Hudson Town Council adopts strategic plan amid questions from citizens
PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG
Stan Belczowski, a volunteer with the Le Pont/Bridging food bank raised concerns about the sale of the former MediCenter in Hudson that leaves the organization 60 days to find a new home.
Hudson residents questioned the wisdom of adopting and implementing the town’s strategic plan, ‘Our Town, Our Future’ at the April 4 council meeting given the town’s recent state of flux. Resident Bill Nash raised the issue during the first question period pointing out Mayor Ed Prévost has published on the town web site that there are 150 allegations made against him with the Ministère d’Affaires Municipales et Occupation du Territoire (MAMOT).
“Why haven’t these been made public?” Nash asked after receiving confirmation from Pro-Mayor Barbara Robinson that Councillor Rob Spencer had made the allegations. Director General Jean-Pierre Roy responded that the 151 accusations stem from three main subjects: the development of the strategic plan, the contract with Judy Sheehan for work related to union contract negotiations, and the adoption of multiple urban planning by-laws at the same time.
Roy said in attempting to keep the allegations private, the mayor wanted to protect the reputation of the town.
“Perhaps it would be nice to have some sort of disclosure,” responded Nash eliciting scattered applause from those in attendance.
Roy said the town had received a report from MAMOT in December, 2015, concerning the urban planning by-laws in question - By-laws 658, 659, 660, 662, 663 and 658. The term ‘omnibus’ was applied because of a proposal by council to adopt them with one resolution instead of individually. The report shows municipal laws were not contravened and the town ended the adoption process of the by-laws in May 2015. “MAMOT considers the (by-law) case closed,” said Roy.
Contract with Judy Sheehan
According to Roy, the MAMOT report on the Sheehan contract indicates the town administration had enough information to know that her contract was over $25,000 and a call for tenders was required. This information was reportedly not transmitted to the councillors by former DG Catherine Haulard and they were informed the contract would be less than $15,000. A copy of the report from MAMOT distributed by Roy after the meeting, emphasizes that individual members of council do not have authority to grant contracts and that all contracts must have council’s approval by resolution. It also notes that documents in English did not contain the same information as documents in French. In the case of the Sheehan contract, council terminated it and refused to pay the bill, and changes have since been made to the contracting process. Sheehan has launched legal proceedings for the unpaid amount of $25,456.87.
The DG commented briefly on the contract for the translation of the strategic plan that was given without the required approval by town council. “Contracts cannot be given directly by municipal councillors and we know that (former) Director General Duncan Campbell has since regularized the situation,” said Roy.
Roy also said the month of April will be important regarding the case involving the suspension of Haulard currently before the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT). Haulard is suing the town for wrongful dismissal. Also before the TAT is the case of suspended employee, former Parks & Recreation Director Julia Schroeder who has publicly stated she is also suing the town for wrongful dismissal and psychological harassment.
Resident Eva McCartney questioned council as to the wisdom of moving forward with large projects such as the strategic plan while accusations have not been resolved.
“Without going into the details of the accusations, we do not see any reason to not move forward,” responded Councillor Ron Goldenberg. He said projects such as resurfacing roads and finding new sources of potable water depend upon the approval of the plan. Council approved the resolution unanimously although it was noted that Councillor Robert Spencer was absent. A notice of motion for a loan by-law for the 2016 road resurfacing plan for up to $1.5 million was subsequently published as was another for up to $300,000 for the purchase of five vehicles.
During her preamble to the meeting, Robinson announced the town’s long-awaited 2014 audited financial statement would not be available for another month. Questions on the matter elicited a further response from the Roy who said the statement is expected from the auditors within the month and has to be examined by council before publication.
Council approved the sale of the former Medical Center located at 98 Cameron Road for the sum of $422,000, the higher of two tenders received. Stan Belczowski said the local food bank, Le Pont/Bridging, is housed in part of the building. “Has anything been said about where the food bank will go?” he asked. The DG said the matter is being discussed and there’s a grace period of 60 days before the building has to be vacated.