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The chair of the Fundy Regional Services Commission says trust issues are preventing its members from making any progress. (CBC)

Local service districts in southern New Brunswick are firing back at the chair of the Fundy Regional Service Commission, who on Monday said their lack of participation at monthly meetings makes them "just a frustrating place to be."

Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Grace Losier said she is growing frustrated over the lack of progress its Region 9 members have made over the past 16 months.

She said suspicion among the LSD representatives is largely interfering with their efforts to work together.

"She's certainly not building bridges by saying such things," said Joan Seely, Simonds' representative.

"The chair seems to imply that the LSDs have created some sort of drag on [discussions] … The LSDs have four votes on that board, the municipalities have five.

"So there should be no question as to who is in charge there."

Seely concedes she isn't a fan of regional service commissions and would rather see them abandoned.

"They're virtually taxation without representation," she said.

"I don't see them as providing much of an improvement in local governance."

Seely also agrees that trust is an issue between LSDs and the municipalities, but she says it's with just cause.

"There was an attempt earlier by an arena in the Grand Bay-Westfield area to tax the people of [nearby] LSDs … even though these people had very few numbers utilizing the arena. They went to a vote on that twice," Seely said.

"So I think they're hard put by doing such things."

Regional service commissions were legislated by the province in 2012 as a way for municipalities and local service districts to work together.

Divide occurs with services, says Pennfield LSD

David Szemerda, chair of the Pennfield LSD in Regional Service District 10, says the vast majority of rural residents have no interest in the services provided by municipalities.

"I have taken my kids to the aquatic centre perhaps twice in 10 years and on both of those occasions I recall that I had to pay," Szemerda said in an e-mail to CBC. 

"However, normally if my kids what to swim, they go to a pond or lake.

"If I wish to go for a walk, I do not go to Rockwood Park, I go for a walk on many of the trails I cut in my backyard.

"Why would any of us want to have municipal water? In 15 years there has not been a single boil order with my well water," said Szemerda.

Szemerda says rural residents only desire basic emergency services and waste disposal, which they already pay for.

He says if municipalities can appreciate that their services are met with little interest in rural communities, some progress could be made in regional service commissions.

"All most of us really want is to be left alone with our lack of services and live our rural lives," he said.

In August 2013, Saint John Mayor Mel Norton was pushing for more regional co-operation at the Fundy Regional Service Commission.

He asked the commission for a report on how local communities already collaborate and ways they could collaborate more in the future.

But that idea fizzled out.

In July 2013, a bid by Saint John to explore regional policing was also spiked by the commission.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified David Szemerda, chair of the Pennfield local service district.
    Apr 17, 2014 11:26 AM AT