• James Armstrong

Hudson Town Council approves pay raise despite protest


PHOTOS BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Hudson resident and former member of council Natalie Best took issue with the proposed pay raise for the mayor and council.

Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholls and council members unanimously approved By-law 716-2018 giving themselves a retroactive pay increase despite protests from several citizens including a former town councillor, Natalie Best.

“Would you like to tell us exactly what the percentage of increase is from your current salary?” asked Best. The mayor attempted to reply that his salary was a very small percentage of the entire town budget and pointed out that Best had already calculated the difference.

“Yes. It’s an increase of 46 per cent and you have given yourselves a nice Christmas bonus by making it retroactive,” Best replied. In her opinion, making the pay increase retroactive to January 2018 was unwarranted and undeserved. She pointed out the positions are not full-time and the increase and retroactive pay were extreme for a town with a population of 5000 inhabitants.

“I don’t see how any of you can justify this increase. Will you rethink this lavish increase and Christmas bonus?” she asked.

Defending the increase

Nicholls defended the pay increase structure in his opening remarks noting the last time the mayor and council had a raise was in 2006.

“Council has been urged for many years, before our time, to rectify this situation,” said the mayor, pointing out that municipalities are increasingly complex branches of the provincial government.

“That is why the Union des Municipalités du Québec (UMQ) and the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités (FQM) have urged municipalities to set fair and equitable salaries for their elected officials. That is exactly what we are doing tonight,” said the mayor. Regarding Best’s contention the council did not merit such a large increase or the retroactive pay, Nicholls stated in his remarks that salaries of elected officials are not performance based and municipalities are not private corporations.

“The retroactivity of the salary is according to the idea that the town has now set a fair and equitable salary and that should be reflected in the town’s financial portrait,” said Nicholls.

Process followed

He described how the town had used the UMQ guidelines for determining an equitable amount and how the comparison had been made to 10 towns similar in size and profile to Hudson.

“It’s the right thing to do for the office itself and goes beyond the individual personalities sitting here, in front of you, today,” said Nicholls noting that as mayor he was required by the Québec Cities and Towns Act to cast a vote. Usually, the mayor does not vote on legislation except in a tied vote situation. According to the legislation, the mayor’s basic salary was increased to $26,700 from $18,290 for the year 2018 and councillors were raised from $6,096.67 to $8,900 for the year. All the elected officials also receive an expense allowance. In the case of the mayor, the annual amount was increased from $9,145 to $13,350. For the councillors, the expense allowance increased from $3,048.34 to $4,450.

Funding for Hudson TOD design program

The Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) has approved Hudson’s application for financial assistance of up to $100,000 in order to develop a Transit Oriented Development zone (TOD) design programme.

“We’re planning to implement a charrette that will look at our TOD area and bring all the stakeholders to the table so that we actually have a TOD area that makes sense for Hudson,” Nicholls told The Journal following the meeting. He described the stakeholders as representatives from urban planning at the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) and CMM level, school board officials, environmental representatives, urban planners from the town and developers.

When asked about citizen participation in the charrette, Nicholls replied, “Perhaps one citizen per district could be elected to sit at the table but it really is a professional stakeholder’s exercise to get Hudson to the place it needs to be,” he said. As for a timeline, Nicholls said he was hoping it would happen in the spring of 2019.

Pine Lake

Council awarded a contract to Stantec consulting firm for a characterization study of the wetlands pertaining to Pine Lake. The company was the lowest bidder in a field of three tenders for the study. The cost of the study was set at $10,195 including all applicable taxes.

“It’s the first step of doing anything with Pine Lake,” said the mayor. “We need to complete this step to get any sort of approval from the Ministry of the Environment.” The study is expected to take place during the spring and summer of 2019.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Hudson’s recently hired DG, Philip Toone (right) seen here with Mayor Jamie Nicholls, provided answers to financial questions from residents at the monthly council meeting.

Welcoming new Director General

It was Philip Toone’s first public town council meeting as Hudson’s Director General (DG). The mayor welcomed Toone to his post during his opening remarks. Residents also expressed words of welcome along with questions regarding departmental responsibility and the upcoming budget. He confirmed that whatever expenses could be capitalized would be capitalized when the $100,000 amount for the garbage contract was questioned, thereby breaking it down to a more manageable payment.

Resident Marcus Owen asked if department heads were given objectives including an evaluation and financial remuneration for meeting the objectives. The mayor replied that council would be working on that in the New Year.

“It’s a complicated procedure and it will start with my (own performance evaluation),” Toone responded. “It hasn’t been done in the past, here, but we have the foundation to do it.”

According to the mayor, the 2019 budget will be presented on Thursday, December 20.

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