CBRM councillors 'left scrambling' after details from in-camera meeting released
Councillors say mayor revealed information about proposed fire station that are raising questions
Some Cape Breton Regional Municipality councillors say they're surprised after the mayor publicly released details from a closed-door session about a proposed new fire station for downtown Sydney.
At an in-camera meeting last month, councillors considered two possible locations for a new station to replace the existing one on the Esplanade.
On Friday, Mayor Cecil Clarke publicly confirmed that council and the firefighters prefer the site at the corner of George and Pitt streets, where the municipality owns an empty parking lot.
That sparked an outcry from the arts community and the public.
Then this week, the municipality issued a request for proposals to find a design firm for the new station.
Councillors Kendra Coombes and Amanda McDougall say they aren't sure why the details were being made public because council has not voted publicly on a new station.
"I don't think anything's a done deal until council votes on it, and this seems to be a topic that has caught a few of us at least flat-footed," said Coombes.
She said no decisions were made in camera and constituents are now asking a lot of questions that can't be answered, yet.
"It confuses the public," said Coombes. "It confuses us as councillors when something like this comes up because we're sitting there going, 'We don't know what just happened.'
"I don't think this should be the norm, with councillors left scrambling."
McDougall said she has asked that the topic be added to next week's council agenda to clarify what can and can't be discussed in public.
She said the public has raised concerns about council decisions on flood controls in the Baille Ard Trail, banning parades at night and now, what appears to be a decision on a new fire station.
McDougall also wants council to have a discussion about communication in general.
"Just a general conversation on how we can be more proactive on public consultations prior to decisions being made, rather than it always being this reactionary event after there's concern raised," she said.
Clarke said the province will be paying for some of the cost of building a new station because the existing one has to make way for a new Nova Scotia Community College campus.
The mayor said he was forced to comment publicly on the preferred site after the in-camera discussion leaked out to media. He said the design tender is needed to determine the potential cost.
Clarke said council has not made a decision on the final site. That will come back to council at some point in the near future.
"There's absolutely going to be public participation once we actually have something to present for decision making," he said.
"This is all good stuff and we will have a public process for the actual final decision and outcome of a fire station."
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