AMHERST – Amherst hopes to hear back from Transport Canada as early as next month if a joint request to fund a study of the dikes protecting the Trans-Canada Highway and the railway will be accepted.
Speaking to members of the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday during his yearly address to the club, Mayor David Kogon said Amherst and Cumberland County, along with Sackville, N.B. and the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick governments are cautiously optimistic the request to fund the $700,000 study will get the green light.
Under the proposal, Ottawa would provide $350,000 to fund the Chignecto Isthmus Climate Change Adaptation Project Comprehensive Engineering and Feasibility Study with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick each contributing $175,000.
“This threat is going to be dealt with,” the mayor told Rotarians. “We’re on the right track.”
Last fall, Kogon, Cumberland County Warden Allison Gillis and Sackville Mayor John Higham met with Beausejour MP Dominic LeBlanc and Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey to discuss the start the process in hopes of upgrading the infrastructure along the marsh to protect highways and the main rail line that connects the port of Halifax with the rest of Canada.
“This is not just a local municipal problem, or a provincial problem, it’s a national problem and we need to push forward with addressing rising sea levels and the threat to Amherst and Sackville and to the fertile marshlands between them before it happens,” Kogon said.
The mayor said the town is also working with the Amherst Heritage Trust Society and MP Bill Casey and MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin in finding a way to protect and preserve the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury.
Kogon said that while the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum and the three cadet corps are important to the community, it’s not critical to the Department of National Defence.
The group has talked to ACOA about funding a study to look into refurbishing and developing a long-range plan for the century-old building and the mayor is optimistic the application will be successful. He said the national defence minister is interested in what the group is doing, but the group will have to also look at other possible uses for the building as part of the long-range plan.
Kogon told Rotarians the past year has been a busy one for the town on the infrastructure front with the $2.2-milion Victoria Street reconstruction project and the $1.6-million Station Street storm sewer project both completed last fall and the $7.7-million reservoir replacement project on Willow Street nearing completion.
These projects took advantage of federal funding to minimize the impact on Amherst taxpayers and he took the time to credit town staff and deputy CAO Jason MacDonald for meeting the challenge of organizing three major infrastructure projects simultaneously.
He also said the town is hoping to complete the transfer of the former VIA station in downtown Amherst, adding that it’s in the final stages of the deal being closed. The deal will see Jeff Bembridge lease the building from the town over a five-year period and use the facility to house Bambino’s as well as a family restaurant.
The mayor said he’s also pleased with how Amherst, the Municipality of Cumberland and Oxford have started working more closely together since the last election. The three municipal units have worked together on a new voting structure for the CJSMA and are adopting that same structure for the regional emergency management organization.