PARRSBORO – Should Parrsboro choose to engage in a study of how it is governed, that decision will come only from the town council table, those attending its April 22 monthly session were told.
The comments from mayor and council came in response to a petition being circulated by former mayor Stanford Blenkhorn, asking residents whether or not they want a governance study for their town.
“My understanding is that only the mayor and council can make an approach to the Province of Nova Scotia for such a thing as amalgamation,” said Mayor Lois Smith, who added that she does not believe Parrsboro needs a governance study.
The study, as proposed by Blenkhorn at a public meeting the night before, would analyze four different governance models for Parrsboro: status quo (remaining as a town); becoming a village; amalgamating with the municipality of Cumberland County; and dissolution, as Springhill recently applied for.
This study would cost up to $50,000, half of which would be paid for by Parrsboro, according to Blenkhorn, who plans to gain enough signatures to prompt council into taking this action.
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said the mayor. “I believe this council – we don’t agree all the time – but, whenever we decide or find a situation where we have to turn to our neighbours in Cumberland County, the public will be invited to sit with us and discuss it.”
Neither the mayor nor Coun. David Harrison attended Blenkhorn’s April 21 meeting, which drew a crowd of 100 to the Parrsboro Fire Hall, but both said they would like to have seen a more c-operative approach from the former mayor and longtime business operator. Smith said she expected a committee of sorts would have emerged from the session and then come to speak to council.
“Stanford is not stupid at all, I’m sure he has great ideas,” said Harrison. “It would be nice if he’d just come to committee-of-the-whole or something and talk.”
Meanwhile, he said Parrsboro is paying close attention to the developments in Springhill to see how that course pays off for them.
As for shelling out $25,000 for a study, CAO Ray Hickey pointed out that it might not be necessary in any case.
“Town council has already talked to the province, and they’re willing to examine options for Parrsboro for free,” he said. “The province was already here, said they were more than willing to look at the options and give a report to town council for free, and town council said sure.”
An audience member, Ardis Downey, said she is satisfied with the way the town operates, and is concerned how any change in governance would affect services such as water protection and snow removal.
“It’s starting to become another thriving town,” she said. “It’s beautiful. I’m happy with the way it’s run. I honestly think there’s something underhanded, the way this is coming about.”
The mayor assured Downey and others who are concerned that Parrsboro is not just going to throw away its status after 125 years just because it is “in fashion.”
“I have all the past mayors’ names in my office and I looked at them one day and thought, ‘Gee, even my father-in-law was mayor at one time, and (husband) Ross’s great-grandfather’,” said Smith. “They would be real ticked off at me if I just gave this up so fast. If there’s a reason, you people will know, then you can make that decision along with those of us who sit here.”