Hudson in good financial health
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/LAUREN MITCHELL
Among the topics discussed at the monthly council meeting concerning Hudson’s financial expenditures is the ongoing improvement to Bellevue Street to make it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.
Hudson Mayor Jamie Nicholls hosted the October council meeting, held for the second time via Zoom to allow citizens to access the meeting and ask questions in real time if not in person. He began the evening’s meeting with a roundup of accomplishments to date and a brief outline of works to come.
“I’d like to start off the evening talking about my report on the 2019 financial situation and 2020 highlights. The town is in good financial health,” said Nicholls. “We have a booming housing market that’s going on right now; things are being built and planned and sold and certainly the real estate market in Hudson is very healthy.”
Nicholls also highlighted the roadwork that is currently underway on Bellevue, pointing out that they would be incorporating more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure there to allow people to walk and bike safely. Other highlights included the addition of intelligent tracking for garbage collection, and the fact that council has done much work in getting their previously criticized financial reporting in order. Said Nicholls, “We managed to clean up our books, and addressed… most of the items in the management letters.” This means they feel they have put to rest the majority of the irregularities in financial reports that have dogged them in audits from previous administrations going back many years.
Loans to pay for roads
Resident Benoît Blais sent in a number of questions for council which the mayor read and responded to in question period. One such question was on the topic of road work. Asked Blais, noting that the town was paying about $2 million for roughly 6.5Km of road work on Bellevue, “How do you intend to pay for the rest of the 80km of roads in Hudson?”
“We put part of it in the operating budget, and then we finance it through amortizing through a loan by-law” said Nicholls, making an analogy between taking out loans to pay for road repair work and taking a mortgage to finance a house. The plan is to continue to borrow money long term to complete the major overhauls Hudson’s roads require. Nicholls continued, “So we’re going to continue to finance our infrastructure every year, and try to catch up with our infrastructure deficit, which every community is facing in Canada, by the way.”
“Do you have a clear endorsement by Hudson’s tax payers for the current policy to expand the development of the population of Hudson, significantly changing the overall character of the town?” asked resident Trevor Smith in an email. He asked if council would be willing to work towards leaving the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM), which mandates the increased densification of the town.
Membership in the CMM has also raised eyebrows recently as it has meant that the still small town of Hudson, with relatively few cases of COVID-19 (holding at 17 at the time of publication), was swept into Montreal’s red alert restrictions while nearby Valleyfield remains at level orange in spite of its over 600 cases.
The mayor pointed out that while some 99.7 per cent of Hudson voted not to enter the CMM in the year 2000 or 2001, the municipal organization was imposed by the province. He reiterated that this council has decided to work with the changes, rather than fight them. Said Nicholls, “Certainly, I don’t think that, well I know for certain that Hudson will not be getting out of the CMM. If anybody would like to change that, the change happens at the provincial level, and certainly I would encourage you to run for provincial office to change municipal restructuring.”
Also on the topic of development, Nicholls was asked by resident Eva McCartney why council did not act on a petition signed by hundreds of people expressing the desire to push back against the Sandy Beach development, which was approved near the end of the previous council’s mandate. She pointed out that it seemed clear in the runup to the election that Nicholls supported the petitioners.
Nicholls responded that overturning previous council’s decisions and legal agreements would most likely mean going to court, with no guarantee of winning. He said the idea of taking this course was presented to council at the beginning of their mandate, but at the time “…the opinion in council was not a majority to go fight a lawsuit.”