Letter to the editor 2, Oct. 8, 2015
After seeing some details of Hudson’s strategic plan, many people have questions and concerns.
Last year’s meeting claimed to be an expression of what the citizens want to see in Hudson’s future. But it was more of a workshop which, with subsequent emails and comments, resulted in 1000 “comments.” These fell into five categories: infrastructure and good government (31%), nature (25%), physical layout (19%), arts & culture (13%), and (clear) vision (11%). These don’t necessarily represent priorities but only how comments and suggestions were categorized. And this was from only about 1% of the adults in Hudson. It’s a start but this cannot be considered a valid poll or survey of the Hudson residents and certainly not any endorsement of growth or development or expansion of our population. Before any budget, or rezoning, or commercial water meters, or multi-million dollar arts & culture centre, etc. go ahead, there must be a referendum on this plan and what it means to the quality of life and civic identity of Hudson and its residents.
The question everyone now living in Hudson has to carefully consider is ‘do you want to develop and expand our community and change its overall character or maintain the present basic population size, character, and quality of life?’ The option of allowing us to quietly enjoy our town has to be given equal consideration.
To add another 2000 people over the next 10 years will change Hudson forever. How long do you wait for a doctor now at the Medi-Centre or finding a parking spot? We are currently stretching our water supply. Will there be sufficient school space? The plan commits to maintain Hudson’s “quaint” character but how would this be possible?
The new “Arts and Culture Centre” was presented with no mention of its initial and ongoing cost projections. Jack Layton Park is already congested on weekends and the only way to make anything like that possible is by eliminating the attractive greenspace. The budget for Parks and Recreation/Culture has ballooned to $1.4 million for 2015. This and the many other activities provide a reasonable arts and culture base for a town the size of Hudson.
We have a high asset base generating revenue to service a low population. Revenue has steadily increased: 2009 - $9.1 million, 2015 - $11.6 million total revenue. This is not a decrease as the strategic plan states.
Sewer and water grants have recently been approved which can be applied to lower the debt significantly. The sale of town-owned assets such as the old medi-centre will help. The deficit is a result of incorrect accounting procedures, overspending on loan by-laws over the last 15 years and not a result of insufficient revenue. The remainder of the debt, spread out over 40 years, is normal for municipalities as infrastructure is financed primarily with loan by-laws. If a surplus is realized should the money go towards a private venture such as an Arts and Culture Centre or towards our roads which are in a deplorable state? Should we adjust the mill rate downward if we have a surplus to obtain a balanced budget or put the money towards an Arts and Culture Centre that is totally unnecessary (and which had almost the least interest in the “workshop” last year?
We were told that growth is "stagnant" and the solution is significant development to correct a problem which doesn’t exist.
This plan is a good kick-off discussion paper and the Council has the issue line-up from last year. From that limited input the priorities appear to be 1) improve our infrastructure and provide good government – this includes fixing our roads which are quickly becoming the worst in Quebec, and provide a stable administration.
2) nature - leave our natural environment alone except to improve access and prevent its “development.” Fixing that broken dam for much less than $1 million should be a priority;
3) physical layout – not convinced this means increased density or altering the town’s appearance. Arts & culture was not as high a concern as it appears in the plan, mostly because we have very talented residents who have organized adequate arts and cultural activities in Hudson. And ‘vision’ should include some real consideration of suggestions and input from the present population.