Highest bidder wins pothole repair contract

Pothole season is upon us and already Halifax crews are starting to repair the damage inflicted on roads this winter. This year, Haligonians will pay more for approximately the same amount of repairs as previous years.

By Emily MacKinnon

Henry Street is one of many crater-filled roads (Emily MacKinnon photo).

Pothole season is upon us and already Halifax crews are starting to repair the damage inflicted on roads this winter. This year, Haligonians will pay more for approximately the same amount of repairs as previous years.

The difference, the provincial government awarded the pothole repair contract to the highest bidder instead of the lowest.

The Halifax region pays around $250,000 annually for pothole repair, a sum that is largely paid for with citizens’ tax dollars. Each year, the Halifax region accepts bids from multiple construction companies who are all vying for the pothole maintenance contract.

This year, instead of awarding the contract to the lowest bidder, Darrell Dexter’s government gave the contract to the highest bidder. While no one at the Department of Transportation and Public Works was willing to comment on how much of a difference there was between the highest and lowest bids, secretary Lisa Richards says it was “slightly more” than 2010’s contract of $262,000.

“I think, when it comes down to it, it was a question of quality versus price,” says the Minister for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Bill Estabrooks. “The decision that was made was not a light one, and all contributing factors had to be considered.”

As with snow removal, pothole repair starts on major arteries into the city and then expands outward to the more rural communities. Nell Davies, a resident of Upper Tantallon, says her neighbourhood is in dire need of “crater recovery” but she knows the downtown core takes priority.

“It’s really too bad, you know. I personally think our roads are in worse condition than, say, Barrington Street or Agricola, but I guess that’s because I live out here,” she says.

Bob Young, with Halifax’s Public Works Department, says he knows it can be frustrating, but the department is doing its best to fill all the craters. “People have to understand the magnitude of the work,” he says.

Last year, Young’s crews used 15 tonnes of asphalt to repair only six of the main roads around the Halifax region. “We’re getting there as fast as we can,” he says, “but it’s a lot of work.”

Crews are now working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, weather permitting.

 

International Women’s Day honoured across the Peninsula

By Charlotte Harrison

Linda Wills of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign with C.P. Allen students Cora Leigh MacDonald and Emily Neil at the Woven Together event (Charlotte Harrison photo).

Organizations gathered across the Peninsula to honour the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day through events ranging from film screenings to dance lessons.

Tuesday morning, the International Women’s Forum Atlantic chapter hosted a breakfast at Casino Nova Scotia. Ann Mackenzie, chair of the organization, said she was glad to have the opportunity to celebrate women’s accomplishments.

“We realize that there are still challenges for women, but we want to celebrate our successes,” she said.

Mackenzie said that women are still a minority in upper-management positions in the private sector, mainly due to difficulties networking.  The International Women’s Forum connects successful women to up-and-coming businesswomen to help them move forward in their careers.

“You can’t tell me there aren’t talented women out there. They just don’t have the networks in place,” she said. “We want to help advance each other and increase equality for women.”

Saint Mary’s University hosted Woven Together, an event featuring African Threads, the Maritime Center for African Dance, and the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.

“Although it’s a celebration, the fight is far from over.”
-Valerie Hearder

The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign raises money and awareness for African grandmothers caring for their orphan grandchildren due to AIDS-related deaths, with 240 groups across Canada. Linda Wills, the Grandmother liaison for the Atlantic region, said the anniversary is particularly significant for this older group of activists.

“A lot of the older women around here have been part of the women’s movement in one fashion or another for decades. Today is just like ‘YES! We made it!'”

Wills was also pleased to see young women at the event. “Seeing young faces in the room gives me courage,” she said. “You’re picking up the torch when we move on.”

Valerie Hearder, owner of African Threads, gave a presentation about her organization that sells textile art made by South African women.

Hearder said women’s rights are still a major issue in many African countries.

“International Women’s Day is an opportunity to examine how we can help the millions of women who face unemployment, poverty, violence, polygamy and sickness,” she said. “Although it’s a celebration, the fight is far from over.”

Mufaro Chakabuda, an African dance instructor with the Maritime Centre for African Dance, concluded the day’s festivities by performing a dance to celebrate womanhood.

Mufaro Chakabuda teaches the audience of Woven Together an African dance to celebrate women

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4ZrohMGCQM

That evening, the Dalhousie Women’s Centre hosted a film screening of Women Without Men and a round-table discussion about women’s issues.

Ashley Alberg, leader of the Gender and Women’s Studies society at Dalhousie, said International Women’s Day is a chance to “recognize that women have had to fight for rights, and continue to have to fight for rights.”

The event also encourages solidarity, Alberg said. “I can’t think of any culture where women are completely respected and treated as equals.”

Shirley Tillotson, coordinator of the Dalhousie Gender and Women’s Studies Programme, said that Canadian women still face social inequality. Tillotson said that it’s important to use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to evaluate women’s status in society.

“There are still a lot of differences between the normal pay of working class women’s jobs and working class men’s jobs,” she said.

External links
NS Advisory Council on the Status of Women
International Women’s Forum Website
Grandmothers to Grandmothers website
African Threads website
Maritime Centre for African Dance  

Clear trash bag policy gets mixed reviews

Proposed changes to a new garbage by-law have some citizens of the HRM talking. These new additions to by-law S600 would include: reducing bag limits from six to four, and replacing standard black garbage bags with clear ones.

Both changes aim to reduce the amount of compostable and recyclable waste going to landfills. The city estimates that about 30% of waste that goes into the black garbage bags does not belong there.

By Claire Stanbridge

Mandy McLellan, a student at NSCAD, recycles

Proposed changes to a new garbage by-law have some citizens of the HRM talking. These new additions to  by-law S600 would include: reducing bag limits from six to four, and replacing standard black garbage bags with clear ones.

 

Both changes aim to reduce the amount of compostable and recyclable waste going to landfills. The city estimates that about 30% of waste that goes into the black garbage bags does not belong there.

The adoption of clear plastic garbage bags is the biggest change under the proposed by-law. Citizens would also no longer be able to hide kitchen waste and recyclables in the black bags. However, not all of their waste will be on display. HRM will allow one small black “privacy bag” to be left curbside with the rest.

If the changes are approved, there will be a six -month education period that will include newsletters, and advertisements on TV, radio, and in newspapers. This period will also give suppliers an opportunity to restock with clear plastic garbage bags. The next six months will be treated as a grace period.

“I already recycle and compost, so this won’t really affect me,” says Marcia Hadfield, a fourth grade teacher living in central Halifax.

Others feel the by-law will be an inconvenience.

“This is really going to be a hassle. Honestly, I like just throwing everything in a garbage bag,” says Mandy McLellan, a student at NSCAD.

Mandy’s interview

Listen to McLellan discuss how the changes will affect her

HRM staff hope to educate citizens on how sorting is both easy and cost efficient. According to the press release, each cell of a landfill, where garbage is dumped, only lasts for about 3 years and costs $20 million to build.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and the Valley Region have already implemented the clear bag program and have seen an increase in recycling and a decrease in garbage collection. The Halifax Regional Municipality is hoping to experience these same improvements.

More information can be obtained via the HRM website (http://halifax.ca/wrms/contact.html). The Public Hearing for the proposed changes is scheduled for March 8 at 6:00 pm in Council Chambers.

Thugs rob and beat couple in HRM

Four men robbed and beat two others with a baseball bat late Sunday night in Fairview.

The 22-year-old and 23-year-old male victims were both sent to the QE2 hospital.

By Matt Woodman

Const. Brian Palmeter is hoping witnesses will step forward with information on the assaults (Matt Woodman photo).
Const. Brian Palmeter is hoping witnesses will step forward with information on the assaults (Matt Woodman photo).


Four men robbed and beat two others with a baseball bat late Sunday night in Fairview.

The 22-year-old and 23-year-old men went to the QE2 hospital.

According to Constable Brian Palmeter, at approximately 8:45 p.m., the two victims were approached by a group of four white men at the intersection of Willett Street and Main Avenue. One of the four men asked for a cigarette. When one of the victims said that they didn’t have any, they were ordered to hand over any valuables. The victims cooperated, however they were then assaulted with a baseball bat.

The four attackers left on foot with the victims’ wallets and an Ipod.

The victims’ description of the attackers  is, four white men all wearing hoodies and bandanas.

Continue reading “Thugs rob and beat couple in HRM”

Dalhousie converts to natural gas

Dalhousie University is lighting the way to sustainable practices by switching to natural gas heating.

The switch came after the Nova Scotia Government implemented a regulation stating sulfur emissions must be reduced by 25% from 2001 levels.

A fuel truck of Bunker C (Clark Jang Photo)
Related Links
Office of Sustainability
College of Sustainability
NS Department of Energy
Heritage Gas
Dal Sustainability Plan

By Clark Jang

Dalhousie University is lighting the way to sustainable practices by switching to natural gas heating.

The switch came after the Nova Scotia Government implemented a regulation stating sulfur emissions must be reduced by 25 per cent from 2001 levels.

“The only way we could really do that was by switching to natural gas,” says Darrell Boutilier, Director of Operations of Facilities Management.

Dalhousie partnered with Heritage Gas to implement the switch. Planning began in January 2010. The central heating plan was finished by November. The total cost of switching to natural gas was approximately $1.8 million, 75 per cent of which was provided by the provincial governments’ Gas Market Development Fund.

The Director of Facilities at Dal, Darrell Boutilier, says by switching to natural gas,  greenhouse emissions will be reduced by 12,000 tons annually, the equivalent of taking 2,400 vehicles off the road.

Bunker C, the fuel Dalhousie previously ran on, creates a lot of soot after being burned.

“For our neighbours, when you’re burning Bunker C with a heavy fuel oil you get a lot of residual sooting and particulate in the air. Unlike Bunker C, the residue of natural gas is water and carbon dioxide, which is a cleaner alternative,” says Boutilier.

Rochelle Owen, Director of the Office of Sustainability, says the change has the net benefit of reducing emissions while saving money.

“In terms of inputs and outputs, it makes better use of our resources and puts less impact on the environment. You want to do things that maximize community benefits.”

The switch helps solidify Dalhousie’s reputation as a leader in sustainability. Last year Dalhousie created Canada’s first College of Sustainability. The environment, sustainability and society major, the first of its kind in Canada, emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary environmental issues.

The recently constructed Mona Campbell Building, on the corner of Coburg Road and Lemarchant Street, is another example of Dalhousie’s commitment to the environment. Some features include a heat pump to redistribute air throughout the building, toilets operating on rainwater collected from the roof and gutters, and high-efficiency lighting.

Boutilier says the switch to natural gas is just the beginning for Dalhousie.

Listen in as Boutilier explains what Dalhousie has in store to become more sustainable.

Darrell Boutilier Interview Clip

The new, 'green' Mona Campbell Building (Photo by Clark Jang)

While the environmental benefits of switching to natural gas outweigh those of Bunker C or heating oil, the initial cost of switching is the main deterrent for some homeowners.

“The initial cost is too high, and the price of natural gas will probably increase once it becomes more popular,” says Property Manager Leigh Nickerson.

Nickerson, who manages numerous houses around Dalhousie and St. Mary’s University, said all of his houses still operate on heating oil.

“It’s mostly the older houses which operate on heating oil. Despite the benefits, it isn’t cost effective for me.”

Despite the initial cost, companies like Heritage Gas offer incentives for residential and commercial customers to operate on natural gas.

“We’ve been seeing more activity lately, probably due to the differential between natural gas and other forms of heating,” says Heritage Gas employee Mike Howard.

While there is no difference in energy output between Bunker C and natural gas, the price differential in conjunction with the increased sustainability of natural gas made the switch a viable option.

“We haven’t saved any fuel useage. Whatever we used in Bunker C before we’re still using in natural gas. It’s just natural gas is 40% cheaper,” says Boutilier.

Gas prices tend to vary according to season.

“It’s supply and demand. The big demand is in the heating season when prices go up, and drop off in the summer time,” says Boutilier.

Owen believes switching to natural gas is a step in the right direction.

“Our vision is to move forward and be a leader in sustainability. The conversion to natural gas is not cutting-edge, but it’s a smart decision to make.”

Listen in as Owen describes additional ways in which Haligonians can be more environmentally conscious.

Owen Clip

Boutilier thinks in the long-term, the switch will be cost effective.

“It is saving considerable dollars and that trend should continue for many years. This will have a positive impact on the university finances which in turn should positively impact the students.”

Local media outlet enters its terrible twos

More than 80 people packed into the Bus Stop Theater on Gottingen Street this weekend to wish the Halifax Media Cooperative a happy birthday. The organization celebrated its second year reporting on local and grassroots news stories in the city.

Moira Peters, member of the Halifax Media Co-ops editorial collective, cuts the Co-ops birthday cake.

By Justin Ling

More than 80 people packed into the Bus Stop Theater on  Gottingen Street this weekend to wish the Halifax Media Cooperative a happy birthday. The organization celebrated its second year reporting on local and grassroots news stories in the city.

Organizers passed out stickers, donation sheets and the group’s broadsheet newspaper, The Tide. Opening the March 5 event was Happy Feet Howe, a musician and author for the Media Co-op.

In between songs, Howe shared his own experience working with the small, independent news site. “It’s a great resource,” he said, looking into the audience. “You, guy with the beard. What issues bother you?”

Howe’s direct style is much in line with the Media Co-op. On one wall was a story list, where party attendees could write down stories they would like to see covered. Next to it was ‘Policy Corner’ featuring suggestions on how the Co-op should be governed.

Their website hosts a similar function, allowing anyone to suggest stories they think the Co-op should cover.

The evening continued with a slate of local musicians, broken up occasionally with pitches to participate in the silent auction and the “radical” jellybean count. The audience was seated around tea-lights in the black box theatre. They were encouraged to join in the copy editing competition, which MC and Media Co-op editor Ben Sichel called the “most exciting part of the evening.” Vegan, gluten-free cake was also served, as the self described radical feminist band, Sock Foot, sang happy birthday.

“It was great to see so many people come out to support and celebrate the work of the Halifax Media Co-op over the last two years,” said Hillary Lindsay, a member of the editorial collective.

The very fact that a news outlet needed to hold a fundraiser is unique. The majority of  the Media Co-op’s revenue is made through monthly contributions by readers. The limited advertising that the Cooperative does receive is largely from labour unions and Canadian authors.

The journalism works much the same way – anyone can submit to the website, and most of the journalists work on a volunteer basis. For Howe, that’s part of the magic. “When I go to the meetings, it’s like hanging out with friends,” he said. “There’s cookies, and they let me bring my dog.”

The state of affairs in Canada – and Nova Scotia – shows the need for an independent, reader-driver media, said Lindsay. Considering that the province is dominated largely by the Chronicle Herald and the internationally-owned Metro,it is a David and Goliath battle.

The Media Co-op also garnered support from other alternative media in the city, as the site and Dalhousie radio station CKDU often share audio clips. Author for The Coast, Chris Benjamin, not only attended the party, but donated a book to the silent auction.

According to Lindsay, the lack of competition means that the news media are getting lazy, producing little-to-no investigative journalism.

In recent years, small, online-based startup media outlets have sought to fill the void. Business-oriented AllNovaScotia.com and the Media Co-op have taken on similar roles, with radically different measures; the former opting for a prohibitive paywall and the latter relying on a donation model.

The Halifax Media Cooperative is part of a national network, with locals in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The national Co-op also publishes The Dominion newspaper.