NEW MINAS, NS - He’s hearing no great demand from residents to delve into a municipal unification or regional governance study, but Dave Chaulk is keeping an open mind.
The New Minas Village Commission chairman said the village’s exploration of becoming a town came to a halt abruptly in April 2015.
That’s when legislation was introduced preventing towns from becoming villages and, conversely, villages from becoming towns. Instead, former Municipal Affairs minister Mark Furey encouraged New Minas to look to neighbouring communities for solutions.
Chaulk said former Kings County chief administrative officer Rick Ramsey was in the midst of conducting a study on behalf of the village exploring the possibility of becoming a town when the province introduced the legislation that stopped it dead in its tracks.
The study was never completed and reached no conclusions.
“He had done some work but he hadn’t progressed far enough to be able to give us any indication of where it was going,” Chaulk said.
The study, he said, was more about trying to determine if it was economically feasible to go down that road and perhaps begin the process of becoming a town. The village commission wanted to get a handle on what the financial implications would be. There was a “certain curiosity,” Chaulk said, but a plebiscite would have had to be held before any decisions could be made. The Municipal Government Act at the time had stated that one-third of the electors of the area proposed to be incorporated as a town can make an application for incorporation.
Chaulk said there seemed to be more of an appetite for such discussions at the time the village commissioned the study. The Kings Citizens Coalition, a group lobbying for a regional governance study, was more vocal then, and there were also more issues with the County of Kings.
I’m not convinced that amalgamation works all the time for the community and the people who live in it. ~ Dave Chaulk
In 2014, the village wanted to join the Kings Partnership Steering Committee, a vehicle for inter-municipal cooperation, but was denied.
At the time, Chaulk said, overall relations were not very good.
“Acrimony would be an understatement, and there was no need for that,” he said.
Chaulk said relations with the County of Kings have been a lot better since the 2016 municipal elections, which saw a sweeping change in elected officials.
“(There's) much more willingness on the part of that council to work with us,” Chaulk added.
No appetite for amalgamation
From Chaulk’s perspective, any actions taken by the village commission have to take into consideration what is in the best interest of the community and the ratepayers.
“I’m not convinced that amalgamation works all the time for the community and the people who live in it,” Chaulk said. “I think that there are things in our community that we have been able to do that wouldn’t necessarily have gotten done if there was an amalgamation with either the county or the towns of Wolfville and/or Kentville, for instance.”
He points to the Louis Millett Community Complex as a “shining example” of that. Chaulk isn’t convinced that the village would have the complex today if there hadn’t been a group within the community that wanted to make it happen. He’s also not convinced that the village’s recreation programming would be as strong if it amalgamated with another municipal unit or that ratepayers would realize huge tax savings.
A study, he added, may not have accurately determined if there would be tax savings, either, adding that it's often hindsight after the fact that it can be seen for certain.
Today, there isn’t a big demand from village residents to explore municipal unification, and it's very seldom that anyone mentions it to him.
When it comes to the possibility of a future regional governance study, Chaulk says, “I have an open mind on the issue,” and is willing to consider all options that could potentially make New Minas a better community.
But, he adds, he would want to have an expert opinion on the matter and as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision.
He pointed out that New Minas is very fortunate and is not in financial hardship. When things are going well, he adds, there’s no apparent need for change.
Did you know?
New Minas represents about 20 per cent of the tax base of the County of Kings. Residents pay property taxes to both the village and the County of Kings.