Joint coun­cil seek­ing rel­e­vance

Push­ing for more shar­ing of mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices


A re­gional mu­nic­i­pal body that some say has been largely in­ef­fec­tual in re­cent years is mak­ing a con­certed ef­fort to ini­ti­ate greater co-op­er­a­tion among the 11 town coun­cils it rep­re­sents from Bri­gus to Vic­to­ria.

Dur­ing a sparsely at­tended meet­ing in Cupids on April 25, mem­bers of the Con­cep­tion Bay North Joint Coun­cil de­cided that it would seek to be­gin se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions about the pos­si­bil­ity of towns work­ing to­gether in the three fol­low­ing ar­eas — re­gional gov­er­nance, garbage col­lec­tion and the man­age­ment of wa­ter and wastew­a­ter.

It’s a bold man­date for a group that has seen as few as seven mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers show up at a monthly meet­ing, but those driv­ing the agenda say it’s time for the joint coun­cil to get its nose dirty, and prove that it can be a force for pos­i­tive change.

One mu­nic­i­pal leader said the joint coun­cil will never be taken se­ri­ously un­less “it re­ally digs its teeth into some­thing im­por­tant to the re­gion.”

Greater re­gional co-op­er­a­tion and the shar­ing of ser­vices is a con­cept be­ing heav­ily pro­moted by the provin­cial govern­ment, and there are sev­eral ex­am­ples of this in the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion re­gion, in­clud­ing the Bay de Grave re­gional ser­vices board, which serves Cupids to North River.

Empty chairs

“We need to talk about more than pot­holes,” added Wayne Rose, man­ager of the Town of Bri­gus. Rose was the only mu­nic­i­pal em­ployee in at­ten­dance.

“Once we start tak­ing on re­gional is­sues, the sup­port will come,” said an­other elected mem­ber of coun­cil. “Right now they’re say­ing we’re do­ing noth­ing.”

In all, there were 14 mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers in at­ten­dance at the April 25 meet­ing, held at the Cupids Legacy Cen­tre. There were plenty of empty chairs, which Clarke’s Beach town coun­cil­lor Roland An­drews de­scribed as a “ma­jor prob­lem.” An­drews serves as sec­re­tary with the joint coun­cil.

Towns rep­re­sented at the meet­ing in­cluded Bri­gus, Cupids, South River, Clarke’s Beach, Spa­niard’s Bay and Car­bon­ear. There were no rep­re­sen­ta­tives from North River, Bay Roberts, Up­per Is­land Cove, Har­bour Grace and Vic­to­ria.

“I can’t get any­one to go,” said South River Mayor Arthur Pet­ten, adding that a con­certed ef­fort should be made to in­spire more en­gage­ment with the joint coun­cil.

In 2012, the joint coun­cil hosted eight meet­ings. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pro­vided by Coun. An­drews, Up­per Is­land Cove has the dis­tinc­tion of at­tend­ing the fewest meet­ings — three. Three oth­ers — Bay Roberts, North River and Spa­niard’s Bay — sent rep­re­sen­ta­tives to four meet­ings. Only Clarke’s Beach had rep­re­sen­ta­tives at all eight meet­ings, while Bri­gus and Car­bon­ear were present at seven meet­ings. All oth­ers were some­where in be­tween.

At­ten­dance at meet­ings ranged from a low of seven coun­cil mem­bers to 20.

Chang­ing mind­set

One of the knocks against the joint coun­cil is that it has not done enough to fa­cil­i­tate shared ser­vices or re­gion­al­iza­tion, but that ap­pears to be chang­ing, based on dis­cus­sions as the most re­cent meet­ing.

The deputy mayor of Spa­niard’s Bay, Tony Men­chions, said area lead­ers need to start think­ing re­gion­ally.

“Peo­ple are still of the mind­set that if it’s out­side their bound­ary, it’s some­one else’s prob­lem. We have to change that,” he said.

He de­scribed the dis­cus­sions tak­ing place at the meet­ing “a step in the right di­rec­tion.”

There was plenty of talk about a re­gional ap­proach to garbage col­lec­tion, and per­haps shar­ing equip­ment such as a wa­ter leak de­tec­tion sys­tem.

“We don’t all need one of those,” said Rose.

There was also dis­cus­sion about the way fire pro­tec­tion is de­liv­ered in the area, with a half-dozen vol­un­teer fire bri­gades serv­ing a pop­u­la­tion that is stretched over some 40 kilo­me­tres of Con­cep­tion Bay shore­line.

“It’s a rat race,” said one of­fi­cial. “It’s a race to see who will get (to the emer­gency) first.”

It was sug­gested there should be two to three fire de­part­ments in the re­gion, staffed by a com­ple­ment of paid and vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers.

“How many fire de­part­ments to we need? We ex­pect govern­ment to cut back. Should we be any dif­fer­ent?” asked an­other elected leader.

Town of CBN?

The com­mon com­par­i­son was the Town of Con­cep­tion Bay South, where a col­lec­tion of com­mu­ni­ties merged many years ago, and “th­ese smaller com­mu­ni­ties still have their iden­tity.”

One leader said “the day is com­ing, and re­gional govern­ment is com­ing, too.”

Mayor Pet­ten (South River) said if there’s to be any talk of re­gion­al­iza­tion that non-in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties such as Roaches Line, Makin­sons and Port de Grave “should be yanked into it.”

While most are in favour of shar­ing ser­vices and greater co-op­er­a­tion, it wasn’t un­til the word amal­ga­ma­tion was ut­tered that voices be­gan to rise.

Pet­ten de­clared, “I am 100 per cent against amal­ga­ma­tion, but I’m 100 per cent for shared ser­vices. I’m not go­ing to give away my good lit­tle town.”

An­other coun­cil­lor em­pha­sized, “we are not talk­ing about amal­ga­ma­tion,” though Roland An­drews blurted, “The Town of Con­cep­tion Bay North wouldn’t be too bad.”

“Not at all,” added Harold Ak­er­man, deputy mayor with the Town of Cupids.

The joint coun­cil has sched­uled its next meet­ing for May 30 in Bri­gus.

Photo by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

There were plenty of empty chairs at the April 25 meet­ing of the Con­cep­tion Bay North Joint Coun­cil, held in Cupids.

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