E-Newsletter May 2017

Welcome:

Hello everyone and welcome to my first e-newsletter. It has been a busy six months since the election and I’m happy to be launching the last big piece of my plan to more regularly communicate with you. I’m hoping to send an e-newsletter once a month as well as continuing to provide regular updates via my website, samaustin.ca. My goal is to give you information on what’s going on in the municipality, at council, and in the community. Let me know if you have any suggestions or events in June that you would like to be included in the next edition.

If you’re getting this email, it’s because you were either (1) on my campaign list during the election, (2) opted in on my website sign-up, or (3) previously signed up for District 5 e-news through Gloria McCluskey. If you decide you don’t wish to receive updates from me, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this email.

News:

Old City Hall
Dartmouth’s Old City Hall has sold. The building was purchased by Starfish Properties for $2,482,000, which is just slightly less than the asking price of $2,600,000. HRM has retained ownership of the pathway behind the building and the plaza that goes from the foot of Portland Street down to the Ferry Terminal. In an interview with All Nova Scotia, Starfish Properties’s Lou Reznick indicated that the company’s intent in the short-term is to renovate the building. The proceeds of the sale will go towards a future Regional Museum. Complete details on the Old City Hall sale are available on my website here

Sportsplex
Council approved the $23,273,000 contract award for the renovation of the Dartmouth Sportsplex on April 25. The new Sportsplex will include a gymnasium, fitness centre, studios, meeting rooms, a new lobby, and improvements to the pool area including a walkout waterslide for all ages and abilities and a children’s splash pad.

Beginning this week, construction crews will start setting up on the east part of the Sportsplex parking lot by Thistle Street. This staging area will be needed for about a month. It will eliminate approximately 50 parking spaces and close one of the drop-off locations for commuters catching buses from Bridge Terminal. The Sportsplex itself will close to the public at the end of the month on Monday, May 29. The rink and track will be open for periods during construction and, if all goes according to plan, the Sportsplex will fully reopen in the fall of 2018. I know this will be disruptive, but I believe the short-term pain will be worth it.

LED Lights
The conversion of the old sodium streetlights to LEDs is well underway in Dartmouth. I have heard a few concerns from residents about the brightness and colour.

The new LEDs are 4,000 Kelvin, which is colder than the 3,000 Kelvin that some municipalities have gone with, but much warmer than the very blue 5,700 Kelvin that has attracted a lot of complaints in other places. To switch the LED bulbs to a warmer version would mean replacing or modifying all of the bulbs that are already installed. This would cost several million. Not impossible to do, but very costly.

Adjusting the brightness of the lights is much more doable. Once the conversion is complete in December, crews will adjust the network. Since the lights are all wired together, it might be feasible to dim them late at night when traffic is sparse and there are few pedestrians out and about. The lights are Dark Sky certified because they direct their light down to the sidewalk, greatly reducing light pollution. They’re brighter, but less wasteful in terms of the glare that they cast.

There have been some concerns expressed about the potential health impacts of LEDs based on the increase in blue light and its impact on our circadian rhythms. My understanding of the medical data is these concerns largely relate to the cumulative exposure to blue light (LED phones, televisions, computers etc) and not just street lights. HRM’s lights are again, not the 5,700 Kelvin models that have attracted the most attention. To be prudent, Councillor Mason has asked Nova Scotia’s Medical Officer of Health to assess.

Sawmill River
It is going to be a messy summer around Sullivan’s Pond as Halifax Water begins the replacement of the pipe that carries the buried Sawmill River from the Pond to the Harbour. This is a need to do project because, after 50 years in the ground, the existing pipe is failing. The pipe also doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a 100 year storm because of all the development that has occurred in the watershed since 1972. Daylighting as much of the river as possible has emerged as the best option in terms of stormwater management, the environment and cost.

Construction of Phase 1 from Irishtown Road to Sullivan’s Pond will begin this summer and is expected to cost $9.6 million, which will be partially paid for by a federal government contribution of $6.3 million. The end result of Phase 1 will be a temporary pond near Irishtown Road, an exposed section of stream in  the Canal Greenway Park, and a new section of open water by Sullivan’s Pond. HRM’s Parks and Rec staff are working to make sure the newly exposed river integrates well with the nearby greenspaces. Halifax Water will also be hosting a public meeting once they have finalized details with their contractor (date and time TBD). You can find more information on the project on my website here.

Centre Plan
After a long and very detailed consultation process the final draft of the Centre Plan is out. The Centre Plan will update the existing plans in Dartmouth inside the Circumferential Highway and on Peninsula Halifax. The Plan draws a clear line as to where growth in the Regional Centre should go and where it shouldn’t. Places with lots of vacant land, such as Wyse Road, are identified for new development while growth is limited in areas of established housing. Places in Dartmouth identified for new development in the Plan include Shannon Park, Penhorn Mall, Highfield Park, Mic Mac Mall, Downtown Dartmouth, Portland Street by Maynard Lake, Pleasant Street by the old Sobeys, Grahams Grove, and Victoria Road at Albro Lake.

The Centre Plan has gone before the Community Design Advisory Committee and will be in front of Council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee on Thursday at 10:00. If Community Planning endorses the Centre Plan, it will then proceed to Regional Council. You can read the latest draft here

Low Income Transit Pass Program
HRM’s Low Income Transit Pass Program will begin in July. The program provides a transit pass to qualifying individuals at half the price of a regular pass. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and there are 1,000 spots available. To qualify, you must have a household income of $33,000 or less (household means family-members, not roommates). The application form is available here

Halifax Ferry Terminal Refresh
HRM is working on updates to the Halifax Ferry Terminal. Phase 1 of the project includes reincorporating the old Tim Horton’s space back into the main lobby, increasing storage space, and constructing a new tourism kiosk. The work will be completed in June. Phase 2 will begin later this year in October.

Stop Gap Ramp Program
Temporary ramps are available for businesses in Downtown Dartmouth who want to make their business more accessible. The Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission will provide a temporary ramp that can be put in place for steps that are less than nine inches high. When not in use, the ramps can be easily lifted out and stored. Ramps can be obtained from Tim Rissessco at the Business Commission.

Annual Cleanup and Maintenance Program Now Underway
Spring has arrived and HRM’s staff are well into the annual spring cleanup. Crews are working in all areas to address litter, remove downed tree branches, and empty garbage cans in municipal parks, playgrounds, sports fields, trails and other open spaces.

All 1000 kilometres of sidewalks will be mechanically swept and cleared of debris over the next few weeks. HRM has also deployed its eight vacuum street sweepers and two tandem broom trucks for an initial cleaning of approximately 1,500 kilometres of roadway and 3,000 kilometres of curb in Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford.

Council Updates:

To keep you better informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why. Below are last month’s meetings. The next Council meeting will be on May 23.

Council Update
May 9, 2017
Crosswalk flags, Back to Our Roots Farm, heritage grants, and a bit of paving politics in Halifax. Write up here

Council Update
April 25
Sportsplex, new heritage properties, Cornwallis, organics, and the provincial election. Write up here

Council Update
April 11
The budget, 40 km/hr speed limits in residential areas, and kindness meters. Write up here

Public Meetings/Consultation:

Green Network Plan
May 15, 6-8 pm
NSCC Waterfront Campus
Despite rapid development over the last several decades, HRM still has many intact natural areas in close proximity to the city and important farming and resource communities on the Eastern Shore. HRM has undertaken the Green Network Plan to set out how we protect and use open space over the long-term. Staff are currently consulting with the public about the direction of the Plan. Click here for more information about the Plan and public consultation sessions.

Planning and Development Survey
The Halifax Regional Municipality’s Planning and Development department is responsible for regional and community planning, urban design, heritage planning, land development and regulation, and much more. HRM is looking to improve the way it communicates with the public on planning and development issues. Help determine the best ways for HRM to engage and inform residents about planning issues by completing a short survey here.

Halifax Regional Council
May 23, 10 am
City Hall
Halifax Regional Council’s next meeting will be on May 23. Agenda and reports are posted by noon on Friday prior to the meeting date and are available here.

Harbour East Community Council
June 8, 6 pm
Alderney Gate
The next meeting Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council meeting will be in the evening on June 8. Agenda and reports are posted by noon on Friday prior to the meeting date and are available here.

Community Events:

Police Day showcase
May 13, 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Mic Mac Mall
The Halifax Regional Police and Halifax District RCMP are inviting the public to learn more about policing services at a free showcase this Saturday. Join them at Mic Mac Mall between 9:30 am and 5:00 pm for displays, demonstrations and activities from several specialized police units. This event is being held to kick off National Police Week, which runs May 14 – 20. Police Week is dedicated to increasing community awareness and recognition of policing services. For more information, see their website.

Lobster Supper Fundraiser
May 18, 6:00 pm
Senior’s Service Centre
The Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre will be hosting a Lobster Supper on Thursday May 18 in support of their Meals on Wheels program. They’ll be a short reception at 6:00 pm, followed by supper at 6:30 pm. You can reach the Senior’s Centre at 902-465-5578 to buy tickets ($50).

Halifax Cycling Coalition Volunteers
May 23, 6:30 pm
The Bridge (corner of Bloomfield and Isleville Streets)
The Halifax Cycling Coalition is dedicated to improving cycling conditions and raising awareness of cycling issues in HRM. They are looking for more volunteers to brainstorm and assist with upcoming events and initiatives such as Bike Week, and capital projects. If you’re interested in learning more, they’re hosting a volunteer and planning meeting at 6:30 pm on May 23 at 5553 Bloomfield Street. Their Annual General Meeting will be held on June 19. Find out more about the cycling coalition here.

Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society AGM
May 24, 7:00 pm
Chrich Church
Join the Dartmouth Heritage Museum Society on May 24 at 7:00 pm at Christ Church to hear what the society is up to and learn from historian David Jones about the history of Quaker House and Evergreen. The heritage museum is also planning a Harbour Explosion exhibit for this July. If you have stories, artifacts, archival material or photographs that you would be willing to share with the Museum, please contact them. Find out more on their website.

Downtown Dartmouth Picnic
May 26, 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Ferry Terminal Park
In celebration of Canada’s 150 birthday, the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission is hosting a Picnic in the Park from 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm on May 26. This special picnic will kick off a series of Canada 150 events happening in our community. It will feature entertainment, family activities, and a special surprise. Bring a blanket and your own picnic or order a picnic meal from a participating business. For more information, see their website.

McNabs Island Adventure
May 27, 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
McNabs Island
The Take Action Society and the Well Church are inviting their members to a McNabs Island Adventure. Explore the forts and learn more about the history of this unique island from 7:00 am – 6:00 pm on May 27th. Call 902-209-1900 for more information.

Dartmouth Makers Market
June 2, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
June 3, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Christ Church
The Dartmouth Makers will be holding their “Spring Into Summer” market at Christ Church. Food crafts and more from many talented Dartmouthians.

Switch Dartmouth
June 4, 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Portland Street/Prince Albert Road
One of the highlights of the Summer season, Switch Dartmouth is back! Sunday June 4 from 12:00 – 4:00 pm. Switch is an active transportation demonstration that allows pedestrians and cyclists to take over our streets and experience Downtown Dartmouth in a new way. Portland Street up to Alderney Drive and Prince Albert Road from Alderney to Hawthorne will be closed to vehicles. There will be entertainment, food, shopping and family activities. For more information checkout the Switch website.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Sam, Re the May 23 Council meeting …The agenda item on council remuneration has an important component that should be rejected.
    To whom does 14.1.9 1 ii apply ?
    Who proposed the item and why ?
    When would such change become effective ?
    The motion includes this :
    ” ii. That where the Mayor or member of Council is legally prevented from participation in the HRM Pension Plan, they will be, at their option, enrolled in the HRM (Supplemental Executive Retirement Program) SERP program. The affected member will contribute to the SERP at the same level as they would have had they participated in the HRM Pension Plan and HRM will match those contributions.”

    Once a person reaches the age of 71 she/he can longer belong to a pension plan.
    Gloria was not allowed to join the plan after age 71.
    The contribution rate was increased to 12.21% on January 1 2016 and taxpayers would be required to match such a contribution level. I don’t believe there is sufficient explanation as to why such a change is need ed. Perhaps you can obtain an explanation during the public session of council.

    Also the memo may be a back-door way of amending a major staff oversight of Admin Order 17 where it says :

    ‘ REMUNERATION
    2) One third of the remuneration set forth in subsection (1) shall be an allowance for expenses incidental to the discharge of the duties of the respective Member of Council as elected officers of the Halifax Regional Municipality in accordance with Section 81(3) of the Income Tax Act (Canada).
    http://www.halifax.ca/legislation/adminorders/documents/AO17.pdf

    Council has never changed the Section 2 subsection 2, but the Mayor and councillors have been fully taxed on 100% of remuneration and have paid into the pension plan based on 100% of remuneration.
    Last year staff tried to sneak in an amendment to AO-17 which would have eliminated Section 2 subsection 2 but Council threw out the whole staff report which dealt with Council pay as recommended by the Gerry Walsh report and the recommended changes to AO-17 were never approved. AO-17 has an Appendix but surely an Appendix does not overrule the legal provisions of the text of the Order.

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