West Hants res­i­dents want an­swers

Hand­ful of Wind­sor res­i­dents come out to ask ques­tions on con­sol­i­da­tion

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY COLIN CHISHOLM WWW.HANTSJOUR­NAL.CA

Any­one from the town, please raise your hands. About five go up. Any­one from West Hants? About two dozen hands go up.

While only a hand­ful of Wind­sor res­i­dents came out to a pub­lic en­gage­ment ses­sion on con­sol­i­da­tion Nov. 19, many more West Hants res­i­dents showed up to voice their con­cerns about the process.

Wind­sor Mayor Anna Allen and mem­bers of Wind­sor coun­cil led the meet­ing, field­ing ques­tions on tax rates, the pros and cons of con­sol­i­da­tion, and other ar­eas of con­cern.

Allen said the lack of at­ten­dees from the town shows that, gen­er­ally, Wind­sor res­i­dents are OK with con­sol­i­da­tion and have con­fi­dence in the coun­cil’s process.

“We have our guid­ing prin­ci­ples, which we’re go­ing to fol­low, which were de­signed by both mu­nic­i­pal units,” Allen said.

“We don’t want to think in si­los, we want to think as a com­mu­nity ef­fort,” she said.

“We do hear peo­ple’s con­cerns; it’s good to hear them and we do rec­og­nize them. Now as we’re work­ing at this, we will ad­dress those any way we can,” she added.

She said that stud­ies on how the two units op­er­ate are al­ready un­der­way, with the first one ex­pected to be out by yearend.

More pub­lic meet­ings are also planned, al­though none are sched­uled as of yet.

Con­cerns about the tax rates were one of the top ques­tions from res­i­dents dur­ing the meet­ing.

Coun­cil­lors re­it­er­ated that no coun­cil can ever 100 per cent guar­an­tee what the tax rates will be, but that their goal is to keep them the same, or lower, them if pos­si­ble.

Coun. Jim Ivey said it’s some­thing vot­ers should ask their can­di­dates dur­ing the 2020 mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion when the new re­gional coun­cil will be elected.

What’s in it for West Hants?

Dawn Allen, who lives in Cen­tre Burling­ton, wanted to know why con­sol­i­da­tion would be ben­e­fi­cial for county res­i­dents.

Wind­sor’s deputy mayor, Lau­rie Mur­ley, said some of the ben­e­fits would in­clude a re­gional plan­ning strat­egy, stream­lin­ing of ser­vices, and a lack of com­pe­ti­tion when it comes to ap­ply­ing for grants and fund­ing.

She also added that many of the ben­e­fits will be long term.

“Why do we plant a tree to­day? If we’re never go­ing to see… a full-blown tree?” Mur­ley asked. “It’s for our kids and for our grand­kids.”

Dawn Allen said she ap­pre­ci­ated the sen­ti­ment but is still wait­ing for more con­crete data — the nuts and bolts of how it’ll look.

The Cen­tre Burling­ton res­i­dent, who has al­ready at­tended a cou­ple of West Hants town hall meet­ings on the topic, said she wasn’t sur­prised that there were more folks from West Hants than Wind­sor.

“I know how my friends in Wind­sor feel al­ready; they don’t think it can be any­thing but good,” she said. “I think that it re­flects the con­cern that West Hants peo­ple have.”

She said the Avon Re­gion Cit­i­zens Coali­tion pe­ti­tion is also a sore spot for many, which be­gan the most re­cent wave of amal­ga­ma­tion dis­cus­sion and de­bate.

“The fire ser­vices is­sue that was go­ing on at the time coloured peo­ple’s de­ci­sion to sign,” she said.

She added that de­spite the cost, a plebiscite on con­sol­i­da­tion was war­ranted.

“I’m wor­ried about where all of this is go­ing to go.”

She’s also con­cerned that the tran­si­tion com­mit­tee is made up of peo­ple who are from ur­ban ar­eas, in­clud­ing Wind­sor’s mayor and deputy mayor, who both live in Wind­sor, as well as West Hants War­den Abra­ham Ze­bian, who lives in Fal­mouth, and West Hants’s deputy mayor, Paul Mor­ton, who lives in Hantsport.

Some West Hants res­i­dents were also con­cerned about rep­re­sen­ta­tion on a new coun­cil, and how the elec­toral bound­aries will be dis­trib­uted.

The mayor said the county pop­u­la­tion out­num­bers the town five-to-one, and there­fore, should have more clout on the new coun­cil.

For­mer West Hants coun­cil­lor Shirley Pi­neo, who has also at­tended many of the West Hantsled town halls, said she’s wor­ried that the more ru­ral elec­toral districts will have to be mas­sive in size in or­der to sat­isfy pop­u­la­tion par­ity with more ur­ban parts of a new coun­cil.

Al­though the Nova Sco­tia Util­ity and Re­view Board de­cides the new districts through a bound­ary re­view, Wind­sor coun­cil­lors agreed that it’s im­por­tant to en­sure fair­ness in how the new districts are drawn.

Tough pill to swal­low

Leonard Frenette, a Wind­sor res­i­dent, said he came to the meet­ing to stay up to date on what’s hap­pen­ing.

“It’s some­thing that’s be­ing told to them by the provin­cial govern­ment that this is go­ing to hap­pen,” Frenette said. “(Coun­cil) has a job to do, and it’s not an easy pill to swal­low.”

Frenette said he’s hope­ful that if con­sol­i­da­tion moves for­ward, that tax rates will go down across the board.

Frenette, a re­tired truck driver, said he’s worked with peo­ple from all over Wind­sor and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“I’ve worked with peo­ple from down the Ch­ester Road, down the Shore, from all over,” he said. “In one way or an­other, we all work to­gether; we might not be right be­side each other, but we work to­gether.”

COLIN CHISHOLM

Mem­bers of Wind­sor coun­cil an­swer ques­tions about con­sol­i­da­tion, ad­dress­ing a largely West Hants res­i­dent crowd, at the Hants County War Me­mo­rial Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on Nov. 19.

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