Here’s another perspective on the clock park issue. This was sent in by David Daniels and can also be found in flyer form at the post office ( if there are any left).
David A. Daniels
January 10, 2010
“In a democracy, leaders should therefore give reasons for their decisions, and respond to the reasons that citizens give in return.”
Why Deliberative Democracy? by Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson
Wolfville’s Core Principles of Governance and Service Provision:
Transparency and Participatory Government
From the Town’s recently adopted Corporate Strategic Plan
The Town Council appears ready to approve an agreement transferring the Clock Park land from Irving Oil to the Town at its January 18th Council meeting.
The Town has held ONE public meeting, in the recent past, at which the transfer was discussed. No questions from the public were allowed to be asked.
(Apparently, the process to transfer of the Clock Park property to the Town has been in the works for about ten years.)
There was at least one closed Council meeting at which the transfer was discussed. Mention was made at the January 4th Council meeting of a memorandum which staff had prepared for the Council. No part of this memo has been made public.
Irving Oil paid $10,902.28 in property taxes to the Town in 2009. This stream of income will presumably end with the transfer of the property to the Town.
The value of the gift, which, includes the clock, is approximately $500,000.00. Whether Irving Oil will obtain a tax benefit from the gift, and if so, how much, was not discussed.
According to the proposed agreement between the Town and Irving Oil, the Town may only use the land as a park.
(Unless further environmental remedial steps are taken, the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment limits the use of the property to a park. In other words, whether the Town or Irving Oil owns the property, it may only be used as a park.)
The proposed agreement has not been made public. The Town Solicitor indicated that Irving wished the agreement to remain confidential. However, since the Town must approve the agreement in public and since the Town is bound by the requirements of the Freedom of Information law, Irving was informed that the Town could not keep the agreement confidential. (I have made a FOIPOP request to review the agreement.)
The Town Solicitor also stated that the agreement provides that Irving will be liable for any environmental costs due to actions taken prior to the transfer of the property to the Town.
There was limited discussion of the benefits to the Town if the Town were to accept the gift.
Proponents of the transfer stated as benefits: the Town would be able to control the property if it owned it and it would be a benefit to the Town if the Town owned the property.
There was no mention at the January 4th meeting if the Town’s Parks and Recreation Committee had been asked to review the pros and cons of the transfer, and if so, what the Committee’s recommendation was.
There was no discussion of whether the Town needed a new park. According to the Town’s new Municipal Planning Strategy there are approximately 13 park/open space areas maintained by the Town’s Park’s Department. (The acquisition by the Town of Clock Park is not included as a policy in the new MPS.)
There was no discussion of the cost of maintaining the new park. Was Irving asked to provide an endowment to help with upkeep?
Councilor Irving asked a number of questions concerning the Town’s potential environmental liability. Several of his questions could not be answered at the meeting.
In October 2007 Doug Stiff, a hydrogeologist, wrote in an email to Chrintine Attard of the Nova Scotia’s Department of Environment and Labour that “[t]he town should somehow be informed that they will not be able to put a park on the site until it is below Tier 1 RBSL residential potable water levels (only half of the property is currently at those levels).” Whether this standard has now been met was not discussed at the January 4th meeting.
Although not mentioned during the January 4th meeting, Town records show that $125,000.00 has been set aside in the Town’s Capital Reserve fund to landscape Clock Park. Could this money be put to other uses if the Town does not accept the “gift”?
The Council adopted governance principles of fiscal responsibility and transparency and participation less than two months ago. Unlike the King in Neil Young’s song, highfalutin principles, once adopted, are soon forgotten.
MAKE YOUR OPINION KNOWN
THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING WILL BE HELD ON JANUARY 18 AT 7:30 P.M.
It shouldn’t come down to Freedom of Information requests should it but it seems the well of good will is poisoned and all questions are considered attacks, at least by some at the Council table.