Amherst announced Monday that it will follow the lead of the Municipality of Cumberland and withdraw from the proposed enterprise network that was expected to replace regional development agencies such as the Cumberland Regional Development Authority.
“Council’s decision not to enter into the REN that was proposed was because it was simply too large,” Mayor Robert Small said. “The county made a similar decision. There were too many people trying to do too many things and nothing was being accomplished.”
Of the 13 potential municipal partners in REN 4, Colchester and Cumberland County as well as Oxford, Parrsboro and Westville have all opted against participating.
Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter wrote Tourism Minister Michel Samson last month to indicate his municipality could not support the regional network.
“Council is of the opinion that the REN structure and principles cover too large a geographic area, we are unclear regarding service delivery and form an unnecessary and inefficient bureaucracy with the different levels of administration, oversight, priority setting and audit,” Hunter said in his letter to the minister. “It is our opinion that the most efficient method of service delivery with the maximum positive outcomes will be provided by local economic development resources.”
The Amherst mayor said his council agrees with the warden’s comments and feels the town and the county can work together to establish their own network that will hopefully bring in Oxford and Parrsboro.
“There’s no reason why we can’t work together on economic development,” Small said.
Amherst’s decision comes a year after it agreed to participate in the REN, saying it would be critical to the economy of the town. At the time, Mayor Small said the REN would be consistent with council’s priorities with respect to economic development.
Now, Small said, the organization appears unworkable because of geography and because many of the municipal partners have withdrawn.
The municipalities have been handling their own economic development after the mandates of the former RDAs were discontinued by the province. In Cumberland County, that process as also made necessary by the closure of CRDA in light of an ombudsmen’s report, forensic examination and now RCMP investigation into its accounting practices.
The RCMP is continuing its investigation of the former development agency. There’s no word on when that investigation will be completed or charges, if any, will be laid.