© Ashley Thompson
Mayor Robbie Zwicker fields questions at a meeting the Town of Hantsport called to inform the public of the town’s financial situation going in to the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Changes may be coming to the Town of Hantsport – and they could involve expanding the Kings County border.
Hantsport council is currently debating whether or not to dissolve the town and become part of the Municipality of West Hants or Kings County, a topic that has received mixed reviews from the town’s residents.
Mayor Robbie Zwicker, who is in favour of dissolving, said “a lot likely wouldn’t change” for residents if the town moves forward with the plan. Zwicker says children will probably still go to the same school and things like fire services would likely remain the same.
Hantsport straddles the border of Kings and West Hants, which gives the town the option of choosing which municipality it wants to join.
“Where we border both counties, we have the ability to negotiate with both to determine what is the best option for our town and the municipalities,” Zwicker said, adding that it’s “nice to have options.”
Kings County Warden Diana Brothers and chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan met with Zwicker and Hantsport chief administrator Rob Frost on April 8 to discuss the potential changes. Zwicker and Frost informed Brothers that they had met with the provincial minister, who laid out the dissolution process for them.
They indicated they would contact Brothers in the near future to discuss plans to go forward, including the possibility of expanding the boundary of Kings County.
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“This is the only discussion we've had with them on this subject and it's all very preliminary at this point. We'll have to see where it goes, but they didn't give us any indication of what their plans are right now,” Brothers said.
Zwicker added that, if dissolution were to take place, council members would consider both options before making a decision.
Declining tax revenue is the main reason council is considering dissolution. Due to a lack of monetary resources, Hantsport is finding it difficult to maintain its infrastructure and council members like Zwicker say they would rather see a governance change as opposed to an increase in taxes.
Tax revenue has decreased substantially in recent years with the idling of the Fundy Gypsum and closure of Minas Basin Pulp and Power, both of which provided a significant amount of funds for the town. Even with recent cutbacks, including reducing the town staff from 11 full-time employees to seven, more changes will be needed to free up money for infrastructure projects that have been put off.
A special meeting has been scheduled April 16, at 6 p.m., in the Hantsport Fire Hall, where council will decide what to do. Council members will make the final decision based on a simple majority.
- With files from Ashley Thompson.