Nova Scotia

4 of 5 village commission seats in Baddeck up for grabs next month

Elections have been scheduled for June 27 for the village commission in Baddeck, N.S., to replace the chair, who has resigned, and three others whose terms are up.

Elections scheduled after chair resigns, one commissioner's term ends and two more end in June

Village of Baddeck commissioner Ian Nicholson, interim CAO Maris Freimanis and former commission chair Bill Marchant review the finances during a public meeting in April. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Elections will need to be held next month for four out of five positions on the village commission in Baddeck, N.S.

The chair has resigned after the commission failed to meet all of the terms of a provincial order to clean up its finances by May 1 or face replacement.

Another commissioner has left after her term expired. Two more commissioners will have their terms expire in June.

Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr issued a rare second order this week, giving the commission until July 6 to complete the directives in the first order, plus a few new ones.

The financially troubled village will be able to comply with the new order, interim chief administrative officer Maris Freimanis said.

"In the report that we presented to the minister at the end of April, we outlined the action plan going forward and it dovetails exactly with the [second] ministerial order, so everything is achievable within those timelines," he said.

Higher tax, sewer rates on the way

Three of the five commissioners remain active, so there is a quorum to make decisions and approve a budget, including what are expected to be higher tax and sewer rates, Freimanis said.

Water rates are also expected to rise, but the commission will first have to get a consultant to study the rates and recommend new ones. They will have to be approved after a public hearing by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

Tax and fee hikes are necessary because the village has had difficulty billing and collecting revenues after firing the chief administrative officer last year.

The village has been unable to file audited financial statements for the past four years.

The commission is ready to have audited statements prepared for fiscal years ending in March 2020 and 2022, but it does not even have a draft for 2021.

At a public meeting in April, a representative of the accounting firm MNP said it was "not possible" to put together a financial statement for 2021 because the books were a mess.

"It's going to be very difficult to assemble the numbers for the year ending 2021, but MNP later indicated that they would be able to do that," Freimanis said.

Baddeck's interim chief administrator Maris Freimanis says everyone is aware of the financial difficulties the village commissioners have faced over the last couple of years. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

In an interview Thursday after issuing the second order, the municipal affairs minister said the village commission has made a good effort. He knows it could take until December before the village's 2021 financial statement is ready.

"I think everybody realizes the challenges and difficulties that the Village of Baddeck has gone through over a number of years," Freimanis said.

Bill Marchant, who was commission chair until he resigned last week, said in an email that he is not doing interviews.

Deputy chair Ian Nicholson could not be reached for comment, but Freimanis said Nicholson and commissioner Michele Stevens have indicated they will reoffer next month. Commissioner Dan MacNeil still has two years left on his term.

New administrator coming

The annual meeting and elections will be held June 27, Freimanis said.

Meanwhile, Freimanis, whose interim position was supposed to end in April, said he is leaving next week.

Retired Victoria County administrator Sandy Hudson will take over until the position gets filled permanently, Freimanis said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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