Nova Scotia

Consult before school closes, board chair urges

The chair of the Halifax Regional School Board says community consultations about the future use of a shuttered school should be held before these buildings are given back to municipalities.

The chair of the Halifax Regional School Board says community consultations about the future use of a shuttered school should be held before these buildings are given back to municipalities.

Irvine Carvery is disappointed with the process that Halifax regional council followed in selling the former St. Patrick's-Alexandra school to a developer.

He said consultations should be part of the review process, when boards consider closing a school.

"If city council wishes to abscond on their responsibility for community consultations, then I wish to speak with the minister of education around the whole review process to see if we can ensure that that community consultation on the future use of school buildings once closed can be [included] in the legislation," he said.

Halifax regional council could then decide what to do with the information gathered during the consultations, he added.

Carvery's concerns may be addressed through a report by the HRM auditor general and upcoming provincial changes.

Ways to improve

Larry Munroe, the municipality's auditor general, has come up with nearly 20 recommendations on how to improve procurement policies.

In a recent report, he suggested there be an independent review of complex cases where two bidders are close or, as in the case of St. Patrick's-Alexandra, there is significant public concern.

"I think that second review would add assurances to all that the conclusions are sound," he said.

Munroe said HRM managers agree with his findings and promise to follow up on every recommendation as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, a new provincial law is on the way to ensure local councils follow the same purchasing rules. The Procurement Act takes effect in June.

"I think the intent is to standardize procurement throughout the province. It gives some guidance," Munroe said.

He said the province is also setting up an appeal system for anyone unhappy with how a bid process was handled.