Mayor Small looks ahead to 2014
Increased sharing of services and a new police facility are among the Town of Amherst's 2014 priorities.
© Darrell Cole - Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Amherst Mayor Robert Small is looking ahead favourably to 2014, the 125th anniversary of Amherst's incorporation as a town.
AMHERST – Amherst’s mayor sees expanded sharing of services among Cumberland County municipalities as a priority in the next year or so.
Speaking to cumberlandnewsnow.com on Friday, Robert Small said the service sharing agreement with the Municipality of Cumberland should be close to developing a merged corporate and financial services office for the two municipal units.
“In terms of sharing of services the next 24 months is where the rubber will hit the road. We have been talking about opportunities for combining services for the better part of six months. It’s all going to come together for presentation to council and decision in the coming months,” said Small, who will speak to the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday. “I’ve said from when I was first elected that it’s crazy to duplicate so many services. We’re taking baby steps toward it because it’s change people aren’t accustomed to.”
The town and the county announced in September plans to hire a consultant to conduct a study on developing a combined finance department. A Halifax firm was hired in December to conduct the study and the planning process is expected to continue through 2014.
Small said the two municipalities are looking at other sharing opportunities, including Amherst’s recent decision to join the regional EMO office, while he’s hoping Springhill, Oxford and Parrsboro join in the discussion.
The mayor stopped short of saying sharing of services will result in amalgamation.
“That seems to be a dirty word and it’s really not the aim of what we’re trying to accomplish,” the mayor said. “We’re looking at ways of reducing duplication, sharing services and saving money for our taxpayers.”
Small is also hoping 2014 will also see a decision on a new police facility for the town.
The mayor said a request for proposals will be issued soon for various options with the former town hall on Ratchford Street, including demolishing the building and constructing a new police facility, a moderate redesign and renovation of the building or a simple remodeling of the building.
He said the town doesn’t want to spend more than $3 million on a facility.
The police department has been located in the top floor of the Four Fathers Memorial Library building since it was displaced from its home by the downtown fire in August 2012.
He’s also looking forward to seeing suggestions on the former BMO building downtown saying the town does not want to demolish the heritage building.
This year also marks Amherst’s 125 birthday and the mayor said council is working with a committee of residents to hold a series of celebrations over the year.
“We don’t want it to get too big because one of the things we heard from those involved in the 1989 centennial celebrations was it got too big and volunteers got burned out,” the mayor said. “We want to hold a community celebration that doesn’t conflict with other events and helps celebrate what’s so special about Amherst. We also hope it helps people feel a little more pride in their community.”
One of the mayor’s goals in the coming years is to grow Amherst’s population above the 10,000 mark. Amherst was one just a few Nova Scotia communities to see population growth in the last census and the mayor wants to see that growth continue.
“In 1889, when we became a town there were about 2,000 people living here. By 1961 that number had grown to 10,300, but then it dropped as people moved to central Canada. Now it’s just below 10,000,” the mayor said. “I would like to see us get over 10,000.”
Economically, the mayor said the town is in good shape with major employers like IMP, PolyCello and LED Roadway all experiencing growth in 2013. He believes the key to economic growth is small and medium-sized businesses.
“If you give people a reason to come to Amherst they will come here to raise their families and to work here,” the mayor said. “We’re taking steps to make Amherst a place people want to live.”