HRM’s area rate discussion causes confusion, frustration


FALL RIVER: The issue around what is going to happen to the area rate for the LWF Ratepayers Association (LWFRA) was a topic that came up following the completion of the group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The meeting was held June 18 at the LWF Hall in Fall River. Close to 30 residents were in attendance at the meeting; they require just 20 residents for quorum.

Anthony Taylor, acting as chair for Marni Tuttle, said he along with Tuttle and Jay Cameron attended a meeting May 27 with HRM on the area rate discussion. Other area rate groups from across the municipality were also there to hear what HRM Finance staff had to say.

“It was very clear that they are looking to do the process differently in the future,” said Taylor. “I found it very frustrating because they did the presentation and gave the overview that it wouldn’t affect anyone that already existed as such. Buried in the undertone in two or three years there might be a need for all area rate organizations to kind of re-submit and seek approval for their basic existence.

“That caused a lot of confusion in the room.”

He said that’s the way HRM wants to go in the future. He said it was a good hour-plus long discussion between the many groups in attendance and HRM Finance staff.

“It was very clear that many organizations and communities would struggle,” said Taylor.

Taylor said he thought the information on how a change would adversely affect groups, specifically those in rural HRM, was listened to but not necessarily accepted by staff making the presentation. Written feedback was allowed and the LWFRA sent a letter in mid-June.

“The agenda was to upset the apple cart I think amongst all similar organizations,” he said. “When we talked to some of the groups after the meeting, it was clear they were all very concerned about this.

“A lot of them went with the assumption that they were fine. The idea I think is to put everybody to a test to see if they want to exist.”

Alan Joyce asked if HRM was thinking of making it a plebiscite alongside the HRM Municipal election in 2020. Taylor said he was unsure as there was no clear defined process.

“They talked about a couple of years notice before it would happen so folks would have a chance to align themselves,” said Jay Cameron.

“It was very muddy and unclear in terms of the process. I think they were surprised by the amount of people who attended,” added Taylor.

Joyce doesn’t understand why there’s so much secrecy around the area rates and why there’s no answers forthcoming to simple questions.

“At some point HRM Finance has committed they will bring a staff report to HRM Regional Council recommending something,” said Barry Dalrymple, LWFRA Treasurer. “We haven’t been allowed to see that report. We don’t know what’s in the report, and I don’t think we know the timeline for that report will come.”

The first half of the LWFRA area rate has already been collected for this year, so Dalrymple feels reasonably safe to say that nothing will be changed this year.

Joyce asked Dalrymple when he was councillor would this have been something slipped to him in secrecy or would he have brought it back to the community. Dalrymple said he would have come back to the community.

“So we have a councillor that is not doing that from what I can tell,” said Joyce.

Cameron said HRM Finance has bypassed Councillor Steve Streatch and has come directly to the LWFRA on a number of occasions to get feedback on the history on the rate and the future of it.

“It’s clear they want us to be the vehicle to engage our ratepayers, our residents in Lakeview, Windsor Junction, and Fall River, and not the councillor,” said Cameron. “Whether that’s good or bad for us, I’m not really sure. It allows us to frame the message a little more clear.”