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Coming to council: Women's Advisory Committee, Williamswood Fire Station, budget talks continue

Halifax Regional Council will meet this Tuesday, January 14 at 10:00 a.m. on the third floor of City Hall.
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Halifax City Hall (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the contract for the Williamswood Fire Station was won by Lindsay Construction. HRM amended the document on January 14 due to a mathematical error, announcing that Bird Construction had actually received the contract.

 

There's plenty of items on the agenda this week at Halifax Regional Council, which will meet Tuesday, January 14 at 10:00 a.m. on the third floor of City Hall.

Girl power

Back on On November 26, 2019, Regional Council approved an Administrative Order to establish a Women's Advisory Committee (WAC), after a motion from Councillor Lorelei Nicoll.

At a meeting of the Executive Standing Committee, who review self-governance proposed by council, it was decided that the women's committee would include 10 members.

This would consist of two members of Regional Council and eight women with at least one from each of the rural, suburban, and urban areas of the municipality. 

The committee is also directed to include diverse communities, and consist of women from the African Nova Scotian and Black communities; Indigenous/aboriginal communities; LGBTQ2S+ communities; Immigrant communities; Women with disabilities, and the Francophone/Acadian community.

This week at council, the motion is to decide who will be on the selection board for the Women's Advisory Committee.

The Executive Standing Committee has recommended it consist of the Managing Director of Diversity and Inclusion, an advisor from Diversity and Inclusion, a representative from the Municipal Clerk’s Office, and the Chief Administrative Officer or their designate.

According to the motion, the Women's Advisory Committee members will be recruited during the month of January.  The recruitment campaign will consist of posters, newspaper ads, social media, and a direct email-campaign with groups that worked with staff during the Diverse Voices for Change, Federation of Canadian Municipalities project completed in HRM. 
 

New Harrietsfield area fire station contract awarded

The bidding process has ended for a new fire station to be constructed in the Harrietsfield area.

After a fire gutted Fire Station #62 in 2015, the process has been underway to construct a new station for Williamswood firefighters so they no longer have to share the Sambro station with nearby colleagues.

The report says that the current station is too small to share between the almost 30 firefighters who now use it, and is poorly located for the service area, which means longer response times when emergency calls are made.

HRM already spent $1.4 million this past August to clear the site and get it ready for construction.

Now, the city is gearing up to accept a $4.55 million bid from Bird Construction to build the four-bay fire station. Once constructed, it will also include a community room which can also be used as a comfort centre during incidents like storms and power outages.

The clearing of the site on Old Sambro Road is expected to be completed by the end of March 2020, and construction to begin immediately after that. The motion that will go before council Tuesday says new fire hall should be substantially completed" by September 2020.
 

The long road to the new budget

On top of Regional Council meeting on Tuesday, the next Budget Committee meeting will happen on Wednesday beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Halifax's Deputy Mayor Lisa Blackburn says beginning this week, all municipal departments will give a presentation to the committee about their operating finances for the upcoming year.

"All of our business units have been asked to find some form of savings when they prepare and when they present their operating budgets to us this week. So it'll be interesting to find out what they've come up with," Blackburn tells NEWS 95.7.

The District 14 councillor says finding these deficiencies is necessary in order to expand other services and make sure property taxes don't increase too much.

"You try to find your savings wherever else you can in your day-to-day operating," adds Blackburn. "$1,000 here and there, it adds up and it makes a big difference."

But council can't completely prevent property taxes from increasing, no matter how many cuts they make.

"That is completely out of our hands, the value of somebody's home. That's determined by the Property Evaluation Services of Nova Scotia," adds Blackburn.

Blackburn says she hopes the municipality won't have to go in further debt this year, another reason why she's hoping departments can keep their operating budgets down.

"HRM has done an incredible job of paying down our debt over the last decade or so," she says. 

However there are some increases, like raises and new staff positions, that are unavoidable.

"We do have some control over that but we have contracts with the vast majority of our employees, so those wage increases and compensation packages are set in stone," says Blackburn. "We have to work around that for sure."

But all-in-all until the individual committees present to the Budget Committee, beginning with the CAO and HR staff this week, among others, Blackburn says much of next year's operating budget is up in the air.

"We're still at such early, early stages," she says. "Those discussions will be had in the coming weeks. And towards the end really is when we have a sense."


Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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