Pictou looks for savings in lead-up to budget

Sueann Musick
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PICTOU – The historic CN Station in Pictou will be closed this winter in an effort to save the town money.

Town council agreed during budget deliberations Wednesday to close the CN station in the winter rather than winterizing it for another season. It is estimated such a move will save about $30,000 in such costs as maintenance and heat.

It will also mean the town could save an additional $10,000 since it won’t be replacing a much-needed boiler in the building.

The Northumberland Fisheries Museum is expected to be in their new building on Caladh Avenue in the fall and the move will leave the youth centre without a home.

However, council is considering giving the centre organizers a grant to help in their relocation to a new area in the town.

“The youth centre does prove a good purpose and we should provide them with something,” said Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes.

In addition to these decisions, council also agreed to ask for a request for proposals to see if anyone is interested in purchasing the building. The only condition the town has for the sale is that the exterior of the historic building remain intact. It also hoped that it would be able to work with a new owner so that the area could continue to be used for Pictou Lobster Carnival activities.

Councillors will have a chance to give their final vote on these recommendations when the town’s 2014-2015 budget is finalized in the next few weeks.

It has been undergoing lengthy public budget deliberations for the past month to determine how it can trim expenses.

In addition to the CN station recommendations, it also agreed that a flat tax should be done for solid waste collection and that a hydrant rental fee will be charged to property owners.

In 2013, hydrant rentals cost the town $167,000, but if tax- exempt property owners are now forced to pay the charge, it could net the Shiretown close to $10,000 in revenue.

The only buildings that must still be exempt under the policy are those owned by the Queen or province, but the town has agreed in a vote of 3-1 to see the Royal Canadian Legion exempt as well.

Coun. Cam Beaton said he couldn’t support the recommendation because he wanted churches to be exempt from the rental fee.

Instead of there being a charge worked into the tax bill amount, residents and property owners would see a rental fee listed on their bill for hydrants.

Council is also in favour of a user pay system for solid waste collection. The flat-tax system would apply to residential properties.

The budget deliberations took place after town councillors reviewed its audited financial statements for 2013-2014.  The town ended the year with a $72,000 deficit, but it was offset by some surplus money it had in its budget which left the town breaking even.

One of the areas that saw an increase in expenses was snow removal. Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes said many municipalities struggled with their snow removal and salt budgets this past winter which started early and left late.

“All and all, the town is not in too bad of a financial situation,” he said.

Council will approve its financial statements next week and continue its budget deliberations.

Organizations: CN, Town council, Northumberland Fisheries Museum Royal Canadian Legion

Geographic location: Caladh Avenue

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