HALIFAX: On May 7, Dexter Nova Alliance was officially awarded the contract from the provincial government to twin and maintain Highway 104 between Sutherland’s River, Pictou County and Antigonish.

Dexter Nova Alliance – led by local contractors Dexter Construction and Nova Construction, with BBGI as an equity partner – outbid two other companies shortlisted for the $717.9 million project.

Under the contract, the consortium will design, build, finance, operate and maintain a 38-kilometre twinned section of Highway 104. Dexter will take over ongoing operating and maintenance responsibilities for the twinned portion of the highway and another 25 kilometres of existing highway. This includes snow removal, pothole repair and any repaving that may be required over the 20-year agreement. Dexter will also replace seven bridges.

At the end of the 20-year period, the highway is required to be in “like new condition.” The contract includes $80.5 million of rehabilitation work.

To ensure on-time completion, Dexter will be paid half of the construction cost on completion and the remaining amount as monthly payments based on the availability of the highway at the specified performance level over the 20-year period.

Although they have entered into a Public Private Partnership (P3), ownership of the highway will remain with the province at all times.

The project consists of construction of a twinned highway beginning east of New Glasgow, near Exit 27 at Sutherlands River, and running east for 38 kilometres to the existing divided highway at Antigonish, just west of the Addington Forks Interchange (Exit 31).

The project includes 28 kilometres of new two-lane twinned highway and 10 kilometres of new four-lane twinned highway. There are two new interchanges and about 24 new bridges.

This project also includes approximately 11 kilometres of twinning of the current highway from James River to the existing four-four lane highway at Antigonish.

Within the contract is operations, maintenance and rehabilitation responsibility for a 16-kilometre section of the four-lane highway through Antigonish, ending at Taylors Road in Lower South River.

Photo by Drake Lowthers
The Highway 104 twinning project started last spring.

MABOU: A group of local volunteers lent their skills to help frontline health care and other essential workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

An army of 35 seamstresses throughout Inverness County banded together to hand-make personal protective equipment to fill their community’s need.

One stitch at a time, the group put a button on the side of scrub hats to assist in comfortability on long shifts.

After coming across the design pattern of a hat with buttons on the side above the ears, so the elastic could loop around the button and keep the mask tight – the group got to work. As a result, the group was able to provide 700 scrub hats and 850 masks.

The masks have mostly gone to the general public working in grocery stores, hardware stores, and garages. While healthcare workers are unable to wear the homemade masks, as they’re required to follow professional healthcare standards, the scrub hats have been distributed to workers at Inverness Consolidated Memorial and St. Martha’s Regional Hospital.

Because of social distancing, even with picking up donated material, she said the exchange was done on people’s decks so she hadn’t met half the ladies who were doing the sewing.

ST. PETER’S: Sales of a popular t-shirt resulted in the donation of technology to facilities and groups in the Strait area.

Wendy Owens Abbott performed on the Facebook group “Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party [COVID19 Edition],” and made t-shirts for the occasion, one of which said “Stay the Blazes Home,” a quote from Premier Stephen McNeil imploring Nova Scotians to continue self-isolating as the pandemic swept through the province.

She said many people asked about the t-shirt and that’s where the inspiration came to help out local nursing homes.

Colin MacDougall at Joe Pop’s Images helped with the t-shirts – then some residents, who Owens Abbott said do not want to be identified – stepped forward to donate iPads, as well as an Apple TV.

Owens Abbott then sent the donations to the Richmond Villa, St. Ann Community and Nursing Care Centre, the Port Hawkesbury Nursing Home, the Strait-Richmond Hospital, palliative care, and home care.

Pictured are t-shirts with Premier Stephen McNeil’s quote “Stay the Blazes Home.” Proceeds from the sales are helping purchase iPads for residents of Long-Term Care facilities, as well as clients of home care support and palliative care.

PORT HAWKESBURY: During a presentation to town council, Port Hawkesbury RCMP said one issue they want to see dealt with crime-wise is prescription pill trafficking.

Providing an update to council on the RCMP’s statistics from this past fiscal year, Staff Sgt. Dave Morin said their biggest concern is prescription pill trafficking.

HALIFAX: Despite concerns from municipal officials across Nova Scotia, the provincial government decided to proceed with elections.

In a letter dated May 13, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Chuck Porter confirmed that municipal elections were still going ahead.

The letter was in response to correspondence from Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities (NSFM) president Pam Mood who questioned whether a vote should be held in the middle of a pandemic.

Because municipalities have been forced to hold virtual meetings, revise budgets and develop new staffing plans, while maintaining essential services, preparing for an election will increase this already overflowing burden, Mood noted.

Mood echoed the concerns of Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton and Richmond Warden Brian Marchand that municipalities will still face serious difficulties in preparing for an October election.

Aside from the challenges in holding a vote, Mood pointed to the problems awaiting newly-elected councils.

OTTAWA: On May 11 at the Canso Causeway, 75 people protested the decision to delay the beginning of the lobster fishing season in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Gulf Nova Scotia Bonafide Fishermens’ Association said the delay was unwanted and harmful, because in the absence of an aid package from the government, fishermen wanted to start the season.

Jane Deeks, press secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans told The Reporter they recognize those concerns and fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan vowed to continue to work closely with industry partners to address the issues.

By delaying the opening to the middle of this month, Deeks explained Fisheries and Oceans Canada maintained a shared opening.

The other factor is that not all plants were going to be ready since some Temporary Foreign Workers were forced to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Canada.

Photo by Jake Boudrot
The fishing season started on May 1 for lobster fishers in Richmond and Guysborough counties.

ANTIGONISH: Town staff prepared to return to their offices and reopen town hall to the public.

Jeff Lawrence, the town’s CAO, said staff reported back to work on May 27 to fully prepare the building for its reopen to the public on June 1, with strict health and safety measures in place.

Lawrence said they have quasi-divided the town hall into three different zones for common areas, the idea is if there is a spike, they don’t have people funneling through the same areas.

Mayor Laurie Boucher said the preparations in returning back to Town Hall were two-fold; physical and logistical.

Along with partitions being installed to separate the public from the staff, Boucher said they implemented one-way traffic just like in grocery stores.

GUYSBOROUGH: The Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) was only one of a handful of municipalities in the province to keep its offices staffed during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While closed to the public, staff used a two-days on, two-days off model.

Warden Vernon Pitts said they were only a few weeks away from reopening their municipal office. He suggested the “new normal” will consist of physical distancing, good hygiene practices, and the use of masks.

Subject to final approval, municipal officials voted for the change to their daily operations during their virtually-held regular council meeting on May 20.

The municipality returned to full office operations with a phased-in approach, starting with senior staff returning on May 29.

All staff were expected to be back on site June 1, and facilities are scheduled to reopen to the public June 15.