County, Springhill, transition team start talks

Christopher
Christopher Gooding
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UPPER NAPPAN  – The man responsible for transitioning Springhill into the Municipality of Cumberland County met with representative for both parties this morning, officially making the start of the process, which will end in April 2015.

Day-one of transitioning Springhill into the Municipality of Cumberland County started Monday morning, and with it a lot of reading material from the Town of Springhill for transition coordinator John Leefe.

“We have until exactly March 31, 2015, to get things done,” John Leefe said at the Municipality of Cumberland County office on Monday.

This isn’t Leefe’s first crack at transitioning a town into a county – Leefe also helped steer a merger between the former town of Liverpool and Queens County – so a lot of the questions taxpayers in Springhill and the county, Leefe can offer broad strokes to paint a picture for people, but cautions the finer details will come over the next 12 months.

Moving forward, the decisions the town and county will have to decide on will not be his to make, Leefe explained. Instead, it will be made by representatives for Springhill and the Municipality.

“I am anticipating two voting members from each council and of those I hope at least two of them are the mayor and warden,” Leefe said. “It’s important the decisions being made are made by the people elected to make them.”

In the event of a tie, Leefe would cast the deciding vote, but in his own experience there were only one to two times he had to step up like that when negotiating the transition between Liverpool and Queens county. Nonetheless, one of the first issues the transition team is looking at is one that could draw that tie-breaking vote.

“It’s no secret Cumberland County polices with RCMP and Springhill has its own police force,” Leefe said. “That’s a question that has to be answered. In the case of HRM [Halifax Regional Municipality] they decided to retain both but, it is, a decision that needs to be made early.”

All services in Springhill will be on the table for discussion, Leefe said, because the level of services taxpayers receive in Springhill will determine its tax rate. The intention is for the rate to be less than the current $2.25 per $100 of assessed property residents pay right now and, while less of that tax could be spent towards general government, a portion will go towards paying of the $5.1 million debt that lead to the town’s dissolution. That debt is Springhill’s to bear, Leefe said.

“It would be unfair for people who did not incur the debt to pay off some or all of that debt,” Leef said.

In the case of Liverpool, its rate was able to retire the former town’s debt within five years of joining Queens County. Presently, 60-cents of Springhill’s $2.25 tax rate go towards the debt and the remainder goes towards government and services.

A comparison of Springhill and  Cumberland County bylaws will also be part of the discussion, and this is where county residents could see a change , Leefe said. The best practices needed to be adopted and with two municipal governments having their own pool of polices to choose from, sometimes Springhill could see some changes and other times it could be the Municipality.

As the process develops, communication with the taxpayers is going to be a crucial component of the transition, Leefe said. Many were caught off guard and felt left in the dark about the decision to dissolve Springhill. Leefe hopes the transition will be the opposite.

“We’re developing a communication strategy. We know a lot of questions on peoples minds cause we’ve went through this before,” Leefe said. “We have some of the answers, but not all of them yet. As soon as we have them we will get them out, but we want to have the right information – good information. We certainly hope that will be achieved and every effort is being made.”

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Springhill, Cumberland County, Liverpool Queens

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  • noodle
    March 18, 2014 - 09:59

    That's right, sell off everything! Turn that god-forsaken place into a ghost town. Those people don't need the homes and properties they've worked for all their lives. I'm with you, let's punish the entire population of Springhill - kids, old ladies. They deserve it for allowing their town to go into debt in the face of unyielding economic pressure. The province already said it would take care of the transition but I agree with you, that's not enough - if it costs the county even a dime of extra expenses to help out its desperate neighbour we should squeeze it right out of the hide of every Springhiller. If the community of Springhill wasn't such a bunch of slackers they'd have fired every every non-resident staff member who takes a paycheque out of Springhill without putting anything back in and hire only local taxpayers. Oh, wait a minute, that wouldn't be fair because it might put some of the people who are paying property taxes to your community out of work. Oh well, maybe we could just move all of the Springhillers to your community and put them on welfare.

  • Mad Mac
    March 17, 2014 - 20:56

    I wonder if this is going to cost the county taxpayers and how much? The town would also have some assets to sell.

    • noodle
      March 18, 2014 - 10:19

      How many county taxpayers actually make a living in the county? I'm sure most of them work in towns like Amherst and Springhill. In fact, a large number of county taxpayers are employed at the Springhill Institution. There probably would've been even more working there if the County Council had supported Springhill's bid for the new jail, but what was the comment County Councilor John Kellegrew made again... "Put it any place but Springhill."