By Stephen Hawboldt
A motion by Annapolis County Councillor Timothy Habinski to facilitate the discussion of regional services was tabled by second motion from councillors Wayne Fowler and Gregory Heming at the meeting of the committee of the whole council last week.
Habinski proposed that the towns of Middleton, Bridgetown, and Annapolis Royal plus the Village of Lawrencetown be invited, “to discuss our current regional mode of governance and delivery of services, and to consider ways to make the former more collaborative and cooperative, and the latter more effective.” In a second part, Habinski proposed, “if our municipal partners are willing, this discussion should take place as an ongoing component and focus of our regional caucus meetings.” The motion was seconded by Councillor Paul McDonald.
In the ensuing discussion, Habinski said his goal is to improve the delivery of services. He stressed that, “discussion is the key.” Warden Reg Ritchie said that this was an ongoing partnership with the three towns and the village. Deputy Warden Marilyn Wilkins told council that she favoured this move.
It should be explained that this is an invitation, cautioned Councillor Alex Morrison. An even more cautious note came from Councillor Brian “Fuzzy” Connell who was concerned about, “forcing tax increases.”
Councillor Heming said that while he has been a supporter of regional services, he was now not so sure. According to Heming his reading of the academic research shows that frequently consolidation of services does not result in savings. “Maybe we have the best system now,” he added.
Councillor Fowler, in making the motion to table the issue, said that he wants more time to think about it. Councillors Wilkins, Habinski, and McDonald were out-voted by the remaining councillors. The next steps are nor clear.
In the February session of the committee of the whole council, it was agreed to invite the three towns and the Village of Lawrencetown to join county councillors in a regional caucus to discuss municipal issues. The purpose of the regional caucus is to provide a regular forum to discuss items of mutual concern. The invitation includes all elected officials and senior staff from the five municipal units.
A public meeting to discuss improved municipal services was to be held last evening at the Royal Canadian Legion in Bridgetown. By noon Tuesday there was some indication that meeting might have to be postponed due to pending inclement weather. The would be a followup to a meeting held prior to municipal elections last fall.