County/Springhill union could see elected mayor, 10 councillors

Councils reach general consensus on new governance model

Andrew Wagstaff
Published on July 30, 2014

Transition manager Brian Smith presented a discussion to Cumberland County council and Springhill town council during a county council meeting at the Advocate Fire Hall on July 30, while county councillors Lynne Welton, Dan Rector and Mike McLellan look on.

Andrew Wagstaff - cumberlandnewsnow

EAST ADVOCATE – How Cumberland County council would look with representation from the town of Springhill began to take shape here during the July 30 session of county council.

Mayor Max Snow and Springhill’s four town councilors joined the members of county council for the session, particularly for discussion on a paper prepared by transition manager Brian Smith, which outlines several options and issues as the proposal for Springhill’s dissolution is prepared for presentation to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The majority of elected officials from the two municipalities were in favour of maintaining a 10-member county council, with Springhill likely absorbed into districts 7 and 8. The majority was also in favour of being led by an elected mayor, rather than the current system of councillors choosing a warden from among themselves. All, including the Springhillers, were against village status for Springhill.

The closest vote was for the mayor versus warden issue, with nine preferring en elected mayor, and six favouring the warden system. All five Springhill representatives supported having a mayor, while Warden Keith Hunter, who has served in that capacity for several years, was among those ready to switch to an elected mayor system.

“I was of two minds at one point, because someone like Ruth Allen from Port Greville would never become mayor because the population there is so small, and the same thing here with Don Fletcher,” he said. “Maybe the mayor will come from Springhill next time because the population there is larger. Still, in saying that, in representative government the people of the county should be able to choose their own mayor.”

With regards to the size of council, Hunter said they have to consider Ray Ivany’s One Nova Scotia report, which recommends smaller, more efficient municipal governments, but also consider the large geography of some of Cumberland County’s districts.

“My preference would be 10, because it wouldn’t increase the (size of the) districts all that much as far as geography is concerned,” he said. “It would reduce the number of councilors substantially, but with 20,000 people, 10 councillors is plenty.”

The warden was one of 11 in favour of having a 10-member council, while two were in favour of having 12 councillors, and two were in favour of having eight.

Snow, who explained that the decisions of his council would be pending a meeting on Aug. 5, was one of those in favour of an eight-member council.

Most, like Springhill councillor Darrell White, were fine with either eight or 10 members of council.

“I recognize that we need to reach a consensus on this matter, and eight or 10 isn’t going to make or break what the county looks like after dissolution,” he said. “Either of those scenarios is workable, in my view.”

As the transition committee works to gather evidence to file to the utility and review board by Aug. 28, Smith said the July 30 discussion was a good start in moving the issue forward. Meanwhile, both municipalities will continue to consult, and a consultative process will begin in the fall to discuss district boundaries.

Transition co-ordinator John Leefe, who was also on hand for the meeting, reminded all that the process goes beyond what the councillors think, and that listening to the electors will be an important factor in assisting both municipalities in their decision making.

“It’s not just a matter of what I think as a member of council, it’s a matter of what I think after I’ve listened to the electors, and they’ve had an opportunity to look at various options under consideration by council,” he said.

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