What are the advantages of being a town? Or a village? And how does losing or gaining a village affect a rural municipality? These are some of the questions on the table in Kings County in recent weeks.
On the edge of the Municipality of Kings, Hantsport is seeking to give up its status as a town. The community could either become a district of its neighbours, Kings to the west or West Hants to the east, or become a village within their bounds.
At the Utility and Review Board Hearing last week in Hantsport, it was mentioned that Kings has more experience relating to villages as it has seven. However, one of those villages doesn’t seem content with the relationship status.
New Minas’ village chairman Dave Chaulk told the Advertiser earlier this month the commission is “kicking the tires” on whether becoming a town might be to its residents’ advantage. A preliminary study is being done.
While New Minas is not as far along in deliberating change, Hantsport has already begun to move to dissolution. At the hearing last week and there could be information gleaned from proposed studies on town versus village status.
How can it be less expensive for New Minas taxpayers to be a town if Hantsport is looking at village status as a cost-saver? Size might be one factor. Hantsport has a population of 1,159, New Minas 5,135 – according to the 2011 census. The little town brings less geographical area and fewer taxpayers to the Kings County table than the municipality would lose should New Minas leave the fold.
At the UARB hearing, Hantsport resident Joe Foy called the notion of village status “the elephant in the room.” In Kings County, the disparity in size between villages and the fact New Minas has the population and geography greater than some of its neighbouring towns has indeed been an elephant.
Anyone driving through the Valley would probably think New Minas is already a town, particularly if they also swing through Wolfville or Berwick. Things are out of whack.
One issue is political representation. While smaller towns have multiple councillors and a mayor, for instance, the village only has one councillor at the Kings County horseshoe. Although a village commission has local authority over some services, it has limited clout at a regional or provincial level where most tax dollar spending decisions are made.
Much of the New Minas desire for change seemed to come out of a failed bid to become part of the Kings Partnership Steering Committee earlier this year and a desire to chart its own future.
Is this an effort by the community – home to 20 per cent of the county’s tax base, as Chaulk pointed out – to assert itself and get a little more respect and power in municipal discussions? The village and its parent – the county – went head-to-head in the recent past over the expansion of New Minas’ boundaries. New Minas won that round, but it wasn’t the first or last conflict between the two.
Maybe a counsellor is needed, instead of more councillors, but what is clear is that it's time to talk about the elephant.