Councillor Lisa Blackburn at an interview with The Laker News in Fall River. (Healey photo)

BEAVER BANK: Lisa Blackburn said 2022 was a challenging year for regional council, and 2023 looks to be as challenging for councillors with HRM.

In 2022, topics such as policing budgets, housing, and homelessness kept being the main focal topics that residents kept in front of regional councillors.

“It’s great we now have a shelter in Sackville. It’s great the infrastructure is there, it’s sad that we need it,” said Blackburn. “It’s good to know community has stepped up. Kudos to Beacon House and Sackville Warming Centre for stepping up.”

For Blackburn, the boundary review was also a huge topic. That boundary review recommended putting Beaver Bank in with Sackville, a decision that she agrees with.

“It makes sense on a lot of levels,” she said. “I didn’t hear a lot of concerns about being connected with Lower Sackville. It’s always been our center of commerce and recreation anyway.”

It’s now in the hands of the NSUARB, where they will make the final decision.

The review has left Blackburn with a decision to make.

“I have some soul searching to do,” she said. “Do I run again and if so where. Those decisions will be made within the next six months or so.”

She noted her family is dealing with some health issues so working through that and looking to see what that looks like in next six months to a year.

Another big plus from 2022 for Beaver Bank is getting the tracks at Windgate and Beaver Bank road paved over finally.

“I never would have thought something so small would have taken such a long time and made such a huge difference in peoples lives,” she said. “Step two is working with CN and National Transportation Safety Board to get rid of the infrastructure that’s there.

“We need traffic lights there.”

Among top three 3 items for Blackburn includes development pressures coming to the community. For the first time, apartment buildings are being proposed for Beaver Bank.

“It’s funny as I thought there might be a lot of residents concerned about that,” she said, “but it’s been the exact opposite. People have been calling me for contact info for the builders because they want in those buildings.

“Development in the right place at the right time is always good, and certainly the buildings going in on Beaver Bank Road are the right location. That’s where you want to see high density buildings on main roads where there are busses, stores, etc.”

She’s also looking forward to having more pedestrian safety measures put in place on Beaver Bank Road.

“We have five crosswalks going in on Beaver Bank Road this year,” said Blackburn.

Two of those will be near Harold T. Barrett Junior High; one up by Brown Hall; and one down by Majestic and Beaver Bank Road. There is one other as well.

The crosswalks will be the ones with the flashing beacon—like the ones in Fall River by the Snow Centre and by Coach Avenue on Hwy 2.

Community meetings are also happening regarding developments in subdivisions in the community, so those will be things she has as a top topic for her. That includes the apartment building on Beaver Bank Road before Windgate (which NWCC rejected on Jan. 16); Carriagewood subdivision development, etc.

Blackburn said there will be enhancements to the ball field area where trails will be put in. She credited Victor Cobb and the Beaver Bank Awareness Association for their hard work on this.

“We want to make it a destination in the community and also give the folks who watch ball games something to do while they wait,” she said.

She praised Lyle Mailman for his work in getting a Christmas Parade of Lights to happen.

“Big shout out to Lyle for getting the parade happening,” she said. “It was great to have that back.”

Blackburn also got put into an honorary role. She has been named an Honorary Lt. Colonel of the Canadian Army’s Third Intelligence company.

It’s a three-year appointment. She was nominated by HRM’s EMO lead Erica Fleck.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the Canadian military more through that,” she said.

She got word right before Christmas that she was receiving the appointment. Among others who have had similar roles include Karen Furneaux and Peter Mansbridge.

“It’s pretty mind blowing and humbling to have my name on the list,” said Blackburn.

Now looking at HRM as a whole, Blackburn said all the councillors are just hoping to get through the budget discussions and debate.

“It’s not going to be easy,” she said. ‘We already sent staff back with direction to bring it down to a four per cent tax increase from eight. It’s still way below inflation. Folks have to realize we’re subject to the same inflationary pressures that everybody else.

“We’re feeling that pinch too. There’s going to be some tough talk.”

Blackburn is going to do be doing some deep dives as a member of the Board of Police Commissioners looking at HRP and RCMP budgets.

“We’re still forming our sub committee on the Defund the police report,” she said. “We’ve got the 36 recommendations from that report that Dr El Jones prepared for us.

“That’s going to take time. We alone, at HRM, can’t fix it. It takes the province as well, and some of the recommendations involve the federal government too.”