Concerns with future of government jobs downtown
© Christopher Gooding – Amherst Daily News
Could the Community Services and Service Canada jobs located in the former Stenek Building be on their way out of the downtown? The leases for both offices are expected to put up for tender in the fall and there are concerns the jobs could be moved elsewhere in the community.
AMHERST – Concerns are being raised about the future of more than 50 federal and provincial jobs in Amherst’s downtown core.
Leases for the Community Services Department and Service Canada offices in the former Stenek Building on Prince Arthur Street are set to expire later this year, and members of the Amherst Downtown Business Advisory Committee are worried about the jobs there going somewhere else.
“It’s definitely something we’ve talked about as an organization,” committee chairman Mark Casey said. “We’re concerned what the loss of those offices would mean to the downtown. It has the potential to be devastating.”
Casey said the committee plans to write Mayor Robert Small and town council to use whatever power they have to convince the provincial and federal governments to lobby the decision-makers to keep the government jobs in the downtown.
It’s believed approximately 40 people work in the Community Services office, while there are about seven or eight employees in the federal employment office.
The leases are periodically renewed and the present expires soon. It’s expected to be put out to market in the fall.
Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar said he’s not aware of the leases expiring, but understands getting the best value for taxpayers. However, he added, he’d like to see the jobs stay in the downtown as well.
“Part of our obligation is to get the best price we can, but if the price is within range why would you go through the hassle of moving,” Skabar said. “If it’s a significant difference, then the current landlord may have to sharpen their pencils.”
Small said the town considered changing its land-use bylaw earlier this year for that reason. The town suggested changing the bylaw to restrict government offices to the downtown, but backed away after hearing from residents, members of council and the business community outside the downtown.
“Our first priority would be to keep those jobs in Amherst, but ideally we’d prefer them to remain in the downtown,” the mayor said. “Jobs create foot traffic that create activity and business. That’s one of the reasons why the town was looking at a bylaw that would keep those jobs in the downtown core. Council opted not to enact that bylaw.”