The Town of Harbour Grace held a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21 to approve the town’s 2014 annual operating budget, which ended with Deputy Mayor Sonia Williams voting against it.
It was business as usual during the presentation of the budget by Coun. Kathy Tetford, who serves as chair of the finance committee. She outlined the basic structure, noting much has remained comparable to previous budgets.
It was the conclusion of the meeting that created some visible tension between Williams and the remainder of council.
Firefighters get increase
The town’s firefighters will receive an increase in remuneration this year once the budget is approved by Municipal Affairs — from $200 to $250 each.
“I have to say, I’m a little disappointed,” Williams stated. “I was hoping to come on par with the rest of the communities in the area.”
Carbonear and Bay Roberts have remuneration totalling $30,000 in each budget. That money gets shared among the 30 to 40 members in each crew.
Harbour Grace has 40 members as well, confirmed Fire Chief Ray Verge.
Verge is happy to see the firefighters receiving more remuneration.
“Any increase is always a positive step forward,” he told The Compass. “We thank council for the positive move forward, however we have a ways to go when we compare to other departments in the CBN area. We can be hopeful that every year, increases will come.”
Tourism department changes
Williams was also vocal about not being present for the final decisions of the budget, saying it was called while she was out of the province.
One of her biggest concerns was the redundancy of the tourism department in the town.
“Tourism is a big market in this province,” she stated. “And we totally cut out the department."
Tetford explained the funds have been reallocated to other departments, including parks and recreation and strategic planning.
Committee member Gord Stone also weighed in.
“It is not an operational department,” he said.
Williams exclaimed a job is being cut because of the changes.
“It is hard for me to understand how tourism has become such a big part of this province but the funds were moved to another department — not to save the town money — and a person loses a job in the process.”
The position of co-ordinator of Harbour Grace Tourism, a job that involved applying for grants and arranging for them to be placed into tourism-related functions and sites within the town, has been named redundant.
The committee’s plan was to have the chief administrative officer (CAO) out in the community and have the town’s administration handle all tourism related issues.
It is unknown right now what the next step is since the CAO resigned unexpectedly Jan. 22.
Messages were not returned from Tetford or Stone by Friday, Jan. 24.
The elimination of the job was enough for Williams to reject the budget.
It passed with a vote of 6-1.
Town officials refused to release details of the budget, saying a complete document will be made public once the budget is approved by the provincial government.