Sharing municipal services a priority for Amherst

Darrell Cole
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Mayor Small looks ahead to 2014

Increased sharing of services and a new police facility are among the Town of Amherst's 2014 priorities.

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 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.”

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Amherst Rotary Club, BMO

Geographic location: Amherst, Cumberland County, Halifax Oxford Parrsboro Ratchford Street Nova Scotia Canada

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Recent comments

  • Town Resident
    January 06, 2014 - 14:20

    The article says that the Town is hoping the other municipal units (Springhill, Oxford and Parrsboro) join in the Regional Emergency Management. I'm not sure who was confused, the journalist or the Mayor, but the Town of Amherst was next to last in joining the venture.

  • Joe
    January 05, 2014 - 19:07

    My comment is not about Mayor Small, but I'd like to ask Will what specific jobs Mayor Haley created? Politicians DO NOT EVER CREATE JOBS, they either get the hell out of the way of job creators or they hinder them. In Mayor Small's case I see nothing but people who dislike him. No concrete anti jobs actions, just more posted hot air by puffy posters. Show me what any politician did to drive Zellers, Robbs or any business away. Economics and lack of opportunity, ie; sales & growth kills jobs. Blame the economy. 15% N.S. GST doesn't help either.

    • Bob
      January 09, 2014 - 10:40

      You gotta understand, Joe... most people who comment on this site blame Mayor Small and council for everything. It's his fault Zellers went bankrupt. It's his fault Pure Energy ran out of contracts. It's his fault Nova Scotia power is hiking rates. It's also safe to assume (by reading these comments daily) that he's also to blame for 9/11, the Iraq Invasion, the building of the Berlin wall (but not the dismantling of it) and both world wars as well. I imagine they'll blame him for the destruction of our solar system when the sun burns out in 4 Billion years but, thankfully, I won't be around to hear them whine about it. Point is... their candidates lost. They don't like that so they'll blame everything on him and council. None of them will stand up and put their names in the hat to run themselves... they're just happy they have a place to complain without actually having to do any work. He's not perfect, few people are, but instead of trying to work with council and making positive things happen, they'll simply grind against it until it fails and then smugly blame Mr. Small for that as well.

  • Clay Morrow
    January 04, 2014 - 09:35

    I can't help but think to myself that we simply cannot trust what this mayor and administration does. They've watched while our local economy has frittered away at the same time giving themselves a new town hall, raises, bonuses and wasting two million dollars on a project downtown that simply was unnecessary and not fiscally responsible. I cant trust the priorities these people set and really think someone ought to be calling Municipal Affairs to look the town over!!!

  • George White
    January 03, 2014 - 14:44

    "Shared service" is simply the act of amalgamation made in steps. Overtime, merging Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland with the "shared service model" will diminish all the backlash that was rightfully attributed to amalgamation takeovers. Sure all the players can deny it, but sharing services is a stones throw from sharing tax structures and collection. Amherst is borrowed broke and when your broke you desperately seek new streams "incomes" via the taxpayers any way you can. In this case other taxpayers not residing inside town limits. None of this will save any money, it never does, because that's not the goal of government at any level( check any budget in the last hundred years - they never reduce size). It is however a great game of musical chairs as the song of amalgamation plays in the background.

  • Mr. Chow
    January 03, 2014 - 12:42

    Hi there what about the crosswalks that have been damaged. What about that money that was wasted on that?

  • will
    January 03, 2014 - 12:13

    hey rob what we really need is jobs this town is dying look back to the mr haley years we had lots of jobs we are losing so many business and no work for our kids what do you plan to do about that

    • will
      January 04, 2014 - 17:42

      mr small where is all the jobs you made in amherst none that i can see your town has lost lots of jobs since you were elected closing of robbs closing of pure energy closing of balstronic and i think there was one more to closing of zellars you people are all the same fill your own pockets and run than town into the dirt mr haley was the man for that town it was run right and had lots of jobs to