Category Archives: Town Services


Here is an e-mail we received from a resident. It speaks for itself.

The potholes in front of my house are so big and bad and my calls to have them filled have been falling, not on deaf ears, but on people who feel that it is not possible to look after the roads and pay salaries at the same time.
One gets jackrabbited from one phone number to another until somebody comes back from lunch or a  break to tell you there are no resources.  I see resources piled higher and deeper between here and Canning where they store the chip seal material.
It is just that there are no specialists in throwing that stuff into the holes and tamping it down.  Are they in a union or something?
I considered getting the gigantic raccoon (roadkill) on the highway and having it peaking over the edge of the pothole that wants to tear my tires to pieces.  I have to detour to get out of here.
The man who delivers the newspaper in the wee hours has to have the patience of Job.  The ambulance drivers and paramedics will drive over hot coals and potholes to get to this neck of the woods, not to mention the once a year visit of the RCMP.  Perhaps they come around more often, but have disappeared inadvertently in one of the potholes.  I should check.
Betty Morgan



Wolfville is the World

Wolfville is a microcosm of the world. This small town might seem like nothing much but people are people and much the same everywhere.  What goes on here – on a smaller scale- is exactly what happens in the larger world.

Take debt for instance.

Wolfville has been spending beyond its means

HRM has been spending beyond its means

This Province has been spending  beyond its means. And it isn’t the only one .

The country has been spending beyond its means

The US has been spending beyond its means – California is near default

Europe is a financial basket case.

If you think the rest of the world will bail us out – think again.

We can only start where we are and that is in our families and in our small town. It is time. It is time to understand that we can’t have everything and we must choose wisely what we spend on, and perhaps choose not to spend at all. A little sacrifice won’t kill us and our children and grandchildren will thank us for it.

More decisions

It’s hard to make decisions, it seems,  in Municipal offices. Does a town spend on aesthetics and town beautification or essential services like waste collection, roads and bridges? It’s especially hard to decide between such alternatives in hard economic times when your constituents are struggling to make ends meet, unemployment is high and taxpayers are watching every dime. Wolfville struggles with such choices we know.

Ann Arbor, Michigan had some hard decisions to make. How did they manage?

The debate in Ann Arbor, where firefighters are being laid off due to a multimillion dollar budget deficit, is over an $850,000 piece of art.

That’s how much the city has agreed to pay German artist Herbert Dreiseitl for a three-piece water sculpture that would go in front of the new police and courts building right by the City Hall.

They could afford such an expense because not only did they lay off those fire fighters, they also eliminated a solid waste coordinator from the budget. But they had to hire an art coordinator. To look after the art. The City Administrator wasn’t worried.

City Administrator Roger Fraser wrote in an e-mail that the solid waste coordinator position was eliminated as a cost-cutting measure because the solid waste millage had decreased. Fraser wrote that the art coordinator position would be paid for by the public art fund.

Fraser noted that the public art dollars did not come from the city’s general fund, which is used to pay salaries and benefits, and that less than $6,000 of the art money came from the general fund.

The art projects also must have a “thematic connection” to the source of funding, Fraser wrote. The $850,000 art project is water-themed, because the money came from storm water funds.

Those CAOs sure know their stuff don’t they? But strangely residents seem unhappy with the municipality’s choices. They say things like this:

… critics say that a city creative enough to fund art from storm water projects should be able to find money to cover essential city services.

“That’s the classic argument,” said Glenn Thompson, an Ann Arbor resident and longtime critic of city spending. “But the city has become very, very good at shuffling money in and out of the general fund when they want. These people are very good at putting it in and out of the general fund when they wish.”

Michael LaFaive, the director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative said nonessential services are being funded throughout the state.

“Administrators cry poverty while lavishing money on the beautiful people,” LaFaive said. “The threat to dismiss firefighters often comes while officials protect golf courses, wave pools and art. No city can cry poverty while it defends recreation and aesthetics such as art.”

LaFaive said administrators get creative with budgets to fund pet projects.

“It doesn’t mean officials can’t find ways to redirect the money,” LaFaive said. “It appears on the surface that they are redefining what a capital improvement is, by designing a sculpture instead of true municipal infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges.” [emph ours]

We expect these critics are not considered “Town Builders” by City Hall. Perhaps the Ann Arbor administration should hire a consultant to help them communicate better with these critics. There’s probably a reserve fund somewhere for that.

Budget meeting impressions

Lutz Becker has submitted some thoughts on the recent budget meeting which he has published in full in the latest issue of Mud Creek News, available [or sometimes not] at the Post Office. We  have edited it somewhat for length, keeping we hope the essence of his concerns.  An item from David Daniels on the issue of public input was also submitted and will follow tomorrow.


Lutz E. Becker

The Town’s updated budget draft 2010-11 was presented to as few as 13 citizens plus some staff members and about 9 young adults from Katimavik.

Mr. David Daniels had forwarded to the Town 26 points/questions to be shown in advance under Comments on their web-site. The points/questions had failed for whatever reason to show up on the web-site.  CAO Brideau suggested answering them during the meeting after another citizen had asked two questions and got them partly answered. It should be positively noted that Mayor Stead allowed questions from the gallery this time, a significant change from last year’s proceedings during budget deliberations. Most answers from CAO Brideau were vague and/or not to the point.

I regard this draft typical for the Brideau Administration.  As always it is based on wish lists of his departmental directors, increasing the budget total and showing no clear reference to a list of priorities – set by the Council itself – and maybe different but measurable service levels. When Mayor Stead stated in his introductory comments that the proposed budget addressed 9 of the 20 objectives from the Corporate Strategic Plan, I had a problem …. I would have liked to have the 9 named clearly…

At the beginning of the discussions Mr. Porter, Director of Financial Services, hand-delivered to Councillors and to the gallery coloured copies showing a graph of the Town’s Debt Servicing Costs (Principle and Interest) projected over 10 years and up to the budget year 2019-20. This was supposed to simplify the understanding of the Town’s amortization of debts over time but it helped to confuse the reader even more. I was informed after the meeting that the chart was meant to show the yearly repayment on the principle and the yearly interest to be paid for the entire debts per year.  For the shown yearly interest payments of up to $104,141 there is no reference to be found on related total debt levels. Nowhere in the budget draft could I find the actual and total debt amount of the Town… I understand that the current total debts are around 5 million dollars. Some weeks ago Council allowed for additional debts of more than $400,000 for a low interest rate under the assumption that present debts with a higher rate would be replaced. I would like to be able to check on the replacement. Furthermore, I would like to know the debt level prior to the team Brideau/Stead took over the Town more than 10 years ago.

I regard it a bad-taste and sarcastic joke to see on the cover page of the budget draft the hyphenated slogan: “Moving to sustainability”. I do not see any sustainability especially reading on page 16 about the Town’s growing infrastructure deficit of approximately 20 million dollars.

Furthermore, the present situation at the Acadia University may have or may not have impact on the sustainability of Wolfville remaining a “Town”. The facts may come out in a report next month when Dr. Tim O’Neill – appointed by the government to review all universities in Nova Scotia – will present his findings. That employees had to take a pay cut is out in the public but that Acadia’s long term mortgage debt is 70 million dollars and that the university seems to have a problem to pay the interest at this point in time is not known by the public. …

Do the CAO Brideau and Mayor Stead not know about the current situation at Acadia  …?

To play the budget game as if “the world is round and beautiful and the horizon shows a golden (sustainable) colour is more than irresponsible to me. …

It is my understanding that the proposed budget 2010-11 is not facing given realities.

The Councillors became elated by the news that the court case on the school-costs issue was won. Kings County can still appeal and I was unable to find the huge additional costs in the new budget proposal in case the court case was or will be lost finally.

Councillors then became carried away about possible surpluses from last year … to be used for studies like a Business Development Study and a Transportation Study.  … I do not recall any discussions that the possible surplus could be used to lower the budget; that is to lower the tax rate or spending it on something else but studies. Especially Deputy Mayor Simpson’s comments made me leave the hearing at this point in time. Recently I have not heard any new ideas brought by him to the Council table. Expertly, he always paraphrases and agrees to other Councillors’ ideas and praises them then as very good and/or important ones. Recently I have regretted several times that I voted for him.

Another problem I see in the fact that Council is supposed to make a decision on the budget 2010-11 on Apr. 26, 2010 without having at least unaudited figures on balances at Mar. 31, 2010. This budget draft shows comparison figures from last year’s budget but those may vary drastically from the actual figures as of the end of the previous budget year. The actual figures may provide an entirely different perception in relation to the newly proposed ones. Furthermore, they would show itemized surpluses or negative results and give indications on the correctness of last year’s figures and/or having a job well or badly done. To show percentage increases and/or decreases between the planned figures of last year and the proposed ones for this year is not sufficient for the decision making and almost foolish. CAO Brideau stated that the actual figures as of Mar. 31, 2010 will be available on May 09. 2010. … I am certain that CAO Brideau and Dir. Porter have a good understanding on the qualification and quantification of those few open items. If there really were some actual figures available to Councillors, they were not available to the public. …

Looking at some of the proposed figures it is difficult to make a judgement and/or criticise their accuracy due to missing additional information.

One very questionable point is the employment of 32 permanent full time staff and nine permanent seasonal staff taking salaries and benefits of almost 28% out of the proposed 2010-11 budget total even with one staff member less. Compared to last year’s figures this is an increase of more than 5.5% while the CPI index as a base was below 1%. The lame remark of CAO Brideau to this was that the Town has to find a replacement for Dir. Porter and that there will be some time when the “old” and the “new” guy will have to be paid in parallel. I wonder how many staff managed, administered and governed this Town with about the same numbers of citizens and students about 10 years ago.

I found it very surprising that nobody complained about a proposed increase of the residential tax rate by 3 cents to 1.43 while the assessment values increased by 1.7% to $300,551,400. On the commercial side the proposed tax rate will increase by 8 cents to 3.57 while the assessment values go up 2.7%.

On page 13 of the draft the outstanding “commitments” for the new budget are documented. These are $38,000 for the Hospice (part of $114,553), $16,000 for the School Playground (part of $32,000), 15,000 for Acadia’s Raymond Field (part of $60,000) and $10,000 for the Historical Society (part of $50,000). These are donations which the Council committed to pay over several years. To make a point, the Council can make decisions like these for the current budget year only. Commitments for future years are not binding on the Town unless they are part of a multi-year contract. The ones as above may be regarded as moral “commitments” only. If money is really tight, the Town could skip these “commitments” … These will become legal commitments for another year – like Brideau’s 2010-11 salary increase in the Stead letter of 2007- as soon as the budget with these items included will pass the Council table.

I still have a problem with $125,000 in the reserve to be used on the Trojan Park. Maybe that amount can be decreased – as before – to an acceptable amount to free some money for much more important projects.

Beside the point that the Mayor’s and the Councillors’ Honoraria are supposed to go up by 2% (more than the CPI index) I have a problem that the Special Allowance for the Mayor to be increased by more than 15%.

Interestingly, the proposed amount for the item Communications was increased by 375% compared to last year’s budget. Maybe, this might mean something regarding the recent attitude of this Administration.

I question as well any or all reasons for the grant given to the Farmers Market in the amount of $3,000.

Finally and with a sharp pencil I would scratch out or decrease many of the positions under the headline Recreation and Cultural Services. Especially Recreation is not listed as one of the “core” or “mandated” services. Last November the Council classified Recreation as a “secondary” service at its retreat. …Why the Recreation Services Manager is supposed to earn an increase of 19.39% I cannot grasp. The Office Computer item of $12,393 I cannot understand either. I would scrap up to about $200,000 in total for most of the items on the pages 50 and 51 of the draft including a Soccer employee and a Tennis Instructor plus Tennis Lights and all the grants in the proposed total amount of $109,600.

As long as the Town has outstanding debts of around 5 million dollars or less and an uncertain future I would like to see the debts paid back as soon as possible and if Mayor Stead and the Councillors have to feel good about donating money and/or property for whatever cause, let them – being in power – use their own money or use their influence any way they like to inspire and motivate citizens to donate.
To donate tax payers’ money and feel good about it is not acceptable!


Renovations at Town Hall or Roads?

Do you think it is easy to make priorities?

If you would like to have some say in what goes into the Town budget for the coming year we suggest you take look at the budget draft here and come to the meeting Monday evening ( 6pm – 9 pm , Fire Hall ?) . This is one occasion when they can’t say the public can’t have input.

Save US, save WOLFVILLE school

The meeting last night at Wolfville school was well attended except, surprisingly, by the pawns in the game – the children. Few were visible and only one spoke all evening. [This was odd indeed since children have been easily mobilised as poster children, for anti-idling campaigns for example]. We are left to wonder what the youngsters think. Perhaps the Gr. 6 – 8 crowd would be happy to get out of our problem prone facility and try the Pizza in another town?

Attendees were welcomed with “Save our Wolfville School” buttons , and an alarmingly coloured red folder containing information sheets. The mayor introduced a consultant [Did we hear right? from Ramp Up?] who MC’d the evening. After summarizing some of the information handed out, all were encouraged to join discussion groups on various topics with volunteer facilitators – Impact on the Town, Busing, Quality of Education and the like. Those who could stay after that were to gather together again to hear a summary of those discussions.

We drifted around and left before the fireworks. Quite emotional enough as it was. What we learned:

  • The mayor thinks the $4. 5 Million promise “will be honoured” – but this “assurance” is not in writing and perhaps might be spent on other schools or if on our school to renovate for a P-5 facility.
  • No one has reliable numbers on anything.
  • There are two camps: those who think the 4 communities should be presenting a unified face to the Board= ” Consolidation is a flawed principle, don’t do this!!” and those who think we should go it alone = “Wolfville deserves the nod.” Mayor and Council appear to be in the second camp.
  • If comments are to be believed, Acadia and Acadia students are much more involved in our school than we would have guessed.
  • Insiders think Avonport will get the nod given previous School Board decisions favouring L. E. Shaw
  • Political pressure will be put on “our” MLA Ramona Jennex and she will no doubt be reminded that this is an NDP town. In other words – a political decision will be required.


We hope to hear from some Hantsport, Avonport and Gaspereau parents, as well as those from Wolfville in the comments.

Parking complaints

In a previous post we mentioned the many complaints we have heard, increasingly over the past few years, about parking – or lack of it – in Wolfville. Whether it is staff of businesses in town, or shoppers coming into town or residents who,  sorry, do not want to walk back home up hill with several bags of groceries, the situation is frustrating.

In our comments this morning we found another parking lament in response to a post on Wolfville’s “Character”.  Here’s part in case you missed it in the comments section.

I live down town Wolfville and I do not have a parking space.I was told at town hall that because I do not work within the town of wolfville that I am not eligible for the purchase of a parking permit therefore I have to either move my car every 2 hours or park down at the skate park. The hard part is when I don’t have a space in town to park and need to go up and get my laundry this is a problem.It’s hard coming back to a parking ticket every time I need to do a wash. Or like when I go to pay for a parking ticket and have no place to park to pay the parking ticket,then receive a new parking ticket.I enjoy going into Town Hall and paying for these with the Strawberry and Raspberry money Im living off of .When the employee’’s at town hall laugh at my situation I seem to get goose bumps over the entire situation.The new flower beds going in by the bank and drug store located in the middle of the town are a real treat too.Our tax money taking up more precious parking spaces.We need more parking not less. … [underlining ours]

The Town considered this resident’s appeal for a permit another silly problem that distracts them from their busy work it seems. Surely the Town could be reasonable and sell Matt a parking permit? If he’d lied and said he worked at Tim Horton’s they probably would have given it to him. We wish we could do more than sympathise. We can only suggest he phone a Councillor or two and perhaps the mayor!? . Read the rest.

Comments on the Strategic Plan III

Mr. Sanderson has sent us a copy of the following,  further comments on the strategic plan, addressed to Ms Boyd. We add our two cents worth at the end.

Date: 20 July 2009
Subject: Strategic Plan
Dear J Boyd,

I endorse the suggestions expressed by Mr Becker and Mr Daniels. I also enclose a few of my own thoughts regarding the “Strategic Plan”.

* Regarding: Sub-Goal #1: Achieve fiscal health of our Town (“living within our means”)
o The above could mean anything depending upon the interpretation of “our”.
o I hope you don’t mean to improve the fiscal health of the Town by stripping more money from property owners and businesses!
o I suggest more specific language, i.e.:
Sub-Goal #1: Reduce the tax burden on businesses and property owners.

* Regarding: Objective #1: Develop a multi-year financial plan by examining the broad trends affecting the fiscal sustainability of the Town of Wolfville and explore the tools at the Town’s disposal to address those trends.
o OK, but we all know the “broad trend” has been for tax to increase more quickly than the income of the people who pay tax — so why not say so?
o And why not be upfront and specify “the tools” that the Town might use to reduce costs and thence reduce the tax burden?

* Regarding: Objective #2: Effectively communicate the fiscal reality of small towns by building relationships with other levels of government and our citizens to improve fiscal health.
o If Council knows the “fiscal reality” then just say what it is.
o Or is the problem that “the Town” just does not know what “fiscal reality” is? If not, say so.

* Generally, this “Strategic Plan” reeks of waffle speak.
* Most people in Wolfville understand the English language.
* I suggest “the Town” rewrite the “Strategic Plan” using the English language.

Better luck with the next draft,
Brian Sanderson

We too ploughed through the document. It is full of nice sentiment. Motherhood and sugar pie.  As the others have found, it is short on specifics. We would have liked to see something like this for a goal: At least 15 minutes per Council meeting shall be allowed for questions and comments from the Gallery.

Or ” The Deed Transfer tax shall be reduced by .5% each year of the remaining term of Council until it is eliminated.”

What is fiscal health and how will we, or anyone, know when it is achieved? Unlike a family budget where there is more or less fixed revenue, the Town can always go back to the well for more unless some sort of definition  of  “living within our means” is given.

We would also like to see some sort of report card or evaluation built in to monitor achievement of the plan. Our main worry about all the good intentional paving is that the Town has a snowball’s chance of living up to them.

Comments on Strategic Plan II

The second submission is from Lutz Becker. This is a copy of a letter submitted to Ms. Boyd concerning THE PLAN.  We have taken the liberty of adding a link to Becker’s blog at the end.

Dear Ms. Boyd:

For decades and maybe centuries this Town has obviously done “business” and survived without the presence of a Strategic Plan.

To ask our residents – during the holiday period – to provide input and suggestions within 5 to 6 days after the draft of the Plan was available proves again that this Town and its Administration have absolutely no understanding of what it means and/or no intention to really involve the public in their decision-making process.

I regard it as irony in Mayor Stead’s introductory letter indicating that the Council wishes “suggestions and comments” within this given time frame of 5 to 6 days for a key document like a Strategic Plan.

I strongly demand the decision by Council to be delayed until after the holiday period to provide more time for our residents – incl. the now absent holiday seekers – to come up with their ideas and suggestions for such a key document.

Best regards,

Lutz E. Becker

Cc/ Councillors

Voices of Wolfville”


Comments on the Strategic Plan I

Two submissions on this issue. We will put them in separate posts in order of receipt. First -  these comments from David Daniels. We have taken the liberty of linking the url mentioned.

The following are comments and questions concerning the draft strategic plan (Plan).

As I have indicated in prior emails to you, townsfolk should be given more time to read, discuss amongst themselves and comment upon the Plan.  The letter and Plan, to my knowledge, appeared on the Town’s website on July 15th.  That allows five or six days to provide written comments. Is there a reason why it must be approved by Council at this time, in the middle of the summer, when many people are sure to be away?

The Mayor’s introductory letter indicates the Council wishes to “engage and communicate with our residents” and states “please tell us how you would like us to involve you in our decisions and activities.”  Two of the seven listed “objectives” for the strategic planning exercise are: Provide better communication link to the public – build the bridge so that we are responding to their issues” and  “Improved communication with the people – improved budgeting process – ensure that meetings accomplish set goals and that aren’t scrambling in April to rush the budget”

The proposed Mission states: “To excel in the provision of effective and efficient government and work creatively with the community to achieve our vision.” (My emphasis.)

Besides placing the notice on the website, what steps has the Town taken to inform the public about this key document and obtain feedback?  As of noon, July 17th, there was no notice of the Plan or of the July 21st public meeting on kiosks near the bus stop or at the corner of Main and Gaspereau.  On noon on July 15th, the librarian was not aware of any copies of the Plan at the library.

Public input is important in order to have a different views incorporated into the Plan.  See Sub-Goal #4: Enhance social diversity.  At least as to age and gender, the Council is not especially diverse; all male, all over 50.   I believe only one Council member has a child presently enrolled in a Town public schools.

Prior to the formulation of the Plan, the Council went through a SWOT analysis in which it reviewed Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats  of the Town.  In order for residents to understand the Plan, and how it was derived, it would be very helpful to have a summary of the SWOT analysis.  The residents will be better able comment upon and understand the Plan if they are provided with this background information.


Comments and questions concerning “Core Principle of Governance and Service Provision.


Is it appropriate for the town government to commit without reservation that it will “consider[] both short and long term benefits and risks equally when making decisions.”  Perhaps there should be a provision that requires such consideration when appropriate or relevant?

“Wolfville aims to ensure ecological, social, cultural,  and economic integrity . . .”  Could there be some explanation as to the meaning of ecological integrity, social integrity, cultural integrity, economic integrity?

Equity and Inclusiveness:

Why will these principles only be used to guide decisions related to the development of policies and procedures?  Aren’t there other decisions which might be informed by these principles?

Fiscal Responsibility:

Should there be a statement that the town should be “living within its means”?  Does “affordability” capture this principle?

Community Health, etc.

Should reference be made to economic well-being of residents.

Transparency and Participatory Government

Is the Code of Conduct on the Town’s website?

How do you make a “communication process” accountable?

Comments and questions on Goals.

Is there a cost (both in terms of money and staff time) associated with the specified goals set out in the Plan, and if so, what are these estimated costs?

The setting of goals also entails a broader issue which should be at least acknowledged if not addressed.  Many, if not all, of the goals listed are likely to require the expenditure of staff time if they are to achieved.  Can the Town afford the staff spending its time achieving all the goals listed?  And even if the Town could afford the cost, does it want to have its tax dollars spent for this purpose?

There should be a list of each and every item in the Plan that will require the expenditure of staff time and an estimate of staff time needed.  With this information in hand, the Council and the public will be able to make informed decisions about whether achieving the goals set will be worth it.

The issue of the expenditure of staff time takes on particular importance because the Town’s increased expenditures for General Government and Administration  during the past eight years has far exceeded the percentage increase in population growth and the cumulative increase of the consumer price index during that time period.

Should these goals be prioritized?  And if so, how and by whom?

What will occur if goals come into conflict with one another?  Is there a mechanism to decide between two conflicting goals?

The following are some suggestions to help implement the Goal: Engage and Communicate, Sub Goal No. 1: Foster the positive engagement of citizens.

–Put in place a volunteer ombudsman who will be able to respond to complaints raised by citizens.  This can be modeled after Nova Scotia’s Ombudsman Act.

–Devote greater staff time to keeping the public informed.  Eg. failure to post on Kiosks.  If this means staff time being diverted, then need to prioritize.

–Respond to ALL correspondents sent to town hall if only with acknowledgment that it was received.

–Develop a community newsletter.

–Unless necessary, no councilor questions during the Question Period at Council meetings.  Councilors have the ability to ask each other and staff questions  directly and obtain responses.  If the Councilors feel that the answers should be known by the public, then the answers can be placed in the newsletter or Town website or by some other means.

–Improve Town website:  for example, establish a “bulletin board” where comments can be placed by subject.  There should be a written policy indicating what submissions or parts of submissions will not be posted.  Place the agenda of the meeting before that meeting’s minutes.  This will facilitate review of the minutes.

Consider establishing area advisory committees,  if appropriate.  See Municipal Government Act Sec. 201

There should be a written policy, approved by Council, as to what subjects and how a citizen or a group of citizens can make a presentation to Council.

The Council might consider having a formal “open house” during which citizens can voice concerns.  Leaving it up to contact with individual Councilors or the Mayor or Town staff may not be sufficient.

The Council might consider instituting a variation of participatory budgeting.  See the following website:

The Council may wish to consider making its meetings more accessible for citizens.  Have afternoon sessions where daycare is provided; have recordings of the meetings placed on the internet.

Some of these ideas will require staff time and money to implement.  Council should make decisions about the allocation of its scarce resources (staff and money) In light of the apparent importance Council places on such engagement.

David A Daniels
July 19, 2009