Mayor Gordon Hunt of Gaultois recently took time out from his hectic schedule to talk about several serious issues facing his community.
During most of the year Gaultois is served by the Terra Nova which provides a seven-day a week run between Gaultois, McCallum and Hermitage-Sandyville. The ferry is stationed in the community seven nights a week and is always ready to make any emergency run.
However, the Marine Eagle, another vessel in the province's outdated ferry fleet, recently had to go on refit. The Terra Nova was sent to serve South East Bight while Gaultois is now being served by the Sound of Islay. However, with the Sound of Islay having to travel as far as Burgeo on some days the Gaultois-McCallum run is facing serious disruptions to say the least.
Mayor Hunt said that while he understands that there will be some inconveniences when one ferry in the fleet has to go on refit, he doesn't understand why the people of Gaultois, McCallum, Francois and Grey River have to bear the brunt of the inconvenience all the time.
Mayor Hunt said, "It seems to me like there was little, if any, thought or real preparation, put into forming this new ferry schedule that we have. We only have a ferry service four days a week and on two of those days the ferry does not leave Gaultois until 10:45 am. We've already had a case where a resident had to cancel a specialist's appointment in Grand Falls-Windsor and there will be another case on Monday, June 25 where this will happen again. These people may have to wait months before those appointments can be rescheduled.
"We had one instance recently where an elderly cancer patient had to get someone to take her from Gaultois to Hermitage at 7 am so she could make her appointment in Grand Falls-Windsor. This should not have to happen in this day and age. The Terra Nova was here seven nights a week and her first run was always at 8 am. Now we only have a vessel here one night a week - it's like going back in time for us."
Residents can get into and out of Gaultois via a helicopter service on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
"While the helicopter service is fine, it lands by the Lions' Club in Hermitage-Sandyville which means residents have to walk for about 30 to 40 minutes back to where they park their vehicles. We have a lot of older residents in this community which makes this a difficult task even in the best of times. Can you imagine having to walk about 40 minutes on a rainy, windy day back to your car?" Mayor Hunt said. "And besides, the helicopter will not be able to get in and out on windy or foggy days.
"And the helicopter can only take four passengers at a time. We've already had instances where residents had to wait at least two hours in Hermitage-Sandyville before they could be transported over to Gaultois. It's just not good enough in my opinion."
Mayor Hunt said that the Gallopi, the ferry that serves the community of Ramea, should be travelling to Francois to help alleviate some of the inconvenience and frustration now for the people of Gaultois and McCallum.
He said, "There doesn't seem to be any reason why the Gallopi can't be used for the Francois run at this time. It seems like the government don't want to interrupt this service at any time. Why should one or two communities have to face all the interruption and another community in the general area not have to face any disruptions at all? Again, its seems like there was very little consideration given to the people of Gaultois and McCallum in this situation."
Mayor Hunt said that the present ferry situation in Gaultois-McCallum could be ongoing for a month or more.
" Another factor that very scary is that many of the provincial ferries are older boats and one could go down anytime for major repairs. This situation could escalate at any time and get much worse before it gets better."
Potable Water Dispensing System
The provincial government spent approximately $250,000 to place a potable water dispensing station in Gaultois about two years ago. The problem is that the station has only been working for a brief period of time and has been out of service for about a year.
According to Mayor Hunt, the main problem is the station's compressor, which keeps cutting out at the station.
Mayor Hunt said, "We've spent about $8,000 in repairs on this station and it's still not working. We've told the government that the system needs a larger compressor but the engineers keep saying that the present one is big enough.
"In any case, the problem should be addressed by mid-July and the system should be up and running again. We hope that the residents will take advantage of the system as we need the support to help maintain the station."
Town's Water Supply
Mayor Hunt said that it would cost his council about $7,000 to repair the chlorine monitor for the community's water system. He said that there's not much point in repairing the monitor when the council cannot afford to buy the chlorine needed for the system.
"We have such small tax base here now," Mayor Hunt said, "that we cannot afford to buy the materials needed to have the system working properly. The government forgave us the loan on phase one of this system but we're still on the hook for phase two. As a matter of fact, the government is holding back our municipal operating grant to pay for this system. Our present debt load is so high and, again with such small tax base now with our declining population and no big business in the community, we just can't afford this expense."
Mayor Hunt said that there are only four councillors serving the community and this is frustrating in and of itself.
"One of our councillors is presently working outside the community and the three remaining officials find it frustrating at times to help keep the community in operation," Mayor Hunt said. "We'll keep trying our best going forward, but there are days when you want to get away from all the headaches and problems."