4 of 5 Baddeck Village Commission seats up for grabs next month

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Baddeck Village Commissioner Ian Nicholson, Acting Chief Executive Maris Freimanis and former commission chairman Bill Marchant discuss finances at a town hall meeting in April. (Tom Ayers/CBC – image credit)

Elections are due next month for four of the five village commission positions in Baddeck, N.S.

The president resigned after the commission failed to meet all the terms of a provincial order to clean up its finances by May 1 or face a replacement.

Another Commissioner left after her term expired. Two other commissioners will see their terms expire in June.

Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr released a rare second order this weekgiving the commission until July 6 to complete the first-order guidelines, plus some news.

The financially-struggling village will be able to comply with the new order, acting administrative director Maris Freimanis said.

“In the report that we presented to the Minister at the end of April, we described the action plan for the future and it is exactly in line with the [second] ministerial decree, so everything is achievable within this timeframe,” he said.

Higher tax, sewer rates en route

Three of the five commissioners remain active, so there’s a quorum to make decisions and approve a budget, including what should be higher taxes and sewer rates, Freimanis said.

Water rates are also expected to increase, but the commission will first need to hire a consultant to study the rates and recommend new ones. They must be approved after a public hearing by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

Tax and fee hikes are needed because the village struggled to bill and collect revenue after firing the chief executive last year.

The village has been unable to file audited financial statements for the past four years.

The commission is ready to have audited statements prepared for fiscal years ending in March 2020 and 2022, but it doesn’t even have plans for 2021.

At a public meeting in April, a representative from accounting firm MNP said it was “not possible” to draw up a financial statement for 2021 because the books were in disarray.

“It’s going to be very difficult to put the numbers together for the year ending in 2021, but MNP later indicated they would be able to do that,” Freimanis said.

Tom Ayers/CBC

Tom Ayers/CBC

In an interview on Thursday after the second order was issued, the minister of municipal affairs said the village commission had made a good effort. He knows it could take until December before the village’s 2021 financial statements are ready.

“I think everyone realizes the challenges and hardships the village of Baddeck has gone through over the years,” Freimanis said.

Bill Marchant, who was chairman of the commission until his resignation last week, said in an email that he was not doing interviews.

Vice President Ian Nicholson could not be reached for comment, but Freimanis said Nicholson and Commissioner Michele Stevens have indicated they will renew their offer next month. Commissioner Dan MacNeil has two more years left in his term.

Arrival of a new administrator

The annual meeting and elections will take place on June 27, Freimanis said.

Meanwhile, Freimanis, whose acting job was due to end in April, said he was leaving next week.

Retired Victoria County Administrator Sandy Hudson will take over until the position is permanently filled, Freimanis said.

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