Community Editorial Panel with Jerry Randall
I was at a dental office yesterday, and while I was waiting got into a conversation with a lovely older lady by the name of Mrs O’Brien from River Hebert.
She had started the conversation by telling me about certain difficulties she is now experiencing with her husband who is not quite up to par health-wise, and who now requires much of her time and attention, which severely limits her ability to get out to take care of dental matters and other personal needs.
She relies on others to stay with her husband while she’s away, and I could tell she was a bit antsy about getting back home.
From there the conversation went on to tell me about how things were getting better again down in “the River.” She said they have a gas station now, at the same location where a previous station had been, but now cleaned up and operated by the same person who had closed it down a year or so ago. She said that service returning there was very important to the village and it’s residents, and she thinks a greater percentage of the areas drivers are trying harder to support the business in an effort to keep it there.
Mrs. O’Brien went on to say that things are much better now at the Co-op grocery store, and gave very high praise to one particular female employee. She said the place is all newly painted and cleaned up, and she now sees citizens leaving with a full compliment of groceries instead of just a quart of milk. Local appreciation that this business has been cleaned up and is offering improved service is obvious.
We concluded with a brief discussion about the long-suffering school issue, now resolved. The much-needed work on the high school is proceeding well, she reported, and when all is completed the former high school will become a P-12 facility and a source of pride for all the community.
“Mrs. O’Brien, our short time together was indeed a pleasure for me, and I was so glad to get your perspective on what’s happening in your community of River Hebert. Your pride in the village is quite obvious. I wish you well as you continue to care for your husband, Perhaps someday you can campaign for River Hebert to be recognized as a town, and you can run for mayor. You are certainly a great ambassador/”
Well, it seems that Springhill is headed in a different direction, with the application from the mayor and council to the NSUARB to turn that historic town into a village. From where I sit, the whole matter seems to be based on the town’s high debt level, with no plausible means in sight to reduce that problem to a manageable level. It seems that a raging controversy has sprung up (What? In Springhill? Never!)
It seems the issue is not with the debt figures, but whether or not the mayor and council were responsible to consult the community about such a move before actually making their application to the UARB, if not legally, then at least morally.
I am told the UARB has been in town for an initial meeting, and has given special status to the citizen committee apparently headed by former MLA Murray Scott and MP Bill Casey, both of whom have spoken out strongly in favour of a formal plebiscite offering various options to the citizens.
It might appease some disgruntled people there, but overall, at this point, it looks a though it might be a matter of too little, too late. I think any effort to involve the taxpayers of that old town should rightly have happened before application was made to the UARB to dissolve the town status and turn the town into a part of the Municipality of Cumberland with the status of village. Really, such action by council to involve the citizens in the financial plight of the community should have happened decades ago. That would have been the right thing to do! But now, time has defeated the purpose. The debt is so high against the low tax base that repayment of the debt is no longer possible. Years ago it might have been possible to fix the matter. Now it’s too late!
Its all in the hands of the UARB now, who will present their findings soon. In the meantime citizens of Springhill, be careful what you wish for. Any withdrawal of that UARB application could easily result in a very hefty property tax increase as a way to get that debt reduced. It took decades to create it. It could take decades of tax pain to reduce it.
Are you prepared?
Jerry Randall is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.