Springhill residents shocked at town's dissolution

People living in Springhill crowded into the town hall Wednesday, looking for answers after council voted to dissolve the town due to increasing economic pressures.

Up to 10 other Nova Scotia municipalities facing same fate as Springhill

Springhill resident John Alderson said he doesn't think Springhill's problems happened overnight but it was still a shock to the community. (CBC)

People living in Springhill crowded into the town hall Wednesday, looking for answers after council voted to dissolve the town due to increasing economic pressures.

The five-member council of Springhill in Cumberland County passed a motion to dissolve its status as a town Tuesday night.

"We understand that yesterday's decision may have been a shock to many," said Springhill Mayor Max Snow.

Those shocked residents crowded into the council chambers Wednesday and launched questions at the mayor for more than an hour.  

The answers were less than clear.

"We're not anticipating any job loss whatsoever — in saying that, let me continue that if one of the employees decides to retire or goes somewhere else for a job then obviously they're not likely to be replaced," said Snow.

There are 65 full and part time employees who work for the municipality of Springhill.

Up to 10 other municipalities facing same fate 

Even though Springhill was the latest town to dissolve, Nova Scotia Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey said up to 10 municipalities in rural Nova Scotia are facing financial failure.

"The department is actively working with two municipalities as we speak," he said.

"The discussions I've had over the past five, six weeks with municipal leaders as I travel the province — there's a tremendous amount of discussion, a tremendous amount of genuine discussion on the part of our municipal leaders specific to municipal reform and other models of government."

Furey would not name the two municipalities but said he expects they will be ready to announce their decisions within a month or so.

The communities may not all be considering joining other communities but Furey is convinced others will follow Springhill's lead, given what he's hearing.

"I think that's a real possibility. I speak again to the leadership that I'm seeing in our municipal leaders, they're putting the issue of amalgamation on the table," he said

The last time the Liberals ran the province, Premier John Savage forced the merger of Bedford, Halifax, Dartmouth and the county but there was no talk of forced amalgamations Wednesday.

"I'll be quite honest with you, we're so busy now in discussions with what I would consider uncontested amalgamations, that there'll be no need for forced amalgamations," he said.

Taxes expected to go down

Meanwhile, Snow said Springhill is in the process of applying to become part of Cumberland County. Over the next year, a transition co-ordinator will be appointed to help take the town through the process.

After that process, the community of 4,000 will be represented on the Cumberland County Council.

The town council in Springhill has passed a motion to dissolve its status as a town as of March 31, 2015. (CBC)

It's expected tax rates — which are among the highest in the province — will decrease.

But it's not clear how the area will be policed, what will happen to the town's assets or to its $5-million debt.

Snow insists not much will change.

"There will be no service change. The roads will be plowed for people to get to work, the roads will be paved and so on and you'll still have good water to drink," he said.

A combination of heavy debt, shrinking population, and difficulty collecting taxes led to the decision but some residents say they were caught off guard.

"I don't think the financial decisions happened overnight. I think they shared those issues with us overnight. It's quite a shock to the community," said resident John Alderson.

A shock, but some say it's for the best.

"I'll miss having our hometown, but I still think it's a better choice for everybody," said resident Kenny Silvea.

"You can't run the town off the backs of a few. It just can't work," said resident Jo Laurie.

The town of Springhill will cease to exist as of March 31, 2015. Snow said he and the four other members of the council will continue to govern until that time.


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