Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

 Water, water

I have a confession to make: I like listening to people discussing things they know about, no matter how dry (or in this case, wet) the subject matter.

Tappy, the CBRM's Water Drop Mascot.

Tappy, the CBRM’s Water Drop Mascot.

It’s a trait that seems to be growing stronger over time — I suspect it may even be a response to our “post-truth” and “fake news” era. Give me actual, spin-free, independently verifiable facts and I’m as happy as a clam at high tide.

So watching CBRM Council last evening, I enjoyed the presentation by Mike MacKeigan, the CBRM’s utilities administration manager, and Gerry Isenor and Blaine Rooney of G. A. Isenor Consulting Limited, even though they were recommending I pay more for my water.

The presentation was chock full of nice, juicy facts but before getting to them Isenor, who has done our water audits for over a decade, expressed his “delight” with MacKeigan’s progress in dealing with “unaccounted for water loss” in the CBRM. From there, it was nothing but the facts, Jack.

The CBRM needs to raise its water rates because they’ve been unchanged since April 2013 and the utility is losing about $2 million per year. The utility had an accumulated deficit of $4.9 million last year which is likely to grow to $6.8 million this year. It is running an “operating deficit” which means it is not earning enough revenue to pay its expenses.

Water use per capita in the CBRM is declining — as it is across North America — thanks to increased conservation (think: low-flow toilets). But the water utility also has fewer customers now than it did four years ago. Isenor said the municipality loses about 250 customers per year and is now down to 28,000 (representing 70,000 people). In terms of sales, the municipality now sells 7.8 million cubic meters of water annually which Isenor expects will fall to 7.45 million cubic meters over the next three years.

The rate increase recommended by the auditors (which must be approved by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board) will amount to $5 per month the first year; $1 per month the second year, and $1.50 a month the third year. (Per quarter, that will be $16, $3.50 and $4.00, respectively).

On average, a CBRM resident will pay $118 per quarter (we now pay $102). The new rate, Isenor said, will put us smack dab in the middle of Nova Scotia municipalities in terms of our water bills, which range, on average, from $116-$121. (We may “move down in the pack a little bit” once other communities adjust their rates.)

The highest water rates in the province are in Mahone Bay where residents pay about $1,000 per year because, as Isenor explained, their water starts out “more colored than tea” and the treatment process is “extremely expensive.”

The lowest water rates, Isenor said, are probably in Amherst (the municipality is currently awaiting a review board hearing), which gets its water from “a very pure aquifer, they pump it out of the ground, they add a bit of chlorine to it, and that’s all that’s required.”


Latex Salesmen?

I was looking over the donor lists for the 2016 CBRM mayoral race, as normal people with busy social lives do on a weekend, and I noticed that one of CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke’s campaign donors had a strangely familiar name: Donors list, Cecil Clarke, 2016 CBRM Elections


Yes, Vandelay Industries, everybody’s favorite latex concern:

According to the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies, Vandelay Industries’ registered office is on Dorchester Street in Sydney and its directors are John Tompkins, Justin McDonough and Jim Matthews — not a sign of Arthur (or Artemis) Vandelay. In fact, Vandelay Industries Inc. is an offshoot of Matthews McDonough Financial Planning Inc and rather than specializing in latex, it owns the Prince Street Market in Sydney.

Sometimes, sadly, life is not stranger than fiction.


Paducah Revisited

Sign in front of home for sale to participants in Paducah, KY's Artist Relocation Program. (Photo by Noah Adams, NPR

Sign in front of home for sale to participants in Paducah, KY’s Artist Relocation Program. (Photo by Noah Adams, NPR )

Do you know how applicable the revitalization project in Paducah, Kentucky is to Sydney, Nova Scotia?

So applicable that the man behind it — Mark Barone — has actually been here, something I would have known had I attended the 2014 Growing the Creative Economy Conference.

(Note to self: attend the Growing the Creative Economy Conference.)

I heard from numerous people after my article was published that Barone gave a great presentation here and that, in some quarters anyway, people have been fired up about the idea of giving artists free rein to revitalize Downtown Sydney ever since.

So, apologies to those who got there before me — including the organizers of the creative economy conference and CBC Cape Breton Information Morning, which interviewed Barone at the time.

Still, it can’t hurt to revisit a good idea. And I stand by my statement that growing the creative economy and revitalizing the downtown should not be pursued as separate goals.



If you’re concerned about the state of Nova Scotia’s forests, this item is for you. Biomass meeting, Inverness, Cape Breton

First, you should really check out the series Linda Pannozzo has been doing for The Halifax Examiner on the subject – it’s multi-part, and the early installments are now out from behind the paywall (although Pannozzo’s journalism is exactly the sort we need to be paying for).

Second, you might be interested in an information session planned for the Inverness Fire Hall on Sunday, March 5, at 2:00 PM.

Organized by the Inverness Chapter of the Council of Canadians, the session will consider the implications of the clear-cutting of Nova Scotia’s forests.






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