John Leefe has been appointed as the person to lead Springhill's transition from town to its union with the Municipality of Cumberland.
HALIFAX – The man who played a key role in the successful creation of the Queens Regional Municipality has been selected to co-ordinate the transfer of Springhill into the Municipality of Cumberland.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey announced the appointment of former PC cabinet minister John Leefe as the transition co-ordinator for Springhill.
Leefe, a former educator, author and MLA for Queens from 1978 to 1999, will oversee the town’s transition into the county. The minister said Leefe will facilitate the process , as set out by the Municipal Government Act, and guide the discussion for the town to join with the county on April 1, 2015.
"Mr. Leefe understands the challenges municipalities face and the community sensitivities associated to municipal reform," said Furey. "For 33 years, the people of Queens trusted him to lead them through their collective challenges to a stronger future. The Region of Queens Municipality is a perfect example of successful municipal governance."
Leefe was elected mayor of Queens three times before retiring in October 2012.
Furey said his department will support both Springhill and the county work toward an agreement that is acceptable to both communities.
Residents, he said, will be kept aware of the process as it moves forward.
“The objective is a more viable and sustainable community for the citizens of Springhill,” Furey said.
Leefe said the transition is a great opportunity for the residents of both municipal units. He understands it was a challenging decision for Springhill, but circumstances change and Springhill must move forward in a partnership with the Municipality of Cumberland.
Leefe said both examples of amalgamation with rural communities (Queens-Liverpool and Canso-Guysborough) have worked out well and he sees no reason why this one won’t either.
"I look forward to working with these two municipalities to achieve their mutual goal of a new municipal unit that will more effectively meet the needs of local taxpayers," said Leefe. "We all recognize the necessity of moving forward with appropriate dispatch while ensuring that all interested parties are engaged and informed throughout."
He said he will be looking out for the interests of the ratepayers and the employees as he moves forward.
He also expects the process to move very quickly and that most of the work should be wrapped up in a matter of months.
“Some issues may take longer but we will certainly meet the March 31, 2015 deadline,” Leefe said.
Springhill Mayor Max Snow said the decision to dissolve the town was a difficult one and only came after a serious dialog among council members.
“There’s a lot of anxiety and a lot of worries. Our focus now is to move Springhill forward to long-term sustainability for our residents and our community,” Snow said. “We are looking forward to working with Mr. Leefe and are pleased Mr. Leefe has agreed to work with us through this process.”
Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter said the amalgamation with Springhill is an opportunity for residents in both municipalities.
“There are a lot of positives with this merger. Springhill has the prison, which gives them a lot of revenue from federal grants, it has the Anne Murray Centre and the mining heritage. It’s a great community and we are looking forward to it becoming part of the Municipality of Cumberland.
"Mr. Leefe's experience in municipal government will be an asset," said Hunter. "At the end of the day it's all about the residents of Springhill and making the transition as smooth as possible for the community."