‘Concerned residents’ questioning future of Parrsboro’s town status
A group of “concerned residents” are advertising a public meeting April 21 to discuss the town’s status and future, but Parrsboro's mayor and chief administrative officer are not among them.
PARRSBORO – Mayor Lois Smith and CAO Ray Hickey confirmed this week that the town administration has nothing to do with the upcoming meeting, and have no plans to change the town’s status, as Springhill is in the process of doing.
“I want to assure the citizens of Parrsboro and area that town council will engage the public in all decisions that are made or even considered about joining another municipality, should the need arise,” said Smith.
Posters around town are advertising the meeting “For Parrsboro residents only” at the Parrsboro Fire Hall, at 7 p.m. on Monday evening. The posters, which have no names on them, advertise it as a public meeting “called by concerned residents.” The message reads as follows:
“Concerned about the future of our community and its ability to sustain its present status? Concerned about the rising costs associated with sustaining services at our present status? Concerned about having NO SAY in the direction our community is headed or not headed? Want to have a say in our community’s future?”
The mayor said she has not been contacted about the meeting but has no problem with it taking place.
“We’re not hiding and are aware of the meeting happening,” she said. “By all means, let them proceed with their meeting, but I have no intentions of being there myself, and just feel councillors might be attacked unnecessarily.”
She suggested this group might decide to form a committee, which could then meet with council and discuss concerns it might have.
The provincial government is recommending municipal governments share services and work together, according to Smith, who said Parrsboro has been doing that successfully for years by sharing such services as fire protection, building inspection, procurement and emergency measures planning with the county and Amherst.
Town council has made it clear that it is open to any kind of idea that would be better for its citizens, according to Hickey, who pointed out that Parrsboro is not in the same position as other towns that have decided to dissolve or amalgamate.
“The ones that have looked at dissolving and amalgamating, it’s not because it was necessarily a better way of governing, as it was so much that they had to do it,” he said. “Springhill had an uncollected tax rate of 47 per cent. Literally half of their tax money was not coming in, and that has nothing to do with whether it was a town or part of the county; it was simply not a sustainable operation.”
Parrsboro’s uncollected revenue is 1.7 per cent.
In fact, Parrsboro could be worse off financially if it gave up its town status, according to Hickey, who explained that 25 per cent of the town’s current revenue is collected from other levels of government, exceeding its entire administrative costs.
“As it stands, with no debt and a large reserve situation relative to our size, potentially it could be financially negative for us as a town to amalgamate and lose that 25 per cent of income we have now because of existing as a town,” he said. “That’s before even examining issues like how would streets be maintained, parks and recreation, that sort of thing.”
That said, he reported that the town has discussed the idea with the provincial government, which is examining the possible benefits of Parrsboro giving up its town status.
No decision would be made without consulting the public, the mayor assured.
“If something should drastically happen here, that we feel it would be necessary to join the county, we would speak to the citizens first before calling a press conference or anything like that,” she said.