In light of the recent decision by Springhill to dissolve its town status, I would like to suggest the leaders of Hantsport, Windsor, and the Municipality of West Hants seriously begin to discuss amalgamation of the three units. Many local economic problems reported on by the Hants Journal lately might be solved if there weren't three different competing governments in this small rural region.
These three municipal units have a combined population of less than 20,000 people, but we collectively pay taxes to support: three complete sets of town/municipal councils, administrative staffs, public works departments, equipment and facility budgets, bylaws and policies, public buildings, recreation and tourism departments, policing arrangements, tax rates, long term planning strategies, waste management policies, websites, offices, recreation departments, and on and on. This duplication leaves our councils arguing over who gets to use the limited resources that we end up with when weâ€™re stretched too thin.
More promises to "work together where possible" are appreciated, but they aren't adequate. The current structure is unsustainable and costing us all money we don't have. When Liverpool and Queens County amalgamated in 1996, they actually came out ahead in every meaningful way â€” services improved, costs went down, employment didnâ€™t suffer, and tax rates went down for many right away. (Even those whose taxes increased in the short term are paying lower rates today than if amalgamation hadnâ€™t happened.) These changes helped to lure new development to the area, in part because there were no longer arguments over whether development would go to the "town" or to the "county."
Just imagine the local problems that amalgamation might solve:
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â€¢ The ridiculous fire services squabble would immediately end. There would be no more talk of competing facilities or separate departments. The stations that protect the various communities would remain in place under a single municipal (and financial) arrangement.
â€¢ The Town of Hantsport wouldn't have to try and make up a $100,000-plus shortfall on the backs of about 1,100 residents and a nearly vanished industrial base.
â€¢ The Town of Windsor wouldn't have to beg the municipality to help pay for the excellent library services. The residents who live outside the town limits could continue to enjoy its benefits for minimal cost. (Possible added bonus: without the need for a town council building, Hantsport's office could make an excellent library and satellite municipal service office.)
â€¢ With a single council representing the entire region, we wouldn't have to compete with one another to bring new businesses to the area. Long-term strategies could be drafted with the whole region in mind, regardless of the magic line where a "town" becomes a "community."
To those councillors who feel that their constituents don't support this, I want to tell you all that there are increasing numbers of people who do, and will support town/municipal councillors who feel the same. There would be concerns to address and problems to solve, but the problems need addressing together as one united region.
Please begin talks with one another on how to get this process started. We canâ€™t afford to wait longer.