For the latest Town of Hantsport news, be sure to read the Hants Journal.
Our present provincial government, not unlike its two predecessors, continuesâ€¨to take a safe political stance on the future of struggling small town Nova Scotia by sittingâ€¨on the fence and letting frustrated municipal councils determine their own governance futureâ€¨and, ultimately, review by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
Dissolution for urban core serviced towns like Hantsport andâ€¨Springhill and merging with existing or new electoral districts in an annexing rural unit doesâ€¨not make political or economic sense.
The towns will always be urban units and the rurals alwaysâ€¨rural with distinctive differences. It is a myth that the designated annexing unit will treat its new municipal family membersâ€¨as economic and political equals. Not so, if the Canso scenario is a model for the Hantsportâ€¨and Springhill files.
It is understandable that citizens of a dissolving town will expect to receive the same tax rates asâ€¨existing residential and commercial citizens in the new unit plus area rates for services not received forâ€¨others. However, the receiving council, at its own discretion, may become creative and add a new rate to bring the total tax payable equalâ€¨to or exceeding what citizens paid under its own town incorporation.
Apparently, as is the case of Canso, this new rate is not appealable. The new unit mayâ€¨also offer for sale many of the former town's public buildings and other infrastructure, and, with no offers or interest, may orderâ€¨them demolished. Greater still is the fact that the political voice of the dissolved town will become muted.
Hantsport has at its borders millions of dollars of residential assessment presently on the books of theâ€¨municipalities of Kings and West Hants. Rather than seeking dissolution, the town council should have â€¨requested a boundary review through the UARB. The extensionâ€¨of its boundaries with new assessment and the sharing of common services with one or more municipalâ€¨units would keep the town economically viable for many years to come.
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While I haven't visited historic Springhillâ€¨in a number of years, I expect that the same scenario as that of Hantsport â€” a boundary review and sharing of servicesâ€¨with County of Cumberland â€” may be a more viable and attractive alternative to dissolution.
Citizens should alsoâ€¨remember that should the above considerations not be the end result, the UARB must give consideration toâ€¨having dissolved towns continue as incorporated villages and this can be done within the same budgetâ€¨parameters as with full dissolution and merger with an adjacent rural unit.
The governance future of the towns ofâ€¨Hantsport and Springhill is no longer with its respective town councils but with its citizens and the UARB, withâ€¨the Government of Nova Scotia monitoring the situations as interested bystanders. Notwithstanding the above,â€¨province-wide municipal government reform is well over due but it will not happen without the full involvement of theâ€¨Province of Nova Scotia and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
Frank X. Fraser,