WINDSOR JUNCTION: A planned amendment by HRM regional council, set to come before councillors at their meeting on July 18, would basically “gut” the purpose behind the LWF Ratepayers Association, without any notification.
Marni Tuttle, the president of the organization, said in a letter sent to media, HRM Mayor Mike Savage, councillors, and MLA Bill Horne, that they only became aware of the motion coming to council after media contacted them seeking comment.
“How would you feel if the future of your community organization was put in jeopardy by HRM Council and you only knew because the media contacted you for comment?” said Tuttle in the letter, sent on July 17 at noon time. “With just 24 hours before you sit for your council meeting, the media has brought to my attention that you will have a motion before you to gut the purpose of the Lakeview-Windsor Junction-Fall River Ratepayers Association (LWFRA) without notifying our organization or the affected community.”
The amendment to the Lakeview-Windsor Junction-Fall River Ratepayers Association (LWFRA) outlined in 14.1.11 2017-18 Budgets and Business Plans for Area-Rated Services summarily eliminates the ability for the organization to operate.
“The LWFRA, and the community, feel abused and neglected by a motion that is completely without process,” said Tuttle. “It represents an abuse of Halifax Regional Municipality’s power and authority over a specific area rate. The motion attacks a single organization, while leaving similar organizations untouched.”
Tuttle said in the letter that HRM failed to even contact the organization(s) involved.
“The motion comes before you without a single community consultation.
“There is no transparency of process. This matters to you because the lack of process defies the obligations HRM Council has committed to as representatives of your community.”
Tuttle said the LWFRA requests HRM defer any amendment to the Lakeview-Windsor Junction-Fall River Ratepayers Association until HRM completes community consultation, including meetings with the LWF Ratepayers, WJCC, Keloose, Lakeview Homeowners and other recipients of funding.
”The staff report as presented is deficient,” she said. “It has errors and omissions. An outcome that could be anticipated given the lack of transparency and consultation. The motion is an attempt to control local money against the wishes of the local community.”
She said that if HRM passes the motion, that would immediately wrap up operations of an active community association with a full board and with broad community support.
“There are updated bylaws, formal Memorandums of Understanding with key partners, and a completed financial review with Collins Barrow,” she said. “The AGM, just last month, had record attendance and all motions – including the budget – were passed unanimously.”
Tuttle said a legal opinion was sought and completed earlier this year to articulate how the LWFRA was entitled to function after Councillor Steve Streatch questioned the authority in the community paper.
“It says the LWFRA is operating within the mandate and the rules provided by HRM for an area rate,” said Tuttle.
She reiterated that the area rate is not a general tax rate. It is a special rate collected to be distributed by the community in support of local recreation.
“It supplements or enhances the community beyond the scope of the HRM Grants program,” she said. “Beyond the WJCC operational funds, Keloose sponsorship and Lakeview Homeowners Association operation funds detailed in the amendment there is a 40-year history of the LWF Rate being used to fund community recreation.”
Past projects included:
- · Creating park spaces on Foster and Richardson Avenue
- · The community celebration in Fall River – Canal Days
- · Establishing the first summer swim team, Windsor Junction Wahoos!
- · Supporting local Girl Guides to purchase snow shoes
- · Providing equipment for the seniors’ jam session
- · Supporting SWEPS in completing the Blue Hill Road trail system
- · Subsidizing activities for the Seniors Friendly Group
- · Improving the local LWF Community Hall
- · Supporting the creation of a multi-use sport field in Fall River
- · Infrastructure and emergency facility funding for the WJCC (including replacing a failed septic system in 2016).
“This funding makes our community a better place to live,” said Tuttle. “Because of these funds we can provide programs and services that meet community demand as the community grows and changes. These improvements come without pulling on the general tax revenues.”
The letter continued saying these funds, and the flexibility to respond to community need, create opportunities for our community to play a role in meeting the outcomes of the Ivany Report. Specifically, through our partners we’re addressing:
- · Inter-provincial migration – We make our community an attractive place to come and stay.
- · Youth employment – Partner organizations become the single largest youth employer in our region every summer. Opportunities include leadership roles, skilled roles and first-time jobs for youth in our community.
- · Post-secondary education and training – Each of those employees is encouraged to complete training, and supported in their educational objectives.
Tuttle said the motion, as written, fails to articulate how funds would be distributed in the future as it ends the operations of the community body.
“It is ambiguous what the outcome would be of the residual funds being set aside for upcoming projects, including the Fall River beach,” she said. “The motion fails to address the ongoing need for infrastructure and maintenance projects for the WJCC and Lakeview Homeowners Association park.
“In conclusion, the LWF Ratepayers Association has met and exceeded the standards required by the HRM to operate as the conduit to distribute this special rate. The process to change the rate, the organization responsible for making decisions on the rate or who receives grants can only be initiated through the community or in consultation with the community.”
Tuttle said they want the amendments deferred until the appropriate, and legally required, community consultation is completed.
“The motion, presented to you today, makes questionable use of the power and authority of HRM,” she said. “It jeopardizes much of the good work in our community and abuses the efforts and trust of volunteers.”