Amal­ga­ma­tion rec­om­mended for Labrador West

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MIKE POWER

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://labrador­ 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.

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