Residents say tar ponds meetings arenít conducive to public input

Cape Breton Post
By Tom Ayers
Thurs. Oct. 8, 2009

Sydney - Information sessions schedules for next week will be the last chance for area residents to hear about the cleanup of the tar ponds before the main work begins on the massive stabilization and solidification project.

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency is asking residents and groups to register in advance for information sessions to be held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Grand Lake Road fire hall, and Thursday at Cape Breton University. A separate public open house, registration not required, will be held from 4-6 pm, Thursday at CBU.

Agency spokesperson Tanya Collier MacDonald said not a lot of registrations have been received so far and the agency is still hoping people will sign up.

However, some residents are criticizing the format and location of the sessions. "It seems to me like thereís only one open house session that doesnít require registrationÖand that seems to me like it kind of takes away from the whole public input aspect of it," said Wayne McKay, adding the sessions should be held closer to the neighbourhoods surrounding the tar ponds.

"It would be good to have a public information and input session in downtown Sydney, because thatís where most of the people who are having concerns live, or possibly even (Whitney) Pier."

Collier MacDonald said the agency decided to seek registration for the sessions after residents complained that a small number of people monopolized discussions at previous open houses. Turnout at previous sessions has been very low, she added, and the two-hour open house next week is available for those who donít want to register for earlier sessions.

She also said the sessions were planned for next week because the stabilization and solidification contractor is expected to start work the following week on the most significant project of the entire cleanup. However, said Collier MacDonald, the Celtic Colours International Festival also runs next week, making large venues in Sydney difficult to book.

The sessions will include information from consultant Don Shosky, an animated overview of the project and several displays with simplified explanations about the performance criteria that the contractor will be required to meet. "Itís a great project and we want people to understand how itís being done," she said.