West Hants councillors were hoping the Town of Windsor didn't take their invitation to meet with them the wrong way.
At the Sept. 10 council meeting, Coun. Shirley Pineo brought up the letter, dated Aug. 21, that Warden Richard Dauphinee had sent to Windsor's mayor Paul Beazley to invite the town to discuss the future of fire services with them.
She said she was a little bit surprised by the wording in the letter.
“The reason I asked for the letter was because it was a Windsor town councillor who said 'well, what's the point of the meeting if… your letter stated there would be no negotiations,'” said Pineo. “I'm worried that they may read this and say, 'well, what is the point of a meeting.'”
At the Aug. 13 council meeting, West Hants approved a motion for the municipality to request a special meeting with Windsor councillors and their CAO to discuss the future of fire services in the Windsor Fire Department's coverage area.
West Hants has been without a fire services contract with the Windsor Fire Department, which also receives funding from the Town of Windsor, for about three years. With contract negotiations with the volunteer fire department at a stalemate, the municipality set out to determine the cost of building and equipping their own fire service. This decision resulted in considerable concern expressed by community members, and questions from the town.
Dauphinee said the intention of the letter that was sent to Beazley was simply to gauge council's interest in having a meeting.
“We just wanted to know if they'd meet with us. It is to discuss possible options for the future of a joint fire service for the residents of Windsor and West Hants... That's what it's about,” Dauphinee said.
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The short letter states that the purpose of the meeting was not to enter into negotiations with the town to secure a deal with the Windsor Fire Department. Rather, the meeting was to serve as a forum to “talk openly about the impact on the town” if the municipality were to proceed with plans for a separate fire service. The letter also notes that they could discuss “possible options for the future of a joint fire service” that would benefit the residents of Windsor and West Hants.
“I guess I didn't want them to think that we're going to come in and thrash out a deal with them financially,” said Dauphinee.
“We want to get together and talk about this and how we can make something work. That was the intention.”
In light of the letter and the confusion it has caused, Pineo suggested councillors should be privy to all future correspondence being sent on behalf of council.
“We make motions here at the council table to write letters to a minister, we make motions to write letters to the town, to various organizations, whatever... but we never see what the letter is that's written,” said Pineo.
“I think that for councillors to be informed of everything that's going on in our municipality, we should see the letters that go to the ministers and to other units and so on,” she added, before making a motion to have that occur.
Council agreed unanimously.