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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

BREAKING: Councillor Donnie Snook Arrested

Friends, colleagues and residents are in shock at news Common Councillor Donnie Snook was taken into custody this afternoon for questioning.

It relates to an ongoing investigation by the RCMP's Internet Child Exploitation Unit. Mayor Mel Norton was briefed by City police on the matter late this afternoon.

He tells CHSJ News that he and Deputy Mayor Shelley Rhinehart were briefed late this afternoon by the Police Chief and Deputy Chief that Councillor Snook was being detained by the RCMP for questioning.

Snook was re-elected last May to Common Council and first elected in 2008. Fellow Councillor Bill Farren tells CHSJ News he is very shocked and unsure what its all about and says let the police do their job.

Seniors Charged With Fraudulently Collecting Benefits

Two Saint Johners in their 60s getting busted for fraud under the Canada Pension Act. Cecile Deschamps and Herman Thompson pleaded guilty to the charges in November.

An RCMP investigating revealing between May 2004 and October 2006 Deschamps was collecting disability payments while still gainfully employed. She was fined $4,500 and must pay back over $15,000 to Canada Revenue.

In a separate investigation it was found Thompson  was also fraudulently getting disability while also working. He was fined $3000 and ordered to pay back over $22,000.

Grief Counsellor Working With Ski Hill Staff

A grief counsellor is working with staff at the Crabbe Mountain Ski Hill after yesterdays collision between two skiers that killed a 62-year-old ski instructor.

The name of the man hasn't been released, but Work Safe NB believes he was skiing down a mountain trail before colliding with a teenage girl, who was taken to hospital with minor injuries.

Jason Crawford, GM of the ski hill, says both skiers were wearing helmets, and conditions were excellent at the time of the accident. He says members of the ski patrol, a paramedic and a doctor were on the scene within minutes.

Emergency Tactical Services Can Now Train Locally

Whether it's a hostage situation, drug raid, or domestic violence, Saint John's Emergency Tactical Services Team handles some of the most extreme situations that arise for area law enforcement. 

Sergeant Greg Perkins tells CHSJ News the spacious new facilities at Peel Plaza will mean we can train that team locally. Peel Plaza has a lot of additional space, he says including an area that could be used as an indoor firing range.

Perkins says they're currently looking to boost their numbers up from 16 to the maximum of 20.

Further Rationale For the 2013 Budget From City Manager

City Manager Pat Woods offered some further details on the rationale behind the much-delayed 2013 operating budget at the most recent meeting of Common Council.

Woods says in addition to top priorities like roads, transit and economic development, they tried to give more back to communities. All of the allocations of funds, says Woods, were based on the ideals of PlanSJ and the results of the public engagement strategy leading up to the budget process.

Woods says this definitely wasn't the year to reduce the tax rate due to sluggish economic growth---but it's hoped that will turn around in the years to come.

Federal Labour Minister Remembers Al Soppitt

The impact Captain Al Soppitt had on Saint John and Canada is bringing Canadians from across the country into Port City today to honor his memory.

The former Harbour Master, President and CEO of the Saint John Port Authority was a good friend, says Federal Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt. Raitt says a few weeks ago she thought she'd be visiting her old friend. Raitt was the first female Harbour Master at a national port in the country, and she says Soppitt showed her how to approach the job as a captain, instead of her background as a lawyer. 

She says it was just a few weeks ago when she was last talking to him, and a lot of people from Vancouver and Ottawa are here today to pay their respects. Raitt says he practically built the two cruise terminals with his bare hands. She describes him as full of life, fun, a good Irishman, fair and calm.

A memorial service is being held today at 1pm at the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal. Soppitt passed away early this month after battling cancer. He spent 30 years with the Port before retiring in 2011 at the age of 65.

Ottawa Listens To Port City's Concerns

A couple big players from Ottawa coming to Saint John for a prebudget round table discussion -- a chance for groups in Port City to raise their voice on issues in the community and the non-profit sector.

Federal Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt and Parliamentary Secretary Dr. Kellie Leitch joined Saint John MP Rodney Weston this morning along with 16 local groups for the discussion. Leitch says the biggest topic discussed is what skills people need to be employed locally. She says a big focus was what skills women specifically need in the work force, and to get young women in to apprenticeships and skilled trades. Leitch says that not many women think of being a pipe fitter or an electrician as a first choice, but they want to make sure women know it's an option. When she was in St. John's, NFLD yesterday, she says they also have to encourage more people to get into skilled trades.

Minister Raitt adds that education was also a hot topic. She also says employers have a responsibility to welcome employees and help them develop. Rait adds there's still barriers that need to be broken down to help support minorities in the workplace.

Chief Reid Updates Perry & Oland Cases

With the dawn of a new year, progress is being made in two high-profile murder investigations in the Port City. 

Police Chief Bill Reid tells CHSJ News the February 14, 2012 death of Serena Perry is now in the hands of the Crown and her family is being kept in the loop.

He says rightly so people will want answers and they want answers about what happened in an institution, facility or hospital.

Further, he says he expects an arrest to be made in the murder of Richard Oland by the end of the year.

He says they have everything they need to produce a case that should go to court. 

Reid says the wheels of justice can move slowly, but it's key to get all the facts in order.

Increase In Tax Rate For 2013 Budget In Quispamsis

With the passing of the 2013 budget, the tax rate in Quispamsis has increased from $1.207 per $100 of assessment to $1.22, or in other words up about 1.3 cents.

Losing $241,727 in funding from the province had an impact on decision making, as well as having to contribute $10,326 to the new Regional Service Commission.

Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll says despite the increase in tax rate, it's still one of the lowest rates in the province. He says they don't like increasing the rate, but they've had 4 years with a stable rate and the increase is to provide necessary services. Driscoll also notes despite the increase, $1.22 is still less than the $1.27 rate in 2008.

Over 1.3 million will be spent on improving road and sidewalks, including a sidewalk at Hampton Road and Quispamsis Road. Both police and fire (who are shared with Rothesay) seeing increases to their budgets. The police budget increasing 5% to 5.1 million, while fire sees an increase of 6.6% to 4.1 million which will include the hiring of 2 new full time fire fighters.

Sewer rates this year will increase by $8 to $376 per unit. Sewer rates for water meter customers won't be charged based on the water consumption cost anymore, but revert back to a flat rate of $376.