WEST SACKVILLE, N.B. – West Sackville residents are tired of their voices not being heard.
After years of persistent flooding issues and road closures in their community, they say they are frustrated by the lack of support they’ve gotten from the provincial government over the years. And some of them are ready to step up and take matters into their own hands in the hopes it will provide them with a stronger voice.
A small group of community members have banded together to work towards establishing a Local Service District advisory committee in the area as well as an Emergency Measures Organization unit.
This move comes following a recent community meeting with Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton, at which residents had an opportunity to express their concerns and ask questions about why their community has been been left out in the cold during floods that have left residents feeling trapped and scared.
Cheryl Ward, a member of the steering committee that is attempting to get an LSD advisory committee formed for the area, said the public meeting, which offered the public information from provincial Department of Environment and Local Government and EMO representatives, served as a wake-up call as to “the options available to us, which were not being taken advantage of.”
“Most of our community had no idea … we knew we paid taxes for a Local Service District but we didn’t know what that involved. We didn’t know what we were entitled to, we didn’t know we didn’t have a voice,” said Ward.
“So this is something we now want to get set up in this area.”
Under the New Brunswick Municipalities Act, each Local Service District in the province has the ability to establish its own advisory committee, which can advise the province on certain matters affecting the district.
Roger Gouchie, another member of the steering committee, said the community simply wants to be able to provide input and consult with government when it’s needed for its 600-plus residents. And an LSD advisory committee, with a more organized structure working through the proper channels, might be able to provide that stepping stone, he said.
An information meeting on setting up the advisory committee is being held tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 18) at 7 p.m. at St. Ann’s Church, where election of three to five volunteer members is anticipated to take place. All community members are encouraged to attend.
Gouchie will also be continuing his work on setting up an EMO plan for the area, work he started months ago, even before the most recent flooding situation and the community meeting. He said having a plan in place is essential during emergencies, to “help each other out as much as we can.” It will also provide better communication methods, so more residents can be kept informed of what’s happening during any disaster or emergency situations.
He also hopes to set up more warming stations in the area so residents have a place to go during power failures; and have more generators on hand for extensive outages.
“We learned the hard way that we have to depend on each other, we can’t depend on anyone else,” said Ward.
Patsy Gouchie, another steering committee member, said the past couple of floods have clearly shown that residents’ lives are being put at risk when they are not being informed of what’s happening or when there is no real contingency plan in place for their community.
“It’s only through the grace of God that no one has gotten killed here yet,” said Patsy.
Flooding problems have plagued the area for decades and the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure began a construction project at the Route 935 intersection in July to fix the issues. The work, which is still ongoing, involves installing three large concrete aboiteaux and raising the road slightly.
For more information, check out the Route 935 Area EMO-LSD Facebook page.
DID YOU KNOW?
New Brunswick’s Department of Environment and Local Government provides residents of the unincorporated areas of the province with a variety of services such as fire protection, solid waste collection and disposal, and street lighting. To assist the department in providing local services and to ensure the input of residents, the Municipalities Act provides for the election of Local Service District advisory committees. These committees work closely with the department’s regional Local Services Managers by advising and consulting on local concerns.