• Nick Zacharias

Roads and tax fairness on the agenda for Hudson


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

Hudson resident Elizabeth Corker, holding the microphone, asks council why residents of the privately owned section of Quarry Point road must be held to such a high standard for paving it and installing new culverts and lights before it can be municipalized, an undertaking which she called “totally cost prohibitive” for the small group of private citizens.

The Town of Hudson held their regular council meeting as scheduled on January 13, and major issues for discussion included a by-law stipulating requirements for the municipalization of private roads, the new residential and commercial tax structures for 2020, and questions about the fairness of the new tax structure for a local seniors’ residence.

The meeting was again led by Pro-Mayor Austin Rikley-Krindle, causing citizens to question if Mayor Jamie Nicholls was going to return, and why he is entitled to continue earning a salary while he is absent. Council simply confirmed that by Quebec law elected municipal officials have the right to three months’ paid leave if they are unable for any reason to carry out their duties.

During question period, resident Elizabeth Corker rose to ask about the logic of the new by-law stipulating the conditions to municipalize roads. Several roads in Hudson are still privately owned, but the town is continuing to work towards municipalizing them and the by-law sets out the conditions that must first be met by private owners before the town can take responsibility for future re-paving and maintenance.

Said Corker, “Months ago we met with the Director General (Philip Toone) and members of the infrastructure committee to discuss the Quarry Point homeowners’ association’s proposal to re-pave lower Quarry Point and then turn it over to the town.” Corker said they followed specifications provided by public works and requested a letter confirming the acceptance of the proposal before they would commit to privately paying for roughly $100,000 of roadwork.

“We never got that letter and are now having to deal with a whole new set of criteria listed in By-law 724. I would have to say that under the new criteria … it is impossible to conform to and totally cost prohibitive.” She followed up saying this takes away any incentive for private road owners to municipalize roads unless there was room for negotiation.

To complicate issues, there are several roads where listed owners are either impossible to find or deceased, in which case the town will have to take on the financial responsibility for municipalization.

“So us poor schmucks are the only ones who have to pay?” asked Corker, wondering why private road owners are being held to such a high standard while paying the same taxes as those who live on public roads. Councillor Jim Duff, a member of the infrastructure committee, pointed out an allowance for exceptions in the document and said, “I think we can probably negotiate a solution.”

The by-law was passed by majority, with Councillor Helen Kurgansky opposed.

Tax fairness

Rikley-Krindle gave a presentation on the new tax structure for 2020. In the spirit of fairness, mill rates are actually being lowered while fees for debt service, water, sewer, and garbage are being raised to reflect use. The goal is to ensure that no one is taxed for services they do not receive. The presentation showed an average residential tax increase of 1.74 per cent to 2.33 per cent, which the pro-mayor stated is in line with inflation.

While the new tax structure will provide fairness for most, Nicole Durand, who runs the Manoir Cavagnal seniors’ residence, feels that they in particular will suffer under the new model. With 88 units in the residence, “…you are charging me 88 times for sewer and water, and I see here that the rate for sewer is going up to $250 which gives me a net increase at the Manoir of $6,820.” She argued it is unfair that the residential rate is the same for them, with single seniors living in small apartments, as it is for large family homes with many members including young kids.

“We don’t use even a third of the water that other residential properties do,” Durand said. She asked, with several residents later voicing support, that the town consider the financial realities of low-income seniors and reduce the tax load to one application of the water and sewer fees for every two doors in the residence instead.

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