WELLS: Stellarton due for sober second thought

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The Straight Goods by Marlene Wells

Over the past couple of weeks, the question of policing has occupied the minds of Stellarton taxpayers.

"The Town of Stellarton is investigating different forms of policing because of ongoing issues within the department and because of the rising cost of policing," said Coun. George Megeney, chair of the committee looking into it. Four options have been laid out before council. They are: to remain with the status quo, to form a joint force between Westville and Stellarton, perhaps with New Glasgow Police or to farm out a contract to the RCMP.

I have to admit right here I don't know what the answer is. But I will offer you some things to think about. The list here is not meant to be exhaustive, but just some things that come to mind.

Based on the numbers in two New Brunswick communities using RCMP services (and wishing they weren't), it costs approximately $210 per person to have the RCMP service a community. At that cost it would amount to approximately $942,000 to have the RCMP police Stellarton, at a depleted level of service. It will likely mean the loss of at least 50 per cent of personnel, and thus 50 per cent of service coverage. With a current budget for policing standing at $1.4 million, I don't see how cutting the level of service would actually save any money.

Consider this: In the policing budget is also at the cost of local support services like crosswalk guards. The cost of those services would have to be shuffled into another budget envelope. So there are no savings there. In thinking about the space the Stellarton Police occupies in the town hall - about 25 per cent of the structure - I don't see any savings coming in reducing expenses either. I mean, do you think that the town will cordon off that part of the building and not use it? Yeah, I don't think so either. Another town department will move into the area and the heat and light budget will be moved to another department.

Staying with the saving money idea, remind me why we are keeping the Stellarton Rink open? With payments to the Wellness Centre and according to the demographics, another rink in the county still needs to close, why is the town shelling out dollars to keep an aging rink open? Couldn't the savings derived from the closure of the rink be put toward the policing costs? (Alternatively, closing the rink would free up some dollars to pave Foord Street. Now, there's a thought.)

A public meeting to find out the thoughts of the people of Stellarton has been suggested by Denise Taylor saying that the town should "let the public have their say before a decision is made."

Mayor Gennoe, on the other hand, says, "I'm an elected official and I'm going to vote what's best for Stellarton and I'm not scared to vote that way."

Well, I'm not sure Taylor was saying she was scared to vote any particular way, but I am pretty sure that she is not afraid to ask the public for their opinion. We elect officials to make decisions on our behalf, but nowhere does it say that they should do it without consultation with the electorate. How do elected officials know what the people want if they don't ask? And when considering an issue that affects every citizen in the community - for the rest of their lives ... and their children's lives - when would it be more appropriate to ask for the input of those who elected you?

I implore you to educate yourself about this issue if you live in Stellarton. I know that I am going to continue to ask questions to find out what is the best option for the Town of Stellarton. I want to know exactly what the cost is for each one of these propositions. I want to know what line items are going to be farmed out, and which ones the town will retain. I want to know exactly how the final decision will affect our policing services before the decision is even made. I believe it is my right as a taxpayer in this community to know all of this information when it comes to a decision as important as this one.

Call your town office and ask for information. Call your ward councillor and ask them questions. Call the mayor himself. He has a duty to talk to you and to listen to you. Demand a public meeting to ensure we are all educated about the causes and the effects of this decision.

If I were mayor I would be jumping up and down with glee at the prospect of engaging a couple of thousand people on any issue. Here's your chance, Mr. Gennoe, you have the opportunity to get people talking, interested and engaged in local politics. Isn't that what we want from the electorate?

Organizations: RCMP, Stellarton Police, Wellness Centre

Geographic location: Stellarton, Westville, New Brunswick Foord Street

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Recent comments

  • Stewart Robertson
    February 02, 2014 - 16:11

    I agree with all your points except the rink. That is a MEMORIAL Rink to the memory of the service men who proudly served their country. When I was a kid, everybody walked to the rink to skate or play hockey. Nobody in town can walk to the wellness center. That was built to suit the upper class and to draw people to the county. It has been there for over a year now and how many did it draw in?? If the money from Stellarton taxpayers went to our own rink for improvements instead of the Wellness Center, we would have a great facility. The building may be old but it is a great asset to the town. As it sits now, the Wellness Center is a money loser. All the county towns should be trying to keep their own local rinks open.

  • Allison kearley
    January 28, 2014 - 18:11

    Marlene I must say you have some great points in your article. I think the taxpayers should get a say because we are just that-taxpayers! Your comments about the rink are quite upsetting... My husband helped with the Stelly cup, which he and a few others started 3 years ago. He tried to book 4 hours of ice time anywhere in the county because there was so much interest in the tournament. To no avail. People say the rinks are only used 60 percent or so, but we must consider the prime times and the times that our children are in school. Can a rink ever be used 100 percent? If we were to lose our rink, what would we have to offer a family wanting to move to Stellarton? I hope their children play competitive hockey because that is who takes most of the ice time at the wellness Center!

    • Marlene Wells
      January 31, 2014 - 10:51

      I agree with your comments Allison. You might remember another column that I wrote last year about the Wellness Centre. Here is an excerpt: "The kids in communities who will never be able to avail of the beautiful centre that is The Wellness Centre, that’s who. As a mom in the community, I used bring my son to the Stellarton Rink for some extra ice time; he started playing hockey late so he needed some extra skating time. It was a blessing that the facility was right here in our community. There were 3 free ice times after school in Stellarton Memorial Rink, the kids would walk to the rink carrying their skates, skate for an hour, then walk home. For some of these kids, this was the only form of exercise they would get. They didn't have the financial resources to be able to pay for formal hockey, or skating, nor the transportation to do it. I said 2 years ago that these kids would be the ones to suffer after the Wellness Centre was built. There will be no free skating at the Wellness Centre. Getting there by foot after school is also a significant challenge for kids who go to school at the town’s only school, an elementary school." Here is a link to that column: http://www.ngnews.ca/Opinion/Columnists/2013-05-28/article-3262085/So...-how-about-the-Wellness-Centre%3F/1 After reading that, you will note that I by no means disregard the importance of the local rink. I think it should have remained open, (with NO buy in to the Wellness Centre) but the situation, after the Wellness Centre (here to stay, whether we like it or not) dictates that Stellarton has some VERY difficult choices to make. We can't keep all of these services to the scale they are now. it is very sad, but it is reality. This year it is the police service, what will it be next year? And we still won't have Foord Street paved.

  • Heather
    January 28, 2014 - 15:22

    Very well said, Marlene. You hit the high spots and spread the information. Thank you!!