TIGNISH -- A special public meeting to discuss sidewalk snow clearing in Tignish was barely five minutes old when a motion was made to go with the fifth option being considered.
The fifth and final option presented by Tignish Community Council was to go with no sidewalk clearing. It was the only option that did not have a municipal tax increase attached to it.
A group of residents had presented council with a petition early in the year asking for sidewalks to be kept open during the winter months. Council subsequently undertook the task of coming up with prices on what the service would cost the community.
Finance committee chair Ed Gallant quickly reviewed the options.
Options 1 and 3 would utilize new equipment. Option 1 would open all sidewalks at an annual cost of $20,292, covered by a six-cent increase in taxation. Option 3 would keep the sidewalks on Church, Dalton and McLeod cleared, at an annual cost of $13,040 and a 4.25-cent tax increase.
Options 2 and 4 would utilize used equipment. The option for doing all streets would cost $14,541 annually and council had that rounded off to a 4.25-cent tax increase. For the three streets mentioned in Option 3, Option 4 would cost $7,289 annually and result in a tax increase of 2.15 cents
As soon as Harley Perry and Brian Richard moved and seconded the motion to continue without sidewalk clearing, Council chairman Allan McInnis acknowledged that was the option council was proposing.
“The simple reason was we don’t have the money to do it,” McInnis commented.
“If we had to raise taxes, we were going to raise them for a better reason than cleaning sidewalks,” he added.
“Actually, the community, right now, we’re not broke,” McInnis reported, “but if we were to spend any major amount of money right now we would have a hard time to balance the budget next year.”
Former councilor Gerald Keough questioned who would pay for the service if only certain streets were cleared.
“Everyone has to share,” McInnis responded.
When Keough questioned the fairness in that, McInnis indicated he shared Keough’s view.
“If I was sitting on a street with no sidewalks and somebody wanting to put the taxes up to clean the sidewalks, I wouldn’t be too happy,” the council chairman conceded.
The number of residents in favour of the motion was not counted but was clearly much higher than the seven residents who voted against the motion. There were 73 residents, including councilors, in attendance for the half-hour meeting.
Street committee chair Joey Carragher, who conducted much of the research into sidewalk cleaning costs, admitted the vote went the way he expected it would but said he was surprised by the size of the crowd that turned out for the meeting and with the margin of support for not opening sidewalks. “Option 5 was what we expected and what we needed to see,” he said, pointing to the community’s fiscal realities.