Amalgamation recommended for Labrador West
A feasibility report into the amalgamation of the towns of Labrador City and Wabush has been released.
The report, prepared by the consultant Stantec, recommends the two towns amalgamate into one town called Labrador West. While both towns have always been separate, there has been an increase in shared services and co-operation in recent years, while at the same time there is an element of duplication.
During the hearings and public consultations, the report says there were a number of concerns, including loss of jobs in the towns, tax increases, facilities being moved from the town of Wabush to Labrador City and others.
However, consultants say there can be a variety of benefits obtained by amalgamation. Some of those include the belief by municipal staff that one town would operate more efficiently, the need for more effective coordination of services like fire and emergency services, and recreation and culture, the pooling of land resources to increase development in the area and moderate impacts in taxes for both towns. It has been predicted that overall savings would be about 2.3 per cent, with a tax saving for Labrador City and a bigger saving for Wabush.
The study also looked at other possibilities such as improved shared services and more regional co-operation.
The report says savings would be moderate at first since both towns have committed to keep the same number of municipal staff, and there have already been substantial reductions in staffing at the Town of Wabush over the past several years. However, it does says amalgamation would make it easier to find more potential savings and better productivity. Taxation is an issue that depends on many factors, and the report outlines a number of different scenarios that can be read in the full online version. The report also says Wabush brings with it some positive things such as a large amount of land, which could bring more development for the benefits of the area.
The report also suggests a new council would have seven members, with three on a ward basis, which would ensure at least one representative from Wabush. It also recommends that a separate election be held for mayor.
While it recommends amalgamation, the study looked at alternatives such as shared services. It says both towns could continue as separate entities, but Wabush would face increasing demand to reduce services in light of recent funding losses. More sharing of services such as recreation were looked at in the report .The study also says a regional services board would not be in the interest of both towns.
The full report can be seen at https://labradorwest.com/app/ uploads/2017/09/Lab-West-Feasibility-Report-09182017-FINALcompressed.pdf.
There will be public hearings and consultations beginning this month. Residents are encouraged to attend to get as much information as they can and ask questions.
In an interview last month, then Mayor of Labrador City Karen Oldford emphasized the importance of citizens of both towns to get informed on their choices and to speak out.
“A choice will have to be made, and it has to be an informed one,” the former mayor explained.
This all starts with the arrival of new councils and mayors for Labrador City and Wabush, some who will be sitting for the first time, others who have experience with the discussions on the amalgamation process that has already taken part.
Regardless, municipal politics will be lively in Labrador West in the coming months, and a decision will have to be made on amalgamation. Possibly one of the most important residents in the area will ever make.