Digby town council news
How many councillors does the town of Digby need to be properly governed?
Digby town council held a special meeting Monday, June 16 to discuss this question. The discussion, though wide-ranging, centred on two options: the status quo of mayor and six or reducing council size to mayor and four.
Under provincial legislation, every municipal council in the province has to conduct a study and then report to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB)– for units with polling districts they have to review the boundaries and number of polling districts; in the case of Digby where the councillors are elected at large, they have to review the number of councillors.
In fact council decided to proceed with a review of three options: status quo (mayor and six councillors); reducing to mayor and four councillors; and whether councillors should be elected at large or in polling districts.
The councillors present all indicated they didn’t think polling districts were a practical option for a town the size of Digby.
However on the advice of the Director of Finance, Matthew Raymond, they agreed to officially study the question so they could report to the UARB with all the facts about why it wasn’t a practical option.
Councillor Bob Handspiker read from a prepared statement about why he’d like to see a smaller council.
“Four councillors and a mayor can properly represent 2,100 people in three square miles and we would save $35,000,” he said.
Councillor Mike Bartlett questioned whether the goal of the review was to save dollars or to make sure the town was properly governed.
- Read more special articles:
- Digby town council votes to reduce council size
- Digby town council recommends no change for council size
- Digby town council may survey residents on council size, based on Berwick model
- Digby faces challenging fiscal future: mayor
He said he’d like to see council size remain the same in case the town and the municipality amalgamate in the near future.
He said having less seats on council would mean the town would end up with less representation on an amalgamated municipal council.
Councillors Danny Harvieux and Brian Manzer both spoke in favour of the status quo because they value the breadth of opinion and perspectives.
“With a small council, you can get tunnel vision pretty quick,” said Manzer.
Manzer was also worried that a small council would complain about being overworked and decide they need a raise, cancelling out any possible savings.
“It’s happened other places,” he said.
The councillors spent about ten minutes going through a list of committee and board meetings to see if they could lighten councillors’ work loads but only came up with two boards they could resign from.
Mayor Ben Cleveland told the Courier that council will have another in-depth look at this question – he for one feels they can further reduce council’s workload so they can better concentrate on the business of the town.
Council is also looking to include some component of public input—they are considering a random sample mail out followed by the mandatory public hearing where residents can have their say.
The mayor said council will likely hold another special meeting to decide just how that input will work.