County, Springhill concerned citizens square off

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Dave Mathieson
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UPPER NAPPAN - Former Cumberland South MLA, Murray Scott, and former MP For Cumberland-Colchester Musquodoboit Valley, Bill Casey, spoke on behalf of the Springhill concerned citiznes coalition during Wednesday's meeting of County Council.

"We're a democratic country and democracy is suspended in Springhill right now," said Casey in the council chamber during Wednesdays meeting.

"Five people have decided there will never be an election for mayor and council (in Springhill)," he added. "They benefited from the democratic process but they're saying that will never happen again."

A public hearing by Casey and Scott was not on the council agenda and, initially, their request to speak to council was rejected, but then warden Keith Hunter asked council to vote on the matter. Council voted almost unanimously to allow them to speak.

Casey said he was did not come to council as an adversary but says he is very displeased with how the amalgamation process is currently being negotiated between Springhill, the County and the province of Nova Scotia.

"A lot of the people in Springhill, as far as I can tell it's 99 per cent, are against this decision because they've never been given the information and asked to come along with the decision," said Casey. "We need information, we all deserve to be heard, we all deserve a democratic process."

During the council meeting, council passed a motion read by councillor John Kellegrew.

"I move that council accept and approve the RCMP policing proposal to provide RCMP services and establish an RCMP detachment in Springhill effective April 1, 2015, conditional on the approval of the dissolution application and mergers by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, further that council requests approval of the proposal from the minister of justice," said Kelligrew.

Warden Hunter says there would be substantial savings by replacing the Town of Springhill Police Department with the RCMP. 

Those financial comparisons are currently in the hands of John Leefe, the transition co-ordinator appointed by the province to facitlitate the amalgamation process, and have not been made public.

Scott says the numbers could be skewed in favour of bringing the RCMP to Springhill. He would like to know if the numbers include the $250,000 per year the Springhill Police Department makes through background security checks, and the $200,000 grant the department gets from the province each year to have two police officers on the street crime unit.

"Those numbers have to be taken into account, but the numbers have not been released," said Scott.

It was pointed out during the meeting that all police currently employed by the town of Springhill have put in applications with the RCMP.

"All the police officers have to apply because they would have no job otherwise," said Scott. "They have no choice to apply if they want to have a living for their families."

Casey is frustrated with the lack of transparency and how the process is shrouded in mystery. He told council the entire process is flawed and says the people of Springhill are being steamrolled by Springhill mayor and council.

"If we don't maintain our democracy, and this is not a democratic process, we're all going to all suffer."

Hunter took exception to the steamroll comment.

"We're not trying to steamroll, we're just there as a good neighbour trying to help out," said the warden.

Hunter said it's not about Us vs. Them.

"We're all together in this. If we can help the town of Springhill in any way through economic development and being sustainable then we're going to do that."

He added that the county would always be mindful of the needs of Springhiller's.

"We're elected here to represent the people of Cumberland County and we try to do that as best we can," he said. "We will be looking out for the interest of Springhiller's just as much as we do for the rest of the County."

The decision for or against amalgamation is currently in the hands of the Nova Scotia Utility Review Board, and Hunter says a final decision on the matter could be made by the URB before the end of the year.

He told Casey the decision would not be based on emotion.

"Rather than having an emotional decision made it should be based on dollars and cents."

Casey said the decision would have huge consequences for the people of Springhill, and added, "It is an emotional decision because it's one of the biggest decisions made about Springhill.

"I was lucky enough to represent the people of Springhill for 17 years. They elected me six times. I know them well and when I heard this I knew the process was wrong," added Casey "I don't know about the decision because there's not enough information to make a decision when you're out of the loop."

Scott also spoke to council and kept his speech short.

"I believe there's not one person here today who would treat their constituents they way the constituents of Springhill are being treated today," said Scott.

The Springhill citizen's coalition currently has a petition with close to 900 signatures calling for a plebiscite on amalgamation.

"I can't say they're all neighbours of mine who pay taxes and I can't say some aren't constituents of yours," said Scott to council. "But if a plebiscite is allowed and the majority of people in Springhill agree with what's happening, then I'll be one of the people front and centre to make that happen, but they deserve and opportunity to have a say."

     

 

Organizations: RCMP, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, County Council Springhill Police Department

Geographic location: Springhill, Cumberland-Colchester Musquodoboit Valley, Nova Scotia Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Jack Frost
    June 17, 2014 - 06:19

    When will ppl get it thru their heads that the gig is up. You want this, you want that, but don't have the means to pay for it. I've been told 50% of the county's revenue goes to policing. That is ridiculous. An ever shrinking populace and revenues. The town should have been dissolved yrs ago. Times are a changin, roll with it or spend your days fretting about it, your choice.

  • Silas
    June 14, 2014 - 12:41

    250k a year for record checks...humm, I did the math, thats 8333 people getting a record check every year at $30 a pop...wow, so every person in town gets a record check done twice a year or more. Anyone outside of town gets it done at the RCMP office closest to them. Murray is a good man and great speaker, but his math skills are lacking a bit I think.

  • more of the same
    June 13, 2014 - 12:59

    They come whining to the county that Springhill citizens don't have a vote on amalgamation . No democracy , cry me a river . They don't mention that County citizens don't have a vote either . They selfishly forget that vital aspect . The article seems to say that they admit that they don't have a clue who signed this petition . The $ 250.00.00 per year income for security checks overlooks cost of administration doesn't it ? Hmmmmm Cost of equipment and staff eats a big part of that figure doesn't it ? That $ 200,000.00 per year funding for foot patrol was discounted in the Springhill Police estimate due to being revenue neutral wasn't it ? Mr Hunter handled this peculiar situation very well . Looking forward to competent management for Springhill and post Goofy Attempted Coup .

  • Doug.P
    June 13, 2014 - 10:32

    Democracy??? Isn't that what is being hijacked here? People voted by majority for these representatives to carry out their affairs on their behalf. The Springhill council did just that. They chose to dissolve town status in the best interest of their citizens. This so called "citizens mob" is simply trying to toss democracy out on its head when the results do not favor their ambitions. Democracy is great when the outcomes are what you want but the double edge of the sword is when it goes against the wishes of others. No one elected the citizens boo hoo club. Yet they seem to claim they can stop the democratic process in action.

  • Susan Cummings Thieleman
    June 13, 2014 - 01:21

    While not a resident of Springhill for many years, I have maintained close family and friends that do live there. I agree that you can't make decisions based solely on emotion, but at the same time, if people don't have the appropriate information, then how else are they supposed to react. Springhill has always prided itself on being a town of survivors. We've all survived something during our lives and can look back and say, "A Hiller never gives up" that option is being taken away from them. I think there needs to be accountability to the people of Springhill. When did things start to go wrong? Why weren't people made aware of it? Why did the last council not take a pay raise and the new council(including the mayor) did almost immediately upon forming? There are so many unanswered questions and I hope they are all answered before the URB makes their decision. Stand tall! Stand proud! We're the kids from the mining town!