Mayors keep their distance at monthly meeting

CALEB NICKERSON
CAMPBELL’S BAY March 18, 2020
MRC Pontiac’s council of mayors meeting last Wednesday took a little longer than usual, due to efforts to measures imposed because of the coronavirus. The MRC employees have been largely working from home, and the SAAQ offices were closed (call 1 800 361 7620 or visit saaq.gouv.qc.ca for more information).
It was announced at the start of the week that the meeting would be closed to the public, but would remain open to the press, but the afternoon of the meeting, the press were excluded and instead received a follow up call from Warden Jane Toller the next day.
She said that six mayors appeared in person, with the rest either calling in or videoconferencing on their computers.
“It was a slightly challenging meeting but it was effective in that even though we didn’t finish until about 9:40, which is very unusual,” she said. “It took a long time but we got the business accomplished.’
One of the items that extended the length of the meeting was a line-by-line reading of the 2019 budget.
A group of MRC inspectors is slated to begin property re-evaluations in areas hit by last year’s flooding. She said that it would result in tax credits retroactive to May 2019, but the process would likely be hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.
“Now with the virus, I don’t know how it will impact it or slow it up,” she said. “This may be slightly put on hold, but certainly the exterior work could be done.”
In addition, the mayors discussed their preparations for this spring, assessing their stockpile of sandbags and other measures if the region is hit by flooding again.
“Now is the time to be thinking ahead and let everybody know that we are expecting that it will go well with dam management and everything else,” she said.
She noted that if COVID-19 is widespread by then, they would not be able to rely on emergency shelters for people displaced by any potential floods, and had looked into using motels or other accommodations if the need arises.
Council supported a resolution from the Municipality of Clarendon regarding the importance of the Pontiac Community Hospital’s obstetrics unit, which was sent to the Minister of Health, Danielle McCann. Also, Clarendon Mayor John Armstrong requested a seat on the joint CISSSO/MRC committee dealing with the issue, joining Toller and fellow mayors Sandra Murray (Shawville), Maurice Beauregard (Campbell’s Bay) and Gilles Dionne (Mansfield et Pontefract).
Toller said that she was impressed with the CISSSO’s committee, who will be meeting with them every two weeks for updates. She said that they were working on incentives to entice health care workers to move to the region.
“They need an ambassador, sort of a welcome wagon person who would be able to take people around the Pontiac, and tell them what we have to offer,” she said. “They talked about maybe a tax incentive or maybe free rent for a year, this type of thing.”
Another resolution, brought forward by the Mansfield council was approved by the mayors, regarded securing cutting rights for the proposed Davidson Mill project and was sent to the Minister of Forestry.
The resolution calls for cutting areas to be reserved for the facility, which would be both a cogeneration plant and a sawmill.
Toller said that if those cutting rights aren’t secured, they will have no choice but to blockade the roads to outside logging companies.
“Give us this wood or we will block the roads to any new cutting,” she said. “The Pontiac can’t be wiped out.”

 

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