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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saint John Portland MLA Blasts City Council Over Funding Removal

Wellness Minister Trevor Holder not happy with Common Council.

He's upset that city funding for the new YM-YMCA has been removed from the 2012 capital budget.

Holder tells CHSJ News the removal of funding shows the priorities of city council -- he can't believe the city has spent money on buildings it had no mandate to build, like a new police station, yet can't find money for a good cause.

However, Holder says he has full confidence the new Y will be built and he's continuing his work on securing federal dollars.

The new building, which will be built in the Crescent Valley, is expected to open in 2014.

Defamation Trial Low on Defamation So Far

Defamatory statements seemingly as scarce as hen's teeth at the John Ferguson defamatory trial this afternoon, with the microscope turned on MLA Glen Tait as a trustee of the pension board.

Tait appearing flummoxed during Gillis's in-depth look at  Ferguson's comments. But Tait couldn't say how any actually harmed the board's reputation, agreeing with Gillis that most of the comments weren't even directed toward the pension board in the first place.

The MLA testified cushy early retirement buy-outs gave bonuses to retirees at the top, creating a vacuum of low-paying positions at the bottom.  Gillis asked Tait, Do you agree that's a controversial policy? To which Tait conceded, “it's been made controversial, yes.”

Police Make Arrest After Motel Robbery

City police arresting a 25 year old man in connection with the Park Plaza motel robbery last night.
Corey William David Landry appeared in court and was remanded until another appearance set for Thursday.

Last night’s robbery is very similar to another robbery at the same motel on the 8th of the month.

The Major Crime Unit is investigating to determine if the two crimes are connected.

McAdam Mayor Not Happy With Ambulance NB Response

McAdam Mayor Frank Carroll sounding the alarm after a fire call yesterday.

Carroll says four fire victims with burns and smoke inhalation -- a mother, and 3 children, including a baby -- were made to wait over an hour for ambulance services before being rushed to Fredericton.

He calls that an unacceptable delivery of service and says Ambulance NB policy is not working for the remote area of McAdam.

He says the fire was 700 feet from the McAdam Health Centre and due to policy, ambulances do not take patients to rural health centres.

Carroll says change is needed and emergency patients need to be treated sooner at a health clinic rather than later at a hospital.

Ambulance New Brunswick confirms the policy exists and says any changes would need to be made by the Provincial Health Minister.

A call has been placed to the Minister's office but so far no response.

New Fire Chief Looks Forwarding To Leading Department Out Of Tough Times

Newly appointed Fire Chief Kevin Clifford is looking forward to digging into this new position.

He tells CHSJ News the fire department is going through some tough times due to budget and staff cutbacks but he's looking forward to leading them through it.

He says his priorities is to develop a succession plan and to improve training for special fire calls like high-angle and confined space rescues.

Clifford also wants to improve the public's perception of the fire department and show people the variety of emergency responses that the department needs to be ready for.

Private Money Will Be Needed For Clean Drinking Water

Common Council has decided a public-private partnership is the way to go on building a water treatment plant on the east side but wants the city to retain control of its water supply.

Highway 1 from Saint John to St. Stephen is being four laned through a public-private partnership negotiated by the previous Liberal government.

The President of local 1190 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Andy Hardy wants to know whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth on this and other big highway projects but charges the numbers are proving to be hard to come by.

Mayor Ivan Court argues construction of the new police headquarters at Peel Plaza would have cost alot more under a public-private partnership.

Students Help Count Fundy Park's Swamp Donkeys

Students were helping to count the Bullwinkles at Fundy National Park over the weekend.

The aerial survey by helicopter was conducted in the park and just outside its borders with helps from students from the Maritime College of Forest Technology and park staff.

It's the second year of a multi-year program to better understand the moose population in the Park.

Weekend snowfall was perfect timing as the moose are much easier to track if there is  fresh snow close to the survey.

The last moose survey at Fundy National Park was completed in 1993.

Former Pension Board Trustee Grilled At Defamation Trial

Saint John East M-L-A Glen Tait, a former pension board trustee and Common Councillor, undergoing cross examination at the defamation trial of former Councillor John Ferguson by lawyer Rod Gillis.

Tait told the jury he could not say which of Ferguson's criticisms were defamatory, relying instead on the opinion of the pension board's lawyer.

Gillis got Tait to agree Ferguson was exercising his right as a councillor to speak out on a matter of public concern freely even if what he says is hotly disputed.

Tait also agreed Ferguson didn't want to go public but failed to have the pension issue discussed in closed session three separate times.

Common Council was not provided with an explanation of the financial consequences of early retirements in 2003 and was led to believe there would be no additional cost to the city's pension plan.

As  turned out, the early retirement package wound up costing the plan more than 2 million dollars.

Saint John Not Hit Too Hard By Blast Of Winter

All schools are open in District 6 today but the schoolbuses are operating on a one hour delay as they are in School District 1, which includes Samuel de Champlain. All the schools are also open in District 8.

7 centimeters of snow had fallen at Saint John Airport at last report and Environment Canada tells CHSJ News we might wind up with another one or 2 before it's all said and done early this morning. 

We're also told rain that had been forecast is unlikely because of the cold air mass so for those of us who have to shovel, the snow will stay powdery and the wind is not gusty.

If you have to travel east, however, there is a snowfall warning in effect for Moncton where up to 15 centimeters is expected

East Side Motel Robbed

The Park Plaza Motel on Rothesay Avenue was robbed again. it happened around 9:00 last night. 

City Police have arrested a man in his 20's who is expected to be charged in court this morning.

No one was injured.

New Fire Chief And Commissioners Appointed

The city has a new fire chief.

Kevin Clifford has been appointed as the head title after serving as the Acting Fire Chief and the Acting Director of the Saint John Emergency Organization.  He joined the fire department back in 1980.

The city also appointing 4 new commissioners as the city rearranges itself into 6 key departments.

Greg Yeomans was appointed the commissioner of Finance and Administrative Services, Ken Forrest for Growth and Development Services, Bill Edwards for Transportation and Environment Services, and Jacqueline Hamilton for Strategic Services.

Portions Of Captial Budget Draws Criticism

Portions of the capital budget drawing the ire of some of the councillors.

Councillor Patty Higgins not happy with a 200-thousand dollar investment into Saint John Industrial Parks in order to move a barge facility forward.
Councillor Bill Farren also dismayed at the purchase of two transit buses totaling almost 900-thousand dollars, which was a carry-over cost from last year.

While the budget was approved, the industrial park investment was set aside and will be discussed further by council.

Common Council Approves Capital Budget

Common Council approving a 31 million dollar capital budget.

New spending in the budget comes in at 11.2 million dollars -- 39 percent of the budget has been set aside for drainage projects but money will also be spent on the Coast Guard Site, IT infrastructure, and half a million dollars in Market Place West.

Commissioner of Planning and Development Ken Forrest tells CHSJ News spending was carefully considered and even projects pre-approved last year were looked at again.

He says every project was weighed on several criteria, including public safety, whether cost-sharing is available, and the strategic significance of the investment.