It’s a ‘yes’: Parrsboro will ask to join Cumberland County

Mayor Lois Smith

Mayor Lois Smith

Parrsboro Town Council approved a motion tonight to ask for permission to amalgamate with Cumberland County.

“This is what I feel is in the best interests of the town right now, I really do,” Councillor David Harrison said before joining fellow Councillor Lisa Ward and Mayor Lois Smith in voting yes to the motion.

Earlier, Councillor Ron Shaw received a round of applause from the audience at the Parrsboro Fire Hall when he said he would not vote in favour.

“I will not be supporting the application for dissolution,” Shaw said. “I do not have the information available to me…to make the right decision for you people.”

Town Council voted at the conclusion of a public meeting attended by almost 100 people that lasted more than two hours.

Speaker after speaker urged councillors not to rush ahead with a decision, but after a 15-minute meeting behind closed doors, they voted to proceed with the application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB).

Former town manager urges caution

Ashley Brown calls for delay

Ashley Brown calls for delay

Ashley Brown, who served as the town’s chief administrative officer for 27 years, spoke several times against applying to join the county.

“In my opinion, there is no real need for us to be going this amalgamation route,” Brown said.

He referred to comments at an earlier public meeting on August 13 that suggested everything has been going well since Springhill joined the county on April 1.

“Four months doesn’t tell you anything,” Brown said. “If we have a concern about our own future, we should be waiting, not a year or two years, but we should wait for four years at least to see how Springhill progresses down through this thing and what rocks they hit in the river…

“It bothers me that we are being rushed into it too quick,” Brown said. “There hasn’t been a good reason,” he added, “as to why we are going with amalgamation at this particular point in time.”

Parrsboro resident Cheryl Reid called on council to give citizens a say in the decision.

“I don’t know why after all these years that Parrsboro has to go to the county when there’s no money problems,” she said adding that Lois Smith had said some time ago that Parrsboro would not go for amalgamation while she is mayor.

“All of a sudden, the council and the mayor are deciding what has to be done. We are the people of Parrsboro,” Reid said, “and I feel we have the right to have a decision in this.”

Here’s the exchange that followed:

Lois Smith: “Thank you for your comment Cheryl. Council made the decision and myself, and as I said at the very beginning [of the meeting], I was the person who called my CAO in, called my council in and said ‘let’s have a look at this, are we going to miss something down the road.’ And so, sorry Cheryl, I didn’t keep my word, but I felt I am an educated person. I have a degree from St. FX University and, as I say, I’m 72 years old and I’ve worked since I was probably 10 years old when my Dad died when I was seven years old so I do have a lot of experience.”

Cheryl Reid: “I’ve worked since I was five years old at the Ottawa House…”

Lois Smith: “Cheryl yes…”

Cheryl Reid: “I’ve donated a lot of things in Parrsboro the same as these people have, but we don’t seem to have anything to say about anything. I’m educated also.”

Lois Smith: “I’m not going to have an argument with folks. This is an evening for you people to come forward and not dwell on one particular thing. We do have open council and there are council meetings when we’re just the only ones there and a lot of the press can prove that. Anyway, is there another question?”

Earlier in the meeting, Parrsboro CAO Ray Hickey gave a presentation. He predicted that as the town’s population declines, taxes would have to rise sharply to cover the costs of municipal services and capital projects such as the sewage treatment plant that must be in place by 2020.

Editorial Note: I have tried to report fairly and accurately on what happened at the meeting, but I should let readers know that I also spoke publicly there urging council to delay applying to the NSUARB for a year to allow for more public consultations.

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6 Responses to It’s a ‘yes’: Parrsboro will ask to join Cumberland County

  1. Bev McPhee says:

    Is “Parrsboro” really asking to join the County? I would be interested in hearing comments by taxpayers who favored this decision made by some in Town Council. Your previous article dated Aug. 20, 2015 quotes Mayor Smith: “With feedback from the residents,” she said, “we do hope that we will have a clear mandate.” Without a referendum, how does one measure feedback?

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    • Susan says:

      Bev, I don’t think that “Parrsboro” is asking that question. I attended both meetings and my take on the whole thing is that the people of this town are asking for some clarity on why we should dissolve. And why must it be done now. Ashley Brown made some very good points about proceeding slower and doing studies before the application is made. I think that most of us are not saying that joining the county won’t happen, we just aren’t happy with how quickly this has been shoved at us and we would like more conversation before outside bodies become involved.

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  2. Betty Ann DeWitt says:

    Unfortunately working for years, age, or having a degree does not necessarily make you smart. There are a lot of hard working people who have toiled and tilled and blistered themselves to the bone for this town, to make it what it is. People who may have no degree (clearly not a measure of making right decisions), smart people, people who care, people who are wise enough to know things, people who are not being listened to. Many of us did not vote to be on this sled. A sled steered by people who are now taking us down a very slippery slope. A sled with no steering or brakes. We’re now at the mercy of those with misplaced power, those who we trusted to make decisions to protect our town, to make it the best they can for us. We needed more Ronnie Shaws on council. A guy who has the balls to stand up and say, “I don’t know where the sled will end up so I’m putting my brakes on until I see safe landing at bottom of the hill and not a cliff.”

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    • shsch says:

      Not being in Parrsboro at this time, I could only read about the 2 meetings the town held. From what I read, I believe one of the arguments for dissolution is concern over paying for the multi-million dollar sewer treatment plant that’s due on-line in 5 years or so. Given the limited number of customers, I assume the only way this project becomes affordable to the users is through grant support of some kind. So is it true that by joining Cumberland County somehow the funds needed will be easier to come by?

      Also, did the council meet/consult with Ashley Brown for input before making its decision? I find it surprising that the Council would not trust the judgment of someone who probably knows the ins and outs of the town better than most, if not everyone else.

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  3. LJGora says:

    This decision is the only logical conclusion given the facts: declining, ageing population, no jobs or industry for young people, deteriorating infrastructure (water pipes, side walks & roads), and the lack of transparency by the Town Council in budgetary and political matters. At the first public meeting it was shown that tax revenues are not enough to support the Town. It was also obvious that the meeting was prompted by Provincial agencies tired of municipal mismanagement of public funds. How many dissenters read the Town Council meeting minutes and understand their implications? How many of you demand clarity on the Town’s budget and expenses? Where is the Town’s Annual Report? Do you know its Five Year Development Plan – if there is one? These should be available to the public and not just on its website, but posted for public view since many in Town do not have access to computers. It is a right as a citizen to voice an opinion, BUT it is also a responsibility of each citizen to be well informed and actively participate, (and not just when you feel like it.)
    There is an illusion of fiscal “reserves”. These reserves should be allocated to the future sewer system development. The Town has not expensed funds for major infrastructure repairs, such as repairing water pipes on King and Main St, or the Bandstand and Town Hall. That’s why reserves exist, no major infrastructure work has been done, for at least 5 years as in the case of the senior housing project water system.
    Parrsboro is a wonderful place to live, but its future is not dependent upon whether it stays a chartered town or amalgamates. Its future depends on the action or inaction of the people living here. You can sit around and complain about how great it was in the “good old days” or realize that we are living in the 21st century and need to build for the future. Parrsboro aligned with the FORCE facility could develop itself into a ecologically viable and sustainable community, like Findhorn in Scotland or check out: https://www.facebook.com/OffGridSustainableLiving.
    The potentials for revitalization are there as long as you stop living in the past. Facts: Tourism is a seasonal economic factor (4 months at best). An Artist colony is quaint, but it does not create jobs. Senior retirement housing does not provide property tax revenue because it is run by the government. And, realistically, seasonal residents do not sustain a community, it is the ones who stay that create and form a community. The future of Parrsboro is in your hands and no one elses.

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  4. Having a fairly lengthy family history (Legere’s, Morris’s, Barkus/Barkhouse, & more) in and around Parrsboro, I am very curious as to what will exactly happen to ‘Parrsboro’ now, once it is simply a geographic area that is now under ‘County’ designation?
    It is one thing to stride forward with only part of all the facts at hand to make this change, but, has there been a complete study for the repercussions and ‘fallout’, so to speak, AFTER this is all said and done?

    What do we call ‘Parrsboro’ now, seeing as there is a myriad of tourist brochures for all of the business, commercial, retail, and tourist locations that state they are in the ‘TOWN’ of Parrsboro?
    I am only an outside observer, but what with plans of my wife and I’d possible retirement in Parrsboro, what will we be retiring to?

    The hospital, will it stay? close? down size?
    A volume of logistical questions come to mind on this matter, but, was it simply a decision based on the financial state of Parrsboro?

    Anyone?

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