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, 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.