Council agrees to fall workshop, defers voting on municipal reform
West Hants council is willing to work towards partnering with its neighbouring municipal units for some projects, however, they're drawing the line at any move that could lead to amalgamation.
At their regular monthly meeting Aug. 13, West Hants council voted unanimously in favour of participating in a two day inter-municipal co-operation workshop hosted by Gordon McIntosh this September. The municipality will cost share the $5,000 fee with Windsor and Hantsport. The purpose of the workshop is to help the councils find commonalities as well as identify opportunities where they could partner and pool resources.
However, when a resolution put forward by Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley at a joint council meeting in July was discussed, the majority of councillors who spoke were against the resolution's implications.
The main aspect of the resolution calls for Windsor, Hantsport and West Hants councils to start the process of hiring an independent, professional consultant to study municipal reform in Hants West.
Coun. Randy Matheson was the first to say he'd vote against the resolution as he felt “municipal reform is code for amalgamation.”
Deputy Warden Gary Cochrane also didn't like the wording of the resolution and indicated he wouldn't be in favour of moving in that direction.
“When I campaigned last fall I heard loud and clear people were not interested in amalgamation, as far as taking over services carte blanche,” said Cochrane.
“If it means a tax increase, the residents of my area are definitely dead against it,” he later added.
Coun. Jennifer Daniels pointed out that the word amalgamation is not involved in the wording of the resolution. The purpose was to put a stop to the duplication of services.
“This is 2013 not 1980 anymore and times are changing. As you know, jobs are being lost and we're trying to pinch pennies and I think we need to step up to the plate. This could change in 25 years and we could go back to being independent again,” said Daniels.
“I think we really need to seriously consider it and consider working with our partners.”
Cochrane noted that they are working together through joint council — a committee that is scheduled to meet every two months and features the councils of Hantsport, Windsor and West Hants.
“This here spells amalgamation all through it,” said Cochrane, referring to the resolution before council.
“As far as working together, I wouldn't mind having a meeting once a week if we can work together for a common goal. But amalgamation, no,” he added.
Daniels stressed the need for better economic development as an example that could be achieved by working together better.
Coun. Mike Campbell said as long as the resolution is not going down the road of amalgamation, he'd be in favour of voting for it.
“I believe in mutual agreements, I believe in working with joint council, but to set my signature saying 'yeah, we're for amalgamation,' there's no way that I can render that because my citizens don't want it,” he said.
Before council had a chance to vote on the resolution, Coun. Shirley Pineo suggested they table the item until after they have attended the two-day workshop in September.
Council agreed to consider the resolution again in the fall.