stopped crying after three months. This is just continuous moping and deliberately sticking sticks in the wheels of anything the town tries to do.

    I wonder who the person was who filled the complaint with MAMOT about the paving bylaw. GEE. I WONDER. WHO could that have been. We all know that loan bylaw is in perfect accordance of regulations. It’s the deliberate stalling that irks me the most.

    So without saying, I WILL NOT BE SIGNING the registry against this bylaw. As a matter of fact, I hope 427 out of 428 people sign the registry. No, I hope 427.75 people sign out of the necessary 428. I want to reserve my right to gloat about how deliberate false information spread at significant cost from one individual couldn’t stop this bylaw. But I’ll wait until wedneaday before my gloat parade commenced.

    And solely because deliberately misleading people makes me furious, I hope all the money is spent on a giant bronze statue of someone rediculously irrelavent to the town of Hudson, and placed right on the front lawn of the community center. Huckelberry Hound or Snuffleupagus or something. Dudley the Dragon.

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    1. Here’s a Kevin Ilaqua quote taken out of context:
      “Like how we missed the deadline and this whole thing is a sham and were trying to apply for a closed grant. That was Posted so on every community site- turns out wrong, in fact the application was well received within the timeline. Looks like that argument or deliberate piece of misinformation ran out of gas all of the sudden, so best to drum up another at rapid speed.”

      Maybe you know the town applied for the Canada 150 grant in timely fashion and we’re the doomsayers and conspiracy theorists. That is possible. It’s also possible Fischer is right and the town has screwed up yet another file, then tried to cover it up with an omnibus loan bylaw that will end up sticking taxpayers with the bill, like the town did with the firehall.

      I’m no fan of Maitre Fischer but I make it a habit of trying to see where she’s wrong. As of today, I can’t figure out where she’s wrong. I can, however, spot an inconsistency in the town’s own postings that concern me. If someone can explain this to my satisfaction and show me the documents I’ve referred to between now and Tuesday, I’ll be happy to get on with my life and not bother signing the register.

      I would be a hypocrite if I said I care what you think, just as you’ve made it clear you don’t care what I think. The difference between you and me is that I try to understand what I don’t understand.

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  2. We were not mislead .we don’t have enough facts from the council .we don’t feel we are being given the whole story . A lack of transparency is the MO of the council .
    As for paving the roads ,the town has known for 10 years that there was a signifigant percentage of privately owned roads that needed to be aquired before we could be approved for any loans for paving .if we don’t own the road ..why would we ,as in “the town, “pave it ,plow it or maintain it ??
    I plan to vote against the by law on Tuesday . As a concerned citizen I am glad that I received the pamphlet In the mail alerting me to the dodgy practices of the council and the proposed by law.

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    1. Unfortunately Robin a minority of municipalities can claim 100% provenance of their road systems. A sub-division such as Fairhaven may have 50 different registered lot numbers for the roads within that area. They used to be designated as something like “Partie de Lot 60 -1 and a lot of notarial mistakes were often encountered when developers turned over their roads to the Town, missing one of these little lots here and there. Then came the Quebec Registry reform of some 10-15 years ago when every lot in Quebec was given a new number, so there was that complication . Whoever filed this complaint with MAMOT did our town a grave disservice and I , along with Kevin ,wish they would show themselves.

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  3. What a broken little town we’ve allowed ourselves to become.

    Hudson has never let facts get in the way of opinion or rumour.

    We’re calling ourselves the interested concerned citizens who pay attention, now gridlocked and fighting each other, arguing about facts that only Council has access to but either doesn’t have or chooses not to reveal.

    I’m flawed and prone to presuming ignorance before malice.

    Trying to move Hudson forward is more of a nasty rugby scrum than democracy at work.

    November is coming, perhaps we’ll need to question the sanity of any who would enter this mess and try to lead us forward if we can’t even agree which is the front end of the sinking ship.

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  4. I never got my VF pamphlet so I have to rely on what the postings state about the matter. Was the Hudson logo not just on the attachment showing the minutes from July 2016 when the grant application resolution was passed? I find it hard to believe Maitre Fischer would try to pass off her documents as Town originated. On the other hand I am not content with the DG claiming her documents were erroneous and misleading on a social media site w/o being a little more specific about what is false . If she is wrong it’s up to the Town to convince me and not yet again explain it’s just a bunch of naysayers intent on picking on them. I have decided to ignore the grant thing in my considerations and base this on what I feel makes sense. The Legion roof needs to be done . This was entirely evident when this year’s budget was prepared but it wasn’t included . I am also sure the working fund , if it still exists, will cover this. The rest of the wish list I don’t see as being more urgent than roads or water so I believe they have to wait. The legion roof requires 50K so I will sign against a loan bylaw authorizing 550K. I have to admit I’ve second guessed myself on this a few times in the last week and I’m still not totally sure I’m doing the right thing.

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    1. Brian, I posted that Dec. 14 spreadsheet showing the town is ready to bite the bullet on behalf of the taxpayers even if we don’t get the grant. I agree the Legion roof needs doing and the Community Centre needs refurbishing. But that’s not a $555,000 loan bylaw. I guess I’m too thick to understand the complexity of this shell game. Or maybe it’s bait and switch. Anyway, we’ll see Tuesday whether enough people are concerned enough to disrupt their post-Easter routine to risk upsetting the apathetic majority.

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  5. You’re wrong Jim. Nowhere did I say that I don’t care what you think. Quite the contrary, I’ve read everything you’ve had to say with regards to this. You and I don’t agree and that’s all there is to it. And in the long run, If this turns out to be a giant sham, and a massive conspiracy, and the money gets spent on Ed’s new haircut, Then as I’ve done in previous times- I’ll gladly admit I was wrong. I have no trouble at all admitting I was wrong, My ego isn’t that big, and I’ve been wrong at least 6 times today, which will probably turn into 8 before I go to bed. You’re adamant on signing the registry, and I am adamant on not. You don’t feel all the questions have been answered in your head, and I am satisfied with the explanations I have received. That’s cool, that’s your democratic right. I encourage everyone regardless of their opinion to exercise their democratic right.

    I take exception to false information being passed around, regardless of who does it. Fisher’s first post made no mention of a subsidy, making it look like we were on the hook for the entire amount. I corrected that, oddly this entire argument is over a grant and magically that was forgotten.. to which I was told it was an “accidental oversight” Then, the post in which it was claimed that we applied to a grant that is closed, turned out to be another whopping load of garbage, another “accidental oversight” pointed out by me. Much to the chagrin of the bologna party. Seems like an accidental oversight festival.

    I’m very interested in hearing facts, evidence, and anything concrete to support either sides opinion. But a phony printed piece of paper, that lacks any type of factual basis is utterly useless. Facts Vs. Facts. I’m not interested in hearing how this is a Russian ploy to take over Hudson, or a manifesto from a martian on mars.. Or how the cows outside Davidson farm secretly intend to use this money to turn the community center into another pasture, or How Ed is going to secretly run off with the money in a brown burlap sack with a dollar sign on it in non-sequential one hundreds and bury it in his backyard for future prevost generations.

    I don’t do conspiracy theories, Sorry. Just the facts man, just the facts.

    Granted, no one saw Louise coming around the corner, but that doesn’t mean everyone in this town employs the same business practices she does. It’ll be a long day before I believe that all the town councilors are deliberately trying to pull the wool over the residents eyes.

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    1. Jeez, Kevin, you’re missing the nuances. I’m back and forth on this as I suspect a lot of people are. The part I don’t get is why the town already budgeted $160,000 on a kitchen upgrade and a new roof and now proposes to borrow $555,000 to get $225,000 from the feds to do the same thing. It stinks, Kevin. If I was your banker and found out you were proposing to borrow four times what you had initially budgeted for a reno on the basis of a government grant, I’d be worried enough to call you into my office. If you can’t see that, well good luck in life, pal.

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  6. As far as I know – you cannot get a grant after the fact ….. so you don’t adopt a loan bylaw until you know for sure you have already been approved for a grant. Look what happened with the fire station.

    Council has to include the amount of the grant in the overall loan bylaw for the community centre project – as we did back in 1994 when we originally built it.

    We got the grant first then adopted the loan bylaw to build it. You cant just pick a “grant” amount out of the air and include it in a loan bylaw until the grant amount is made official. Why does this council insist on doing things backwards!

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  7. We napped a la Rip Van Winkle for the past 40 years. We are now treated to overflow council mtg. crowds, struck down loan bylaws, and ever increasing citizen scrutiny. Should we thank Louise V. for the wake up call? Should we thank her for the registry line-ups at McNaughten Hall? I think we paid a small price to become an activist citizenry in search of the murky truths of multi-layered government process. We are saying “explain this to our satisfaction” or go back to your drawing boards. We are saying “this doesn’t sound right” and we’ll wait until it does . Pouting administrations will vilify the noisy as naysayers but I think of them as the involved sober second thought we need.

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    1. I like to think citizens have placed this administration under trusteeship. according to my admittedly failing memory, this would be the first bylaw subject to referendum to pass on Mayor Ed’s watch. Loan or zoning. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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