• John Jantak

St. Lazare cancels 2018 edition of Festival au Galop


THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK

Mayor Robert Grimaudo said the annual St. Lazare Festival au Galop, shown above at its inaugural event in 2015, will not be held this year. He made the announcement during question period after the town’s 2018 budget was presented.

St. Lazare will not stage its annual equestrian Festival au Galop this year. The announcement was made in a press release that was distributed to residents ahead of a special council session to announce the town’s 2018 budget on Tuesday evening, January 30.

Mayor Robert Grimaudo said the newly elected council decided to hire a specialized firm to conduct a series of surveys this year to gauge public opinion on whether the town should hold the event in the future and on other infrastructure related issues.

Survey

“Right now there are people who don’t want the Festival au Galop but there are 50,000 people who have visited the site. We want to know what our options are. People brought up a lot issues during the election campaign and the opinions were very diverse,” Grimaudo told The Journal.

“The festival was a very contentious issue. Maybe people want it to continue for $50,000 instead of $300,000 a year. Rather than listening to hearsay, we want to get a good survey done to find out what people really want,” Grimaudo added.

Residents will be asked what types of events and activities should be held, how much money the town should spend for the festival, and whether it should be held at all.

Festival controversy

The festival has generated significant controversy since it was first held in 2015. While the overall feeling has been generally enthusiastic, some residents regularly complained about the amount of taxpayer money the town has spent to host the event the past three years.

Much criticism was levied at the previous council in 2015 when it was revealed the town spent about $1.2 million to stage the event. Residents complained at council meetings the town was being financially irresponsible and was misappropriating tax revenue that could have been better spent elsewhere.

Grimaudo said most of the cost at the time was attributed to securing a permanent festival venue and other first-year, start-up factors that were not included in the two subsequent years.

About $300,000 was spent each year when the festival was held in 2016 and 2017, said Grimaudo. Some residents still complained the cost was too high for the two-day event and continued to recommend the town use the money more prudently.

Surveys will also be conducted to gage public opinion regarding the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Avenue Bédard and Chemin St. Louis and on the town’s plans to revitalize its downtown core.

Tax increase below inflation rate

Property taxes in St. Lazare will increase 1.13 per cent after council unanimously adopted its 2018 budget and its triennial capital works program at two separate special council sessions. For a home connected to a septic system with an average valuation of $370,000, the increase represents an additional $33.

The water tax for properties connected to the municipal aqueduct will increase $10. Properties connected to the town’s sewer system will be charged $20 more. The higher levies will help cover the increase in expenses related to the maintenance of the town’s water and sewer networks.

Low tax rate a priority

The budget, presented January 30 by St. Lazare Treasurer and Director of Financial Services Brigitte Bonin, takes into account the priority of the electors during the last election which is to maintain low taxes, said Grimaudo. The minimal tax increase is partially attributed to town contributing $1.95 million from its accumulated surplus to the budget. Additional revenues were collected as a result of the burgeoning real estate market.

“It’s a good budget,” said Grimaudo. “This is the second consecutive year we’ve been able to keep the increase below the rate of inflation. We worked very hard to balance the budget and we’re pleased. We’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We invested heavily in our infrastructure about four years ago. We had no choice. All the really big projects are now done.”

Complete budget details are available on the town’s website at ville.saint-lazare.qc.ca/en/budget.

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