Think Hantsport members Toni Heatley and Sally Zamora are keeping tabs on all open council discussions that have anything to do with the potential dissolution of the Town of Hantsport.
Toni Heatley worries that the wishes of residents of Hantsport will carry less weight if the small town becomes part of a larger municipality.
“Local governance is intimate for people. It’s our water we drink, it’s the waste that goes away from our house, it’s what’s within that one square mile of us,” said Heatley, from her seat in the gallery of a recent joint council meeting in West Hants.
“We have, as citizens, the most impact if local governance is within hand’s reach.”
Heatley attended the joint council meeting as a member of the Think Hantsport citizen group that has been granted formal intervener status regarding the dissolution application the Town of Hantsport filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) in May.
Prior to Hantsport’s town council voting six to one in favour of seeking the dissolution of the township in April, Think Hantsport asked council to allow citizens six more months to explore alternative options that may help the cash-strapped municipal unit continue to successfully operate as a town.
“What we had wanted as a citizens’ group was the studies, but not with the process that, at the end, we have no control over,” said Heatley.
Studies requested as part of the dissolution application before the UARB must be completed by the beginning of September. Hantsport’s town council is expected to decide which neighbouring municipality — Kings County or West Hants — will absorb the town by Sept. 30.
The UARB will host a final hearing regarding the Town of Hantsport’s application to dissolve its town status during the first week of January 2015.
Addressing elected officials from Windsor, West Hants and Hantsport at the joint council meeting, West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee said he’s pleased with how the dissolution discussions are unfolding.
“The thing I’m impressed with is it doesn’t seem to be a tug-of-war between Kings County and West Hants. It’s Hantsport, it’s what’s best for their residents and I think that that’s what their council is working on here,” Dauphinee said.
Windsor Mayor Paul Beazley noted that Hantsport is an important part of the region.
“You’ve been a valued part of Hants County for a good, long time,” he said.
Beazley asked if the final decision about which municipality Hantsport becomes a part of if dissolution occurs would be based on citizen input or studies.
Hantsport Mayor Robbie Zwicker said citizens will be consulted throughout the process, but the decisions will be made based on facts.
“I think really and truly it’s going to come down to the studies,” added Zwicker.
Think Hantsport member Sally Zamora, a 36-year resident of the Haven of Hospitality, hopes the facts demonstrate the importance of retaining town status.
“I believe that we have to be a town in order to… control our own destiny.”