Citizen coalition: delay Hantsport dissolution decision

Ashley
Ashley Thompson
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A newly formed citizen coalition is asking Hantsport’s town council to hold off on starting the dissolution process.

Council is scheduled to vote on the issue of dissolution tonight, at 6 p.m., in the Hantsport Fire Hall.

About 25 citizens, many belonging to the Think Hantsport Coalition, attended Hantport’s committee of the whole meeting April 15 to ask their elected officials to delay the dissolution decision until September.

Paul Syme, the group’s appointed speaker, said coalition members are prepared to work together with council to explore alternatives to dissolution that may not have been considered at this point.

“When people are pushed to come up with other possibilities they come up with novel and more fruitful ideas,” said Syme.

Syme noted that many communities and companies have stared economic uncertainty in the face, but succeeded as a result of collaboration, creativity, critical insight, intuition and risk taking.

“This coalition feels we deserve the notice, information and time to pull together our strengths,” he added.

Syme called on council to take the time to allow for further consultation with their engaged public before voting on dissolution.

“Table the question of dissolving until September, when we would present you with a well considered and broadly consultative proposal for our town,” he implored. 

“At least then you would know any decision you make would be done for, and with, an engaged, and united, community.”

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board considers applications for dissolution once a town council votes in favour of starting the process.

Brian Bishop noted that a plebiscite would give the review board and Hantsport’s council a true idea of which neighbouring municipality – the County of Kings or Municipality of West Hants – the citizens wish to join.

“I think that crisis sometimes is a great thing because I think that crisis spurs action,” Bishop later added.

Many members of the coalition expressed concern that council was rushing a decision that did not have to be made so soon.

“Those who have been complacent and not stepping forward are awake now,” said Syme.

Bishop acknowledged that dissolution may turn out to be the best path to take in the end, but the coalition members want to be given a chance to prove that is the case.

“We don’t want you to act as a group of seven. We want to be part of that process with you.”

Zwicker said he’d like to see the council show leadership, and perhaps find a way to lower taxes for residents of the community by making the decision while Hantsport is in a good position to negotiate.

At this time the provincial government is prepared to offer support throughout the transition period, the mayor added.

Although it may be possible to hold the tax rates for another six months by committing to budget cuts, CAO Rob Frost said drastic changes are required to address the town’s financial hardships.

“If you want to do any infrastructure upgrades and save any money, then no, we’re not okay,” said Frost.

Frost said the work the coalition is proposing would be beneficial to the community regardless of its governance structure.

“That’s all good no matter what. Even if it’s not a town, you still need all of that,” he stressed.

Syme countered that a corporate entity, such as a town, has a lot more sway than a community group or single representative on a municipal council based outside of Hantsport.

Point blank, Coun. Shannon Cunningham said it comes down to dollars and cents.

“The passionate side of me is the same as all of you - I don’t want to see this. The dollars and cents side of me, I’ve seen this coming for years,” he said.

It is time for council to think about the long-term sustainability of Hantsport, Cunningham added.

“It’s like living in a house with a leaky roof. How long do you let the roof leak before it crashes in and ruins the floor?”

The Town of Hantsport must find a new way to operate in light of the loss of Fundy Gypsum and Minas Basin Pulp and Power.

 “The ideas are great, but they’re not paying the bills. We’ve lost millions in revenue coming into the town. You could put a new business in every shop in this town and it’s still not going to create the revenue we’ve lost from Gypsum and Minas Basin,” Cunningham concluded.

Deputy Mayor Harold Bulger echoed citizens’ concerns that dissolving the town will result in a loss of control.

Zwicker was quick to respond to Bulger’s comment.

“When you don’t have any money to spend you’ve already lost control,” he said, earning a round of applause.

Organizations: Citizen coalition, Think Hantsport Coalition, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Hantsport, Kings, West Hants Gypsum Minas

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Recent comments

  • Concerned Hantsportonian
    April 21, 2014 - 01:41

    Thanks, Ashley, for a detailed and accurate account of this meeting of Hantsport's Committee of the Whole. To comment on Councilor Cunningham's analogy of the house with a leaky roof, this reader would point out that our roof isn't nearly as leaky as our neighbors' roofs, and that we could do away with some of our window-trimmings if it meant fixing the roof. If the alternative were a homeless shelter, this reader would chose to stay in our own house with the leaky roof for as long as we could. Please email us for more discussion if you are interested, analogies aside. thinkhantsport@gmail.com

  • Timothy Pitts
    April 16, 2014 - 12:51

    Bravo to the Mayor Zwicker and to Councillor Cunningham, the facts speak for themselves and emotions need to be placed in the back room.

  • Jason Tucker
    April 16, 2014 - 12:09

    I support the council if it chooses to proceed with dissolution. I know that there are others who live in town who feel the same way and I hope that they have also been in touch with council. The emotional arguments to keep things as they are, even for another year, overlook the bigger picture: that we can only thrive as part of a larger entity who is working for the good of the whole region. Why promote Hantsport as a destination if people can live 50 meters outside town limits and pay roughly 2/3 the taxes? Hantsport will not cease to exist; the town is not being "closed down" by handing in its charter. I believe Hantsport will remain the same community that it has been, with the added benefit of not being saddled with *impossible* financial challenges that cannot be met by our town alone. I believe Mr. Frost's numbers are very clear on this. I came to Hantsport by choice, and I have never regretted it. It is a great place. I know that the Town of Hantsport has a proud history, but in these new times, we need to stand together with our neighbours, not apart from them.

  • Jason Tucker
    April 16, 2014 - 12:05

    I support the council if it chooses to proceed with dissolution. I know that there are others who live in town who feel the same way and I hope that they have also been in touch with council. The emotional arguments to keep things as they are, even for another year, overlook the bigger picture: that we can only thrive as part of a larger entity who is working for the good of the whole region. Why promote Hantsport as a destination if people can live 50 meters outside town limits and pay roughly 2/3 the taxes? Hantsport will not cease to exist; the town is not being "closed down" by handing in its charter. I believe Hantsport will remain the same community that it has been, with the added benefit of not being saddled with *impossible* financial challenges that cannot be met by our town alone. I believe Mr. Frost's numbers are very clear on this. I came to Hantsport by choice, and I have never regretted it. It is a great place. I know that the Town of Hantsport has a proud history, but in these new times, we need to stand together with our neighbours, not apart from them.

    • Timothy Pitts
      April 16, 2014 - 12:58

      Very well said Jason. After a visit to a few places along Main street and some casual conversation with business owners and residents, they agree with council's decision and cannot afford tax increases. As the Mayor indicated, we are in a good position to negotiate either side of our borders, do not allow that opportunity to get screwed up too by delays!

    • Timothy Pitts
      April 16, 2014 - 13:17

      Very well said Jason. After a visit to a few places along Main street and some casual conversation with business owners and residents, they agree with council's decision and cannot afford tax increases. As the Mayor indicated, we are in a good position to negotiate either side of our borders, do not allow that opportunity to get screwed up too by delays!

    • David Houseman
      April 20, 2014 - 10:57

      People annoy me with their constant whining & whinging on about folks who live 50 meters outside Town limits and pay roughly 2/3rds the Hantsport. With so many capped dwellings in Hantsport I suspect that by living in Hants Border I still pay than most folks in Hantsport. But then again... I am accused of living in a parisitic community...that's rich!

  • judy orde
    April 16, 2014 - 10:40

    Good Morning, I'm not a citizen of the town of Hantsport but I do shop in Hantsport as much as I can. Hantsport is such a wonderful rural little town, but I think that some folks are trying to make it into something it will never be. These historical towns have so much to offer to everyone. There is so much turmoil in this world now a days it is wonderful to know these little towns are still around. I don't think paved roads, swimming pools, dog parks, hanging flower baskets ,etc.. make a town no matter what size it is. It is the people who live and work in this town that makes it a delight. To bad everything has to be about what one needs and yes I do understand you have financial responsibilities to look after. One thing I have heard from residences of the town is why do all the public works guys have trucks to drive, why were a couple of trips made to Halifax to buy Christmas lights for the town hall, when there is a store in town that sells lights and would probably give a discount for the town. Also it would generate business. I apoligize if I have stepped on any toes. Also could the names of the new Coalition group post their names so if anyone wants to join them or ask questions they could be contacted? Thanks

  • judy orde
    April 16, 2014 - 10:39

    Good Morning, I'm not a citizen of the town of Hantsport but I do shop in Hantsport as much as I can. Hantsport is such a wonderful rural little town, but I think that some folks are trying to make it into something it will never be. These historical towns have so much to offer to everyone. There is so much turmoil in this world now a days it is wonderful to know these little towns are still around. I don't think paved roads, swimming pools, dog parks, hanging flower baskets ,etc.. make a town no matter what size it is. It is the people who live and work in this town that makes it a delight. To bad everything has to be about what one needs and yes I do understand you have financial responsibilities to look after. One thing I have heard from residences of the town is why do all the public works guys have trucks to drive, why were a couple of trips made to Halifax to buy Christmas lights for the town hall, when there is a store in town that sells lights and would probably give a discount for the town. Also it would generate business. I apoligize if I have stepped on any toes. Also could the names of the new Coalition group post their names so if anyone wants to join them or ask questions they could be contacted? Thanks