MULGRAVE: The Mayor of the Town of Mulgrave is voicing his displeasure with the provincial government over the way they’ve handled municipal infrastructure funding on two similar projects.
Ralph Hadley says it’s unfair their counterparts in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) are having their portion of a new wastewater treatment facility covered by the province, while Mulgrave is still stuck paying their own share.
“I told minister Lloyd Hines that it was not fair. They’re not playing fair ball with us,” he said. “It’s not fair one municipality competing over another.”
During the town’s regular council meeting held virtually on May 11, Hadley suggested CBRM officials are better able to handle the cost than they can in Mulgrave.
“CBRM is a city, they have a lot more infrastructure and commercial base than we have,” he said. “If we have to pay – they should pay.”
Hadley suggested officials in both municipalities agreed to cost-share the construction cost of their respective wastewater treatment projects at 27 per cent, however in March, the province unexpectedly announced it was picking up CBRM’s $26 million share for new facilities in Glace Bay and Port Morien.
“With CBRM getting 100 per cent approved and the Mulgrave taxpayer has to pay $1.9 million, we have to put this treatment plant in to follow regulations the same as them,” he said. “So why should we have to pay $1.9 million and they don’t pay any?”
Hadley questions the motive as to why the province is picking up CBRM’s 27 per cent share, which is only a portion of their annual operating budget of approximately $150 million.
Mulgrave agreed to pay $1.98 million in the cost-share model to construct the new $7.4 million wastewater treatment plant, despite their taxpayers not being able to afford it.
“When you look at that $1.98 million as it compares to our annual operating budget of $1.7 million as of 2019, that’s 111 per cent of our budget,” Darlene Berthier Sampson, the town’s CAO said. “So you can imagine the strain of us coming up with that, or financing that.”
Berthier Sampson indicated she was informed CBRM’s share was forgiven because the project was over $100 million.
“Apples to apples, they have a bigger capital project, but they also have a much bigger operating budget in the tune of $146 million,” she said. “So the ask of them for that 27 per cent comparable to the 27 per cent asked of Mulgrave; was only 18 per cent of their budget.”
Without this debt receiving any provincial breaks, Berthier Sampson said it will have an impact on their operating budget.
Provincial officials with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal previously suggested the funding was intended to allow CBRM to “redirect its own funding to other infrastructure needs.”
Hadley indicated that’s something Mulgrave could benefit from as well and has contacted Lloyd Hines, who is the Minister of Transportation and also represents Mulgrave in the provincial legislature.
He was told to redirect his concerns to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“They said there was not much they could do for us on that,” Hadley said. “I think there is something they could do for a poor town like we are.”
Since then, both Hadley and Berthier Sampson have tried to make contact with both Hines and municipal affairs minister Chuck Porter requesting a meeting for clarification, but have not yet received a response.
“This is what causes problems with municipalities, by giving different treatment to one over another,” Hadley said. “If you read between the lines, I think the province is looking to try to bankrupt us.”