BOTWOOD, NL – With 2017 coming to a close, the Advertiser asked Botwood Mayor Scott Sceviour to reflect on the town’s priorities and challenges for 2018.
What is your top municipal priority for 2018, and why?
We’ve got a couple. I don’t know if we really have a priority. We have some capital works requests put into provincial government.
What we’re trying to do over the next two years would be to construct a new town hall and a new fire hall. The building we’re in here now is over 80 years old. It was constructed by the AND company and the cost of electricity – basically the upkeep and the maintenance of the building – has gone beyond control. We can spend a lot of money on the building and we’ve still got an old building. Plus, we’re not wheelchair accessible.
The fire hall – it’s an older building and the heating costs are very exorbitant. It’s a concrete block building that’s not meeting our needs anymore, so we’re looking to relocate both buildings just as you come in Fernwood Drive, closer to Route 350 right alongside Botwood Collegiate. It’s where we’re relocating, as well as doing an industrial park in that area because we do have at least two or three businesses that are looking for land to develop new businesses. So that’s our main priority, as well as housing.
We’re also looking at doing a new subdivision in that area as well. It’s a newer part of our town. We’re trying to meet housing needs, trying to meet the needs of business operators to construct new facilities and open up new businesses, as well as house our town hall and fire hall.
Economic development is our main goal, but things seem to be moving quite well on that particular front so we’re hoping to see something good happen in 2018.
What are some challenges your town is facing in 2018, and is there a plan in place to address possible difficulties?
One of our major challenges, where we’re talking about constructing the town hall and fire hall – it’s a newer part of town and that infrastructure is all on major sewer lines that are running to our bay.
We’re trying to meet federal wastewater regulations, as well as take some pressure off the lines that are taking away our waste now from that area.
We’re looking at new development in the same area, so we’ve engaged our engineers.
We did accept a capital works project from the provincial government – it was a $100,000-sewer study, and that’s ongoing as we speak. The engineering firm has been in town and done all their on-the-ground work. Now they’re gone back to map out our sewers to see if we can divert some of our flow in different areas of town.
But one of our biggest challenges in the town that’s spread out such as we are is meeting federal waste water regulations. We have to try to consolidate all of our lines into an area to eventually come to a point where we’re going to have to build a sewer treatment plant.
That’s going to be a challenge but we’re slowly getting there.
I don’t know how it’s ever going to come to fruition but at least it will allow us to move forward. Right now, we’re only going to add to an existing problem because we have too much flow on the existing infrastructure that’s in the ground now.
What is one thing the provincial government could do or change that would help municipalities do better in the future?
There are a couple things. I think that what they’re doing now with MNL (Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador), reviewing the Municipalities Act, that’s a big step forward.
We have some challenges – we’re trying to sell property, and for municipalities to sell property they have to advertise to the general public, which is fine.
The challenges is – if we have a piece of property that’s in front of an existing piece and the town owns that property and it’s not large enough for any single development because it doesn’t meet our building regulations – we still have to advertise that piece of property to the general public, knowing fair well that somebody from another part of town can’t purchase it to develop anything, because it’s not developable.
We feel that we should have the right to be able to go to the adjacent property owners, which we can after we go to tender. And the silly thing about it is that we’ve got to go to tender, and then we haven’t got to accept the lowest tender – so why are we going through a process that brings us right back to where we want to be, and that’s being able to sell property to an adjacent property owner.
It makes total sense – it’s absolutely no good to anybody else because its not large enough to develop any type of house or any infrastructure development.
(It will) go a long way to move us forward if they change those items within the Municipalities Act.
I truly believe that all Crown lands within municipal boundaries should be passed over to the municipalities at no cost. Right now, we can avail of it. If we want to build a town hall on it, we can go and get apiece of land from Crown lands for a dollar. But if we wanted to go and get a piece of Crown lands within our boundary to do a subdivision, we’d have to pay fair market price for the land that’s within our own boundaries, which works out to be somewhere in the vicinity around $10,000 an acre.
The property in our town should have municipal ownership and not provincial ownership.
Reflecting on 2017, what do you think were some of your town’s best achievements in the year?
That’s a very difficult question to answer because we’ve got a lot of things that we’re working on. We’ve done some major upgrades to our playgrounds, which we’ve pretty much half completed. We have most of the equipment purchased now that we’re going to finish off the playgrounds with and install in 2018.
Over the last two years we’ve finally finished our skateboard park, our volleyball court, our basketball court, along side of the Boys and Girls Club. We’ve been really focusing on our youth in our community as far as outdoor activities and trying to get the youth more engaged in outdoor activities as opposed to on their phones … we’re trying to get them more active.
Economic development has been our main goal; we’ve been working very hard on that. We’ve had some rods in the fire and things are starting to come around now.
We’ve done a lot of small things and I’m proud of some of our organizations. The Mural Arts Society has put another mural on the library, the Heritage Society is moving forward and doing some great work in our community.
All in all, I think it’s been a pretty much stable year. We’ve been working very close with the government. I guess if there’s any highlight we’ve got some capital works funding this year, something we haven’t gotten in the last three or four years.
Like any other town we’re trying to cut corners where we can, and we were successful in having another balanced budget for this year.
Last year we had no tax increases and we ended up with a little bit of a surplus.
One of the major achievements that we’ve learned this year is that we went from roughly a little over $2 million in debt – we’re roughly over $1 million in debt now so that’s a very positive sign that we’re very frugal in our spending, but we get some positive things done.