The citizens of Springhill are not happy with town hall’s decision to dissolve and took action Thursday night to turn their displeasure into action.
A group of concerned citizens lead by former MLA Murray Scott called for a public meeting at the town-owned community centre, inviting taxpayers to join them and raise their concerns about Mayor Max Snow and council’s decision to announce the dissolution of the town in March. Chief among their concerns was the lack of public consultation and the financial documentation used to determine dissolution as the best course for the community, and their sentiment was shared not only by fellow Springhill ratepayers, but residents under the umbrella of the Municipality of Cumberland County.
“I’ve seen the democratic process diminish in government on so many levels, but this one takes the cake,” Brookdale resident and former area MP Bill Casey said. “This is a simple problem where the expenses were too high and maybe the revenues were too low… they [the Town of Springhill] might think they were doing the right thing, but it sure doesn’t seem like the democratic process.”
Legally, the Town of Springhill was not required to hold consultations or a plebiscite with the public before making the decision to make application to dissolve the town with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. Now the town and the municipality are working with a transition co-ordinator to determine how Springhill will be governed under a new form of government beginning April 2015.
“We have governed ourselves up to now. Why, now, are we inferior?” citizen Howard Spence said.
A general consensus began to form with the crowd of 300-plus citizens that if they were given the financial information the town used to decide to dissolve other options could have been presented or explored.
“It’s seem the town has thrown their hands up and said the town can’t be saved whereas everyone here is willing to put their shoulders to the grindstone,” John Mont, whose late father Bill Mont was one of the town’s longest serving mayors before retiring from politics in 2004.
“Is it too late to turn this around?” business owner Dan MacMillan asked. “I think we can get together and see what we can do to keep this place alive.”
In order to take that step, however, the citizens need the town’s financials, which hasn’t happened. Mayor and Council agreed to hold a public meeting to provide more information on the decision to dissolve the town, but not until May 15. That announcement was made after the concerned citizens announced their meeting for May 1st.
With the agreement of the audience in attendance, the 12-member concerned citizens group was given the audience’s assention to act as a formal body and apply for intervener status at the NSUARB hearing on the town’s dissolution. As of Wednesday, Murray Scott said, the NSUARB says it has yet to receive that application.
“We’ll continue to meet with mayor and council before then and keep asking for the information we need,” Murray Scott said. “We don’t want to create a rift. We just want the opportunity to do what’s right for Springhill.”
Audience members signed declarations they agree with the committee proceeding on their behalf, and from there the forms will be distributed throughout the community for more to sign. Moreover, Scott said, anyone who wants to be a member of the committee is encouraged to join, especially those with experience in law and accounting.
The Town of Springhill will hold its public meeting on May 15 at the same community centre and all who attended the concerned citizens were encourage to show up in the same numbers.