Commentary with Geoff deGannes
I must admit that I’ve been skeptical that anything tangible would ever result from the years of dialogue about municipal co-operation between the Town of Amherst and the Municipality of Cumberland. Finally in 2013, we saw some positive developments that demonstrate officials of these two municipal units are indeed prepared to institute some elements of municipal co-operation and the sharing of services.
Both councils were finally presented with some guiding principles in early 2013 that had been developed by county CAO Rennie Bugley and his Town of Amherst counterpart Greg Herrett. The one-page document entitled Intermunicipal Co-operation Principles Document received lengthy debate, but when all was said and done it was unanimously endorsed by both municipal councils.
The next significant step in this renewed spirit of co-operation came in September when the two municipalities signed an agreement to hire a consultant to explore the cost, benefits and potential design of a combined finance department for the two municipal units. As both Mayor Robert Small and Warden Keith Hunter stated at the time, financial management and accounting at the municipal level is becoming more complex, with increasingly stringent reporting requirements and both municipalities understand the need to work closer together in that department.
That agreement was followed a few days later by a Regional Emergency Management Agreement with the Town of Amherst joining forces with the county and the towns of Oxford, Springhill and Parrsboro. Amherst and the county also agreed this year to work together on the extension of the Maccan Water Main as well as a proposed sidewalk from South Albion Street to the Cumberland County Health Care Centre in Upper Nappan.
In late November, Amherst town council approved entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Municipality of Cumberland related to community economic development. The MOU identifies the development of a joint CED strategy that would be adopted by both the town and the county, after which an implementation plan would be undertaken. In addition, the town and county agreed to share their Community Economic Development staff resources.
At long last, talk is turning into action and there appears to be a sincere attempt to find efficiencies and provide taxpayers with better value for our tax dollar. At the same time, the provincial government certainly has a role to play in ensuring this process can move forward seamlessly. There are, after all, costs associated with some of these projects that will need provincial funding.
Hopefully, the two parties are prepared to have Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell intercede on their behalf.
At this stage it looks like 2014 will be a year of tangible municipal reform and the sharing of services between these two municipal units. It has been a long time coming, folks!
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.