Warden supports it, Amherst mayor opposes it
Service sharing does not necessarily mean municipal amalgamation is next.
© Darrell Cole - Cumberlandnewsnow.com
Amherst Mayor Robert Small (right) speaks to Rotarians Jim Hatheway and Robert Angel. While Keith Hunter continues to support municipal amalgamation in Cumberland County, the mayor doesn't think it's the answer.
UPPER NAPPAN – Cumberland County’s top elected official believes increased service sharing among the region’s municipalities could lead to amalgamation, but it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.
During his year-end interview with the Citizen-Record, Keith Hunter said he continues to support amalgamation of Cumberland County’s five municipal units, but admits it’s not something he will see during his term in office.
“I hope we end up there in the long run, it’s always been a dream of mine to see amalgamation, but there are a lot of barriers still out there,” Hunter said. “There’s quite a debate about it will save money and even if it doesn’t, it’s going to make it so easy to govern.”
Hunter said the way things are right now, it the units want to work together all five municipal units have to talk and then all five have to meet to make a decision. He said some of the problems with the Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority are because representatives from all five municipalities have not been showing up at meetings, preventing a quorum.
“If we were amalgamated, a decision would be made. It may take a year or two in but we’d all be pulling in the same direction together for the betterment of one big municipality instead of pulling in opposite directions as is the case sometimes now,” Hunter said.
Amherst Mayor Robert Small is not a big advocate of amalgamation, and while he’s all for increase service sharing he disagrees that it will lead to one municipality for the region.
“From my perspective we fully support sharing of service and we’re looking for opportunities where it makes sense and where it save money. Why wouldn’t we do that?,” Small said during a speech to the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday. “Sharing of services is not amalgamation and anyone who suggests that is is just wrong. I believe we’re getting the best bang for our buck with councils. They’re the cheapest form of getting leadership from a group of people whose dollar value is less than one senior employee.”
The dollars are saved through sharing of services, but he said it’s important for each town to continue to have their own elected councils.
While the appetite locally has not been favourable toward amalgamation in the past, the warden feels the mood is improving.
“It seems to be getting better, but it’s not something that’s going to happen today,” Hunter said, adding new councillors are bringing a new view to the table. “There are a few municipalities in the Cumberland region that are financially strapped and it’s going to become a necessity for them to consider this eventually. Also, the more co-operation we can do, the lightbulb will come on and someone will realize it makes more sense to do this under one roof.”
Hunter said the Municipality of Cumberland is already working with its other municipal partners. It’s working with Springhill and Parrsboro in a regional energy office that will hopefully lead to a green industrial park and it’s working with its four county partners on a regional EMO office.
The county is also working with Amherst on a new sidewalk to the hospital, is sharing a procurement officer and is looking at merging its corporate/finance departments.
There is also discussion on sharing a community and economic development officer.