After challenging first year, Carleton North mayor says council ready for 2024 challenges

by | Jan 18, 2024

Andrew Harvey says district striving to improve policing, economy, and getting better ‘bang for their buck’

Mayor Andrew Harvey recognizes the challenges behind and ahead for council as the District of Carleton North begins its second year.

Looking back to 2023, Harvey admits the amalgamated community, which combined the town of Florenceville-Bristol, villages of Bath and Centreville, and surrounding local service districts, “faced a lot of challenges.”

At the same time, he added, the council made a “lot of progress.”

As part of a year-end wrap-up, the River Valley Sun sent questionnaires to area mayors and provincial and federal politicians. Harvey responded with a request for a phone interview.

In the interview, Harvey reflected on Carleton North’s first year and detailed the district council’s goal for 2024.

On the positive side, Carleton North celebrated the opening of the newly expanded Northern Carleton Civic Centre and welcomed the provincial government’s long-awaited announcement that it would repair and reopen the historic Old Florenceville Bridge.

Unfortunately, the council dealt with the dismissal or resignation of most of its top administrative staff, the resignation of one council member and complaints about ineffective police coverage.

“There were bumps along the road,” Harvey said, “but that’s normal for a transition year.”

Despite the challenges, the mayor described 2023 as a “year of change, a year of growth.”

Harvey said the staff turnover resulted from a change in direction needed to operate a “brand new entity,” of which 75 per cent were former local service districts.

“There was a breakdown on what the vision looked like,” he said.

The district dismissed CAO Sarah Pacey and Director of Tourism and Recreation Bobbie O’Donnell in June, followed by the resignation of town clerk Michelle Derrah.

New CAO Sean Lockhart resigned after only six weeks on the job.

The district also accepted the resignation of Coun. Ray Haines, O’Donnell’s husband.

Harvey said the district will fill the empty council seat in 2024, but Elections New Brunswick will determine the date.

While the district did not fill the empty CAO position, Harvey said the town is fully staffed with a town manager and clerk. He said the district fulfills the Municipalities Act legal requirements of a town clerk and treasurer.

The future of policing in the district and beyond hit the forefront as Carleton North partnered with neighbouring Hartland to explore replacing the RCMP with a municipal force.

A committee established by the two municipalities studied the policing options and presented a plan to develop a municipal force for New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Kris Austin.

“We did our due diligence,” Harvey said.

Noting policing is a provincial responsibility, he said Carleton North and Hartland offered the province a viable alternative to the RCMP.

Over the past several years, the RCMP’s quality of policing deteriorated, he explained, noting the force now lacks a presence in the community. He said residents need 24-7 patrols and greater accountability.

“The system is broken,” Harvey said.

He said the municipal police proposal could operate within the $3 million budget Carleton North and Hartland currently pay for RCMP coverage.

Harvey said transition cost is the most significant financial barrier the communities face.

The mayor said the province hasn’t said “no” to the communities’ proposal, but 2024 should provide a clearer picture of the future of policing in central and northern Carleton County.

“We’re still open to the RCMP,” Harvey said but noted the federal force’s mandate must change.

He said the policing committee met with the RCMP, stressing the problem lies with the mandate, not the RCMP members servicing the communities.

He said the community noticed improved RCMP visibility over the last two or three months of 2023.

“We have concerns, and we offered solutions to those concerns,” he said.

In addition to policing costs, Harvey said the district needs better cost stability on several fronts.

During 2024, he said, the district council and staff will focus on ways to reduce expenses on several fronts.

“We want to measure every dollar we’re spending,” Harvey said. “We want to see how to get a better bang for our buck.”

He cited the cost of solid waste disposal as an example, noting the service is managed by the Western Valley Regional Service Commission and paid for by the municipalities. Harvey wants the district to have control of the costs.

Harvey praised the Carleton North council for working together for the betterment of all regions of the amalgamated community.

He said the united approach extends to other levels of government and community organizations, such as the local chambers of commerce, Rotary Club and Riverbend Festivals.

“Partnerships are important,” Harvey said. “You get more by working together.”

The mayor said the district plans to spend money to improve streets in the former municipalities and work with the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to identify road priorities in the former LSDs.

He hopes 2024 will see significant steps forward for two long-running DTI projects, the currently closed Old Florenceville Bridge and the nearby highway bridge, which has faced traffic delays during multi-year repairs.

“The bridges are extremely important,” Harvey said, noting they are the only means to connect the district divided by the St. John River.

Harvey expects 2024 to deliver progress on several significant projects, including healthcare recruitment and completed plans for the new K-to-8 school.

For road conditions, click the map

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have successfully subscribed! A confirmation email has been sent to your email account. To complete your subscription, open the email and click on the confirmation link. (If you can't find it in your inbox, try your junk and spam folders.) If you'd like to receive our updates more than once a week, please click the "Manage your subscription" link at the bottom of your Newsletter.