Middleton council candidates weigh in on numerous issues

Need for new fire hall unquestioned; financing new facility the problem

Lawrence Powell editor@annapolisspectator.ca
Published on September 30, 2016

Almost 100 Middleton residents attended a candidates’ forum hosted by the Middleton Regional High School Debate Club and the Annapolis Valley Register Sept. 29. Seven of 11 candidates in the race for seats in the Oct. 15 municipal vote field questions from the hosts and from the floor. The entire two-hour forum was streamed live on Facebook and the video can be viewed on the Annapolis County Spectator’s Facebook page.

©Lawrence Powell

MIDDLETON - Candidates in the Town of Middleton’s municipal council race talked about youth, seniors, business attraction, taxes, nursing homes, recreation, community engagement, council transparency, working with the county, and fire halls Thursday evening in a forum hosted by the Annapolis Valley Register and the local high school’s debating club.

Four of the 11 candidates had to bow out of the event due to prior commitments, but those who were able to take part answered question from The Register, the debate club, and written questions from audience members in the packed Middleton Regional High School music room.

At the candidates’ table were mayoral hopefuls Dan Smith and Sylvester Atkinson along with council candidates Gail Smith, Mark MacFayden, Clayton MacMurtry, Gary Marshall, and Michael Fairn.

MRHS Debate Club members Harper Metler and Liam Taylor were moderators for the event while time keeper Skylah Van Wagoner kept the event moving ahead. Other debate club members helping with the candidates’ forum were Mia Fraser and Morgan Langille. Bonny Hubley and Laura Cole coach the debate team.

Candidates unable to attend were Darren Boates, Philip Townsend, Brad Reid, and Melinda denHaan.

While the candidates fielded numerous questions, The Register has selected one question with candidate responses. The entire debate was streamed live and the video is available for viewing at the Annapolis County Spectator’s Facebook page.

 

Question:

How do you view the need for a new fire hall in the town?

 

Sylvester Atkinson

“No question in my mind about that,” said Atkinson. He’s passionate about having better space for firefighters and equipment and it goes back to his personal experience of losing family members to fire. He’s been with the fire department’s auxiliary for a number of years. He talked about the cramped space in the current hall, adding that if a child was trapped in a burning building he would hope that Middleton firefighters would have something more to work with than those crowded conditions. He said a former MP told him the money is available but council has to get a plan in place.

 

Michael Fairn

Fairn deferred to fellow candidate Gary Marshall, a new fire hall advocate, to answer the question more fully. He said Marshall has opened his eyes to the need. Fairn said there is no question in his mind that Middleton needs a new fire hall. And not as an excuse to purchase more and bigger equipment but to simply house the equipment they already have. “It’s being housed in an old, unsafe building and that has to change,” he said.

 

Gary Marshall

“I will let three feasibility studies speak for itself on that building,” said Marshall. One was sanctioned by the town two years ago, a second was done to look at infrastructure in the Town of Middleton, and Annapolis County did its own study on all of the fire services in the county. He said that reiterated the need for Middleton to stay on track to replace the existing building. He said the current hall was built in 1950 and still has seaweed insulation in the attic. He said there are infrastructure upgrade needs in Middleton, why not start with the fire hall?

 

Clayton MacMurtry

MacMurtry agreed that the town needs a new fire hall. “It’s probably the worst municipal building we have in town at the present time,” he said. “The floor is caving in. The ladders are all over the place. It was built long ago. It needs to be replaced. The fire department is definitely the backbone of the community. Where do we all go in an emergency? The fire department.” He said people depend on the fire hall if there is a storm or other emergency -- they will congregate at the fire department. “It’s our lifeline. The volunteers that are there are our lifeline as well. They’re well trained and we are doing them a disservice to ask them to work in substandard facilities.”

 

Gail Smith

“I agree with everyone else on the panel that we do need a new fire hall,” said incumbent councilor Gail Smith. She said funding a new fire hall is a partnership funding arrangement with other levels of government. “We want it, we just need the other two to come on board and put up their share of the money. We cannot, as a town, afford to build a $6-million fire hall. We don’t have the money, so we need help. If we get help from those other two (partners) a new fire hall will be here.”

 

Mark MacFayden

“Yes, I think we need to go after that money aggressively,” MacFayden said. He admitted that not being on council he’s not sure how to do that. “But I think we need to go after that money aggressively with those partners. I have huge, huge respect for our first responders, and obviously they are using a substandard building.”

He had wondered about Middleton and Nictaux and brokering something there. “I’m told not so much.” But asked why? Is it from long-standing traditions or attitudes?  “But if it made sense, if it was logical, feasibly financially, why wouldn’t we? I would be interested in exploring that a little bit. But I fully support the fire hall.”

 

Dan Smith

“I don’t think anybody here has spoken against the fire hall, and nor would I,” said current deputy mayor Dan Smith. “It’s needed, both because it’s built in 1950, but also because the trucks get bigger and we need a little more equipment, and we have more volunteers. How do we pay for it? It has to be a three-way partnership between the federal government, the provincial government, and ourselves.”

He said the federal government has committed its money, as has the Town of Middleton. “The province hasn’t come on board yet. It’s as simple as that. Can we lean on them some more? Absolutely. We’ve leaned on them already. They haven’t come through. It’s something we have to work on, but you have to understand that we can’t do it alone and we can’t do it without the provincial money.” He said it’s $4 to $4.5 million dollars. “Our tax rates can’t sustain us funding that without the provincial help.It’s as simple as that.”

See the complete candidates’ forum at https://www.facebook.com/AnnapolisCountySpectator/