Sackville Town Council is urging the Higgs government to abandon its plan to amalgamate the town with the Village of Dorchester and their surrounding local service districts (LSDs).
In a letter sent to Local Government Minister Daniel Allain, Sackville Mayor Shawn Mesheau writes:
“We are recommending that the boundaries for the Town of Sackville remain as is. Under the present geographical boundary, the Town would continue to have a population of 5,331 and a tax base of $662,069,250.”
Mesheau’s letter, formally approved yesterday by Sackville Town Council, says those tax base and population numbers meet the criteria first outlined in the 2008 Finn Report which suggested municipalities need a minimum of 4,000 people or a $200 million tax base.
The letter goes on to recommend that the province create a second municipality in the Tantramar region consisting of the Villages of Port Elgin and Dorchester with surrounding LSDs that include places such as Westcock, Wood Point, Pointe de Bute, Baie-Verte, Cape Tormentine and Murray Corner.
The letter says that second municipality would have a population of 4,824 and a tax base of $423,776,700.
Sackville’s letter says the creation of that second municipality would give the town “a partner to co-ordinate with on regional projects or developments.”
It reiterates town council’s opposition to the forced amalgamation of Sackville with other communities.
It also says the province would need to consult with the communities that would be merged in that second, Tantramar municipality.
In a passing reference, the letter does seem to acknowledge the possibility of Sackville merging with nearby LSDs.
“It is important to note,” the letter says, “that the Town is not opposed to regional collaboration or expanding our boundaries where it makes sense fiscally, and we are open to further discussions with your department and regional stakeholders as you embark on the restructuring process.”
Special closed-door meeting
The letter outlining Sackville’s proposals was discussed during an hour-long meeting on Wednesday afternoon that was closed to the public.
Town council formally voted to authorize Mayor Mesheau to sign and submit the letter to the minister afterwards during a public session that lasted about 90 seconds.
Councillor Matt Estabrooks, who favours the province’s plan to amalgamate Sackville with Dorchester and their surrounding LSDs, was not present.
Councillors Allison Butcher and Bruce Phinney were also absent.
When it became known on Monday that council was planning to discuss its alternative proposal in a closed-door session later in the week, CHMA reporter Erica Butler wondered why the meeting would not be held in public and she raised the matter during council’s public question period.
“Quite frankly, the discussion is going to be very informal,” CAO Jamie Burke answered.
“We’re kind of looking down the barrel of an unknown gun,” he said.
“We’re going to be talking about things and saying things that are going to impact our legal, HR, land, all of those issues allow us to go in-camera,” Burke added.
“It’s just an opportunity for us as a group to go into the meeting informally and kind of hash this out.”
For her part, Butler remained unconvinced.
“It doesn’t sound to me like there’s justification for going in camera,” she said.
“Being able to feel that you can speak informally is not a justification for going in-camera and really that should be on the public record, that meeting,” she added.
“It’s a very important discussion…it should be a public meeting.”
To read the town’s letter to Minister Allain, click here.