Con­tent with sta­tus quo

New Mi­nas vil­lage com­mis­sion chair­man keep­ing open mind to mu­nic­i­pal uni­fi­ca­tion

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY KIRK STARRATT KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

He’s hear­ing no great de­mand from res­i­dents to delve into a mu­nic­i­pal uni­fi­ca­tion or re­gional gov­er­nance study, but Dave Chaulk is keep­ing an open mind.

The New Mi­nas Vil­lage Com­mis­sion chair­man said the vil­lage’s ex­plo­ration of be­com­ing a town came to a halt abruptly in April 2015.

That’s when leg­is­la­tion was in­tro­duced prevent­ing towns from be­com­ing vil­lages and, con­versely, vil­lages from be­com­ing towns. In­stead, for­mer Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs min­is­ter Mark Furey en­cour­aged New Mi­nas to look to neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties for so­lu­tions.

Chaulk said for­mer Kings County chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Rick Ram­sey was in the midst of con­duct­ing a study on be­half of the vil­lage ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of be­com­ing a town when the prov­ince in­tro­duced the leg­is­la­tion that stopped it dead in its tracks.

The study was never com­pleted and reached no con­clu­sions.

“He had done some work but he hadn’t pro­gressed far enough to be able to give us any in­di­ca­tion of where it was go­ing,” Chaulk said.

The study, he said, was more about try­ing to de­ter­mine if it was eco­nom­i­cally fea­si­ble to go down that road and per­haps be­gin the process of be­com­ing a town. The vil­lage com­mis­sion wanted to get a han­dle on what the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions would be. There was a “cer­tain cu­rios­ity,” Chaulk said, but a plebiscite would have had to be held be­fore any de­ci­sions could be made. The Mu­nic­i­pal Govern­ment Act at the time had stated that one-third of the elec­tors of the area pro­posed to be in­cor­po­rated as a town can make an ap­pli­ca­tion for in­cor­po­ra­tion.

Chaulk said there seemed to be more of an ap­petite for such dis­cus­sions at the time the vil­lage com­mis­sioned the study. The Kings Cit­i­zens Coali­tion, a group lob­by­ing for a re­gional gov­er­nance study, was more vo­cal then, and there were also more is­sues with the County of Kings.

In 2014, the vil­lage wanted to join the Kings Part­ner­ship Steer­ing Com­mit­tee, a ve­hi­cle for in­ter­mu­nic­i­pal co­op­er­a­tion, but was de­nied.

At the time, Chaulk said, over­all re­la­tions were not very good.

“Ac­ri­mony would be an un­der­state­ment, and there was no need for that,” he said.

Chaulk said re­la­tions with the County of Kings have been a lot bet­ter since the 2016 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, which saw a sweep­ing change in elected of­fi­cials.

“(There’s) much more will­ing­ness on the part of that coun­cil to work with us,” Chaulk added.

No ap­petite for amal­ga­ma­tion

From Chaulk’s per­spec­tive, any ac­tions taken by the vil­lage com­mis­sion has to take into con­sid­er­a­tion what is in the best in­ter­est of the com­mu­nity and the ratepay­ers.

“I’m not con­vinced that amal­ga­ma­tion works all the time for the com­mu­nity and the peo­ple who live in it,” Chaulk said. “I think that there are things in our com­mu­nity that we have been able to do that wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily have got­ten done if there was an amal­ga­ma­tion with ei­ther the county or the towns of Wolfville and/or Kentville, for in­stance.”

He points to the Louis Mil­lett Com­mu­nity Com­plex as a “shin­ing ex­am­ple” of that. Chaulk isn’t con­vinced that the vil­lage would have the com­plex to­day if there

hadn’t been a group within the com­mu­nity that wanted to make it hap­pen. He’s also not con­vinced that the vil­lage’s recre­ation pro­gram­ming would be as strong if it amal­ga­mated with an­other mu­nic­i­pal unit or that ratepay­ers would re­al­ize huge tax sav­ings.

A study, he added, may not have ac­cu­rately de­ter­mined if there would be tax sav­ings, ei­ther, adding that it’s of­ten hind­sight af­ter the fact that it can be seen for cer­tain.

To­day, there isn’t a big de­mand from vil­lage res­i­dents to ex­plore mu­nic­i­pal uni­fi­ca­tion, and it’s very sel­dom that any­one men­tions it to him.

When it comes to the pos­si­bil­ity of a fu­ture re­gional gov­er­nance study, Chaulk says, “I have an open mind on the is­sue,” and is will­ing to con­sider all op­tions that could po­ten­tially make New Mi­nas a bet­ter com­mu­nity.

But, he adds, he would want to have an ex­pert opin­ion on the mat­ter and as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble in or­der to make an in­formed de­ci­sion.

He pointed out that New Mi­nas is very for­tu­nate and is not in fi­nan­cial hard­ship. When things are go­ing well, he adds, there’s no ap­par­ent need for change.

Dave Chaulk

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