Cost of gas station cleanup nearly doubles

BARRY’S BAY – The former Shell property, now a piece of vacant land owned by the Madawaska Valley Township, has cost the township to date more than $210,000.
The property was purchased by the township in 2011 for $156,067 net, including HST and legal fees.
Final numbers for cleanup was presented at the November 18 regular council meeting, in a written report by Operations Manager Hilary Kutchkoskie.
Although the original budgeted figure for cleanup and demolition was $30,000, soil contamination on the property and the added time for cleanup has pushed that number to $54,016.09. 
In Kutchkoskie’s report, he included a future anticipated cost, which included a dug well decommissioning of $2,000.
Councillor Sylvie Yantha said the township will likely not follow through with that recommendation. 
“That’s a test well. We have no bylaws for the village of Barry’s Bay to close off the wells… I think this should stay on the property and if someone ever buys it, at least there is a well there – let them deal with it,” Yantha said. 
Councillor Carl Bromwich added the water is still potable. 
“It hasn’t been used in 20 years and it’s still drinkable,” Bromwich said. 
“Not contaminated in any way,” Mayor David Shulist added. 
At the same meeting, council addressed a letter it received from Andy Boyd, member of the Citizens Action Committee.
The letter was a follow up from his visit the council on October 21, when Boyd grilled council on the reasons for the purchase of the former gas station.
Boyd again pointed out the findings of the Amberly Gavell investigation, which discovered council began discussing the purchase of the property in closed sessions. 
Councillor Linda Neuman addressed this concern at the latest meeting and said those initial discussions happened in her human resources meetings.
“That was probably the second or third HR meeting I have ever chaired,” Neuman said.
While she knew council could discuss acquisitions of properties in an in-camera meeting, the issue was not on the agenda and was brought forth suddenly. 
“Councillor Yantha brought it up on his own,” Neuman said. “Our CAO at the time did not stop that from happening or didn’t say we could do it because it wasn’t on the agenda. She allowed it to happen.” 
As the Amberly Gavell investigation was taking place, however, Neuman admitted the conversation should never had happened in her meeting.
“Did I learn anything? Yes I did,” she said. “Will it happen again? No it won’t… I know we can get off topic. But it’s staff that needs to rein us in and that has been happening.”
Mayor Shulist, who was new to the job too, said he felt comfortable with the discussions at the time and that staff did not deter them from discussing the matter in the in-camera setting. 
“We are not the only council, 
I think, there was a way of doing it before that was acceptable,” Shulist said. “But in reality, it is not acceptable.”
Shulist said now, council tells the public why it is going into camera. 
Addressing more points of Boyd’s letter, Councillor Yantha said he did not make any recommendations to council to buy the property.
“I just brought it up to council and council voted on it,” Yantha explained. “I did talk to a professional real-estate person and the real estate person told me the right price-range. It was in that right price-range.”
Read more in the November 20, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.