Much scrutiny has befallen municipal politics as of late. From unsavoury joint council squabbles to a muddled dispute concerning fire services, folks who rarely pay attention to politics have taken an interest.
And, judging by the comments we've received, they're none too happy when they feel their concerns are not taken seriously.
Throughout the month of May, it appeared all eyes were on our neck of the woods. Seemingly the entire province has been watching to see how West Hants council would handle the vocal outrage expressed by citizens concerned that they may lose the fire protection provided by the Windsor Fire Department.
With the provincial minister of Municipal Affairs stepping in to offer mediation — something this paper called for, as well as countless community members and our local MLA — and the municipality agreeing to try mediation last week, the general public breathed a collective sigh of relief. Perhaps cooler heads, and an independent, fresh set of eyes, will be able to sort out this mess and suggest the best arrangement for the area.
While this burning issue was being addressed, however, another hot topic was emerging in Hantsport. Council's most recent tax break has left the community divided.
Heading into dissolution talks, Hantsport councillors suggested citizens would likely see lower taxes. What the politicians didn't explicitly say, however, was how they planned to accomplish that.
At their May meeting, council forged ahead with a tax break, and in doing so, shelved the possibility of opening the Hantsport pool this summer.
It's a decision that divided council, and certainly disappointed some residents.
It's also a decision that could have been avoided with a little more input from the public.
A newly-formed citizens group lobbied council to consider granting them $7,500, plus the water necessary to fill the pool, so they could keep the pool open this season and develop a strategy for down the road. Their request, which would have amounted to about $11,000, was denied, and that's a crying shame.
Instead of keeping the asset in the small town, they opted to pursue a tax break that basically amounts to pocket change.
Council voted 4-3 in favour of dropping the residential tax rate to $1.66 per $100 of taxable assessment from $1.69, and dropping the commercial tax rate also by three cents, to $3.82. What that means is a homeowner with a property valued at $200,000 would be charged $60 less per year. In the grand scheme of things, it's a measly sum, and, despite the bleak economic times we're living in, it's money that could have been better spent.
The pool should have remained open, especially in light of having a volunteer group eager to lend a hand to do so. Additionally, more money should have been invested in the Hantsport Public Library, which must be relocated by September 2015. While there's a special interest group fundraising for this very endeavour, they have a long way to go to see the project through to fruition.
Money should have found its way to such worthy projects that would help draw people to the community, and encourage those residing in town to stay put.
The thing that makes Hantsport a great place in which to live is its community atmosphere. A public pool and library serve to foster that spirit. While putting a few extra bucks back into taxpayers' pockets is a nice gesture, investing in the community's future would have been a far better legacy for Hantsport's last town council to leave.