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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ATV Drivers Will Need A Permit In 2013

New Brunswickers love their ATVS--and some changes are coming for riders in 2013.

The provincial government and the NB All-Terrain Vehicle Federation are introducing a mandatory permit program that goes into effect Jan. 1. If you're driving on managed trails you'll need to buy a permit or you could be fined $172. The idea is that the fees will help support trail development and maintenance.

You can get a three-season permit in 2013 for $25, and an annual permit for $75. The NB All-Terrain Vehicle Federation lists the managed trails on its website.

Romero House Food Drive Continues

The 6th annual Romero House Food Drive continues in the parking lot at Ritchie's on Rothesay Avenue. Food and cash donations are being accepted for the local soup kitchen that serves 400 meals a day.
Donations are being accepted tonight until
6pm and again tomorrow through Friday 6am to 8pm wrapping up on Saturday at noon.

Government Corruption Reported On Native Reserves

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation charges some leaders on aboriginal reserves are using intimidation tactics to keep people from questioning the use of public funds.

They say they've heard from many residents who have confirmed people are being shunned, receiving death threats, and even having their property damaged for asking questions about how much money the chiefs are council are making.

The Federation wants to see Bill C-27 passed, which would make all the financial information for the reserves available online for everyone to see.

Auditor General Concerned About Money Being Paid To Doctors

The province's auditor general is concerned about the amount of money being paid to doctors in New Brunswick.

Kim MacPherson says only 53% of medicare payments to doctors were audited, though medicare expenditures were more than 533 million dollars last year.

says in some cases, doctors bill both medicare and Work Safe NB for the same service. She says there are no ramifications for overcharging medicare even though the Health Department has the power to revoke a doctor's billing privileges.

MacPherson says she has not determined if anyone has committed fraud and all doctor billing should be audited.

She says if all rules were followed the province could recoup more than 3 million dollars a year.

Prosser Guilty On Three Charges

Fred Prosser has been found guilty in the 2010 murder of 25-year-old Sabrina Patterson of Riverview.

Patterson, who is Prosser's ex-girlfriend,  was reported missing on October  29th 2010. Her body was found on November 6th in a wooded area near Shenstone.

Prosser was found guilty on three charges, first degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and sexual assault.

He has been sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years, 7 years for sexual assault causing bodily harm and 5 years for sexual assault.

How Much Will It Cost To Have Lifeguards Through Labour Day?

Common Council wants to know how much extra it will cost to have lifeguards on duty at the beaches in the city through the Labour Day weekend and the city's Parks Manager Micheal Hugenholtz has the answer.......An additional 30 thousand dollars.

Ward 4 Councillor Ray Strowbridge wants to know how much it will cost the city to reopen Mispec Beach. 

Hugenholtz says that would be around 50 thousand dollars for day to day operations and maintaining the wooden stairs, bridges and lookouts.

Firefighters Reject Being Portrayed as Villains

Don't blame firefighters for the arbitration decision that gave them raises at a time when the city is up against it financially. 

The President of Local 771 of the Firefighters Association, Paul Stackhouse says his members are not the bad guys. He says if Saint Johnners have a problem with it, it was the city which opted for arbitration and it was the city which wanted a longer contract agreement. 

Stackhouse goes on to say, under the shared risk model, firefighters will have to contribute another 4% of their pay into the pension plan and work longer to the age of 60 before retiring.

He also claims staffing at the fire department is well below what's needed to handle the demand for fire service in the city. The number of firefighters has been reduced by more than 50 since 1999.

Primaris CEO Expects Target Opening To Bring Change

As you shop for Christmas you may not notice but, the biggest shopping centre in our backyard has new ownership.

A sale has been finalized to set McAllister Place to Primaris Retail from Cadillac Fairview.

CEO John Morrison tells CHSJ News the biggest change coming next year will be the opening of the Target store.

He says that store will be an expanded store and he expects Target will be a draw for any enclosed mall they operate in.

The sale also includes the Regent Mall in Fredericton.

Council Seeks Options To Keep Water Rates Low

Common Council looking at options to lessen the blow of an increase in water rates.

Improving city water is a hot topic because improvements could raise your water rates by 7.4% or about $72 a year.

Common Council has voted 9-1 to move forward with preliminary approval of the proposed water rates but only after the city manager looks at a few ways to save taxpayers some money. 

There are a couple of things that could lower rates. If the shared risk model for the pension plan is approved, some of the millions of dollars saved from the pension plan could be used to lower costs. The city manager will see if there's a potential to indirectly offset any increase in water rates and will be looking at a relief program for people those who can't afford an increase.

Councillors Donnie Snook voted against, saying he can't vote for it knowing many people can't afford any kind of increase.

Mayor Mel Norton says if a half cent or 1 cent decrease in the tax rate issustainable in the long term, we could see a reduction.

Pension Task Force's Advice Accepted

Common Council is moving forward with the shared risk model recommendation from the Pension Task Force to handle the city's pension plan.  The model, in broad terms, means city employees will pay more and the city less.

But with a vote of 6-2, it wasn't an easy decision. Deputy Mayor Shelley Rinehart and Ward 1 Councillor Bill Farren couldn't vote due to a conflict of interest and Ward 4 Councillor Ray Strowbridge was absent. 

Councillors Susan Fullerton and Donnie Snook were not in favour of the decision with Fullerton's motion to hire another independent party to review other possible options being defeated. Fullerton argues when you're buying a truck, you don't just go to one dealership. Snook says for such a big decision, a second opinion would show they've done their due diligence.

Ward 2 Councillor John MacKenzie doesn't mind a second opinion but after grappling with the pension for 8 years and not knowing who to use for a second opinion, he says it'd be a 10 million dollar mistake if the job isn't done by January. MacKenzie also saying although large companies can have two pension plans, there's provincial legislation in the province that prevents that option.

Ward 4 Councillor David Merrithew had people ask him why the city just doesn't go bankrupt but he argues that isn't an option if you have the ability to pay. He adds a defined contribution plan would also be 10 million dollars more expensive.
Mayor Mel Norton acknowledging it's a tough decision, saying in the end the shared risk model will take a 195.5 million dollar deficit down to 161.1 million. He wishes there was a cheaper option but he'd like to get the pension finished and move on to fixing other problems like roads and water. He feels this is the right option with minimal risk and huge rewards.

Now, Council will draft a memorandum of understanding. A law firm will be taking directions from Council and various bargaining units to reflect a joint understanding. There will now be a "meeting of the minds" between council and bargaining units to find a solution.