GEORGE’S BROOK-MILTON, N.L. — The Town of George’s Brook-Milton held its first public town meeting, since the inaugural meeting on May 8 following the municipal election held Tuesday, May 22 at the George’s Brook-Milton cultural house.
There were plenty of topics up for discussion at the meeting, including property taxes, proper mailing addresses, municipal plan, and a community playground and walking trails.
Council agreed unanimously to meet the second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the George’s Brook-Milton cultural house.
Following discussions with Municipal Affairs, the existing bookkeeper, Heather Bray, was appointed as acting town clerk on an interim basis while council awaits the terms of reference on the position.
Council also made a resolution to transfer several community properties to the town.
Properties included the rec centre, cultural house, fire hall, pump houses, the old Milton school house, Stephen Chaulk Memorial Park and the old rail bed.
It was noted that the transfer of the school house will need to be looked into further, as it may be a private property.
Council also passed a resolution requesting a municipal identifier with Canada Post. Residents in George’s Brook-Milton currently list Clarenville on their postal address.
Mayor Craig Pardy noted that this request had been pursued by the former local service district but hopes that as a municipality a request may move sooner.
He explained to The Packet that while residents and businesses in George’s Brook-Milton have civic addresses, there can still be confusion regarding proper shipping and delivery of mail, and that, as a stand-alone municipality, George’s Brook-Milton needs its own municipal identifier.
Poll taxes and property taxes
Since the former local service district began seeking incorporation back in 2014, the issue of poll tax and property tax has been a hot button topic.
LW Consulting had recommended a property tax in their feasibility study, presented to the community in 2017.
However, the former local service district has long maintained that they would not utilize the property tax, but a poll tax, and that residents would pay annually no more as a municipality than they did as a local service district.
The poll tax was not adopted at the first meeting, but Pardy said it is council’s intention to adopt a poll tax, not a property tax.
“We don’t see the need for an increase in what people pay. So we have to make sure whatever way we access and manage, we’re not pulling more money from the households form what we are currently,” Pardy explained to The Packet.
Residents currently pay $550 annually; $375 for water and $175 for fire services.
“Our goal and our aim is that it not be more than the $550 people currently pay,” he explained.
Pardy said the new town is still under a 90-day grace period to get its first budget and method of taxations straightened away.
He also noted that council is looking to work within legislation to cap payments at the amount residents currently pay.
“We wanted to make sure that what residents pay now is capped. Now, who knows what the future holds, but the local service district didn’t see any reason why residents should have to pay more,” he said.
Council discussed the importance of implementing a municipal plan.
“The significance of the municipal plan, is that we would have zoning, as to what’s permitted, and what’s not, and basically take a read and input from our residents and see what the options are and what the suggestions are,” explained Pardy.
“There’s a lot of good regulations out that they we ought to give attention to, and a town plan will help us do that.”
As an example, Pardy noted that regulations can be put in place to keep properties from becoming unkempt and unsafe.
Council unanimously agreed to solicit the services of a firm to develop the strategic plan and develop a terms of reference for the development of the municipal plan.
Pardy noted during the council meeting that an application by the town has been made for a $10,000 Healthy Living grant, whcih will be used towards a new playground.
“It won’t finish a playground, but it’ll sure give it a start,” said Pardy of the funding.
Members of town council approached Hike Discover early in the month about potentially joining the group. This would mean improvements to current walking trails and the potential creation of new trails in George's Brook-Milton.
Pardy explained that when the local service district approached the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) about funding some months back, ACOA had suggested they join a network work, such as Hike Discovery. Council is currently awaiting a response from Hike Discovery.
Membership with the group would cost about $2,000 annually.