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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Actuary Explains What Happened to the Pension Surplus

The city's pension plan was the unlucky casualty of market downturns--that testimony from Fred Lewis at the John Ferguson defamation trial. Lewis was an actuary with Morneau Sobeco, one of the top consulting firms in the country, and worked with the city of Saint John's pension board in 1993 to 2009.

Lewis testified in the three year period between 2000 and 2003, the pension plan had a 24 million dollar surplus that would have become 38 million dollars if things had gone according to plan--but instead turned into in a 45.2 million dollar unfunded liability.

He attributed the downturn to salary decreases, retirements earlier than assumed, and higher than expected losses from disability pensions.

Lewis said many pension plans weathered big economic downturns in the late 1980's, but managed to come back.

Work On Harbour Bridge Will Continue Despite Company Woes

The company doing the refurbishment work on the Harbour Bridge has gone into receivership but the Department of Transportation says work on the bridge will not be impacted.

It says the province has a performance bond with Concreate USL and the terms of the contract will be honoured by them.

The company is also working on the One Mile Interchange and the DOT says a bond is in place for that project as well.

Work on the Harbour Bridge is scheduled to be completed in the fall.

Changes To Mail Delivery Kick In This Week

How letters arrive in your mailbox is a little bit different this week.
The charges are part of restructuring at Canada Post with changes that are mostly internal with some external changes.

Denise Cora of Canada Post tells CHSJ News you may see a change in the time that your mail arrives.

She says they may see a new letter carrier delivering on their route and some new modern vehicles in the Saint John fleet.

For more info on the changes, click here

Mixed Housing Project Officially Opens

The 14 million dollar Abbey St. Andrew mixed housing project has officially opened.

Half of the 96 unit building is affordable housing and Abbey spokesperson Adam Dickinson tells CHSJ News it's important to not only offer mixed income housing but a mixed community.

He says having seniors, single people, families, and those with disabilities all under one roof gives the community an accurate portrait of the uptown.

He says 80 percent of the units are taken.

Single Protester Outside Hospital

A solitary man with a sandwich board sign is protesting the Alward government's decision to not buy a 3T MRI with money from the Regional Hospital Foundation.

George Kane has been at the University Avenue entrance to the hospital since 9:30 this morning and he tells CHSJ News the government is wrong not to accept a 1-million dollar gift intended to help the people of the province.

He says his protest is not a one-day event and plans to be back at for least for a few more days.

Former Mayor Says City Won't Go Bankrupt

Former Mayor Norm McFarlane has begun his cross examination at the defamation trial of former Common Councillor John Ferguson.

McFarlane, who chaired the Pension Board, says he could never see the city going bankrupt because of the pension plan's rising deficit.

He also denies the suggestion that the number of disability pensions approved by the pension board are especially high. McFarlane also told the jury it was not up to the pension board to make recommendations to change the city's pension plan. That would have been up to City Manager Terry Totten, at the time, who was also a pension board member.

McFarlane was asked about a motion by Common Council asking the Pension Board for alternatives to tackle the unfunded liability but he couldn't say if the pension board ever gave a response. He concedes no trustee wanted to reduce benefits.

McFarlane admits he knew the lawsuit would generate publicity and it could be bad but his character was at stake. He told the jury he had done nothing wrong but his credibility was being questioned and he was not going to allow someone to defame him.

Poll Says Saint John Lags Far Behind Other NB Cities

Saint John lagging behind the other tri-cities in a recent poll of the best places to live in Canada.

Fredericton made the top ten on the national list at number 7 out of 190. Moncton was number 18, which Saint John trailed behind at number 59.

The ranking by personal finance website Moneysense took into account factors likes unemployment rates, access to healthcare, climate, and population growth.

Saint John Youth House One Step Closer to Opening

The Saint John Youth House is one step closer to becoming a reality. The opening date of the shelter for homeless 16 to 24-year-olds will be announced later on this spring.

Project Coordinator Colin McDonald of the Saint John Youth House tells CHSJ News the city needs a dedicated space for young people, because the Salvation Army is no place for a sixteen year old to be hanging out. According to McDonald, young people tare easily influenced by much older people who have been on the streets for most of their lives, and have established cycles of poverty and addiction.

100 homeless and at-risk youth need transition housing in the Saint John area. The Youth House would offer stays of up to 90 days, with the possibility of another 90 days, while the youth integrate themselves into society.

Rush Hour Crash in Rothesay

A crash this morning on Campbell Dr West this morning resulted in one person being taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Rothesay Regional police responding to the crash between two cars during the morning rush hour around 9. One car was rear-ended and damaged to the extent it had to be towed. The driver that was taken to hospital was complaining of neck and back pain.

Traffic was disrupted for a short while off the Highway east of Fire Station #1.

Police Chief Says Union Has Been Informed Of Changes

While the police union accuses Police Chief Bill Reid of being silent on the effect the budget cut on its members, he says the union was notified via letter of some of the changes.

Reid says while community policing levels will remain the same, Reid says 3 traffic officers had to be moved to the patrol unit.

He adds if there are no major investigations this year, the department should be able to come in on budget.  However, he says  the current funding levels are unsustainable.