Rothesay, Quispamsis discuss co-operation
Quispamsis and Rothesay will begin discussing the possibility of greater co-operation between the two towns.
Quispamsis councillors approved a joint committee Tuesday to be struck between the two towns to discuss "amalgamation and/or greater co-operation."
The bedroom communities in the Kennebecasis Valley outside Saint John share police and fire departments, a library, and a shopping district, but the two councils disagree often. A particular sore point has been the funding for the Qplex recreation centre in Quispamsis. People from neighbouring Rothesay will use it, even though the town refused to put money into its construction.
The mayors of the two towns also don't agree about the valley's future.
Quispamsis Mayor Murray Driscoll says he sees the committee as a careful process of preparation and study that will very likely conclude some day with a merger. "I think amalgamation is somewhere down the road, how many years out I don't know," he told CBC News. "But at this point in time our towns need to talk."
Rothesay Mayor Bill Bishop is far less willing to concede that amalgamation is coming. "I think there's room for more co-operation on planning and perhaps recreation. Does that mean amalgamation? No."
Council says no to amalgamation study
Quispamsis councillors earlier defeated a motion by Coun. Gerry Maher that would have funded a study looking at amalgamation.
Maher said he believes people in the Kennebecasis Valley see the region as one community and he'd like to see local politicians start discussing ways to work together.
"I would say that the two town councils are in the way [of co-operation discussions] because we won't give the citizens a chance to speak on it," Maher said.
"And all I'm asking is that we stand aside and we engage the citizens."
Bruce Fitch, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Riverview, said in October the PC government plans to dust off the 2008 report on local governance reform that was written by Jean-Guy Finn. Finn had recommended a massive overhaul of local governance that would see the 421 governing bodies around the province slashed to between 50 and 55.
Fitch said the provincial government opposes forced amalgamations.
"I think we could run that whole valley with one mayor and seven councillors," Maher said.
Dave Cochrane, a real estate agent in the Kennebecasis Valley, is a proponent of amalgamation, though believes the region is split on the idea.
Cochrane said he believes many people who are opposed to future amalgamation or regional co-operation revolves around whether people will be paying higher taxes.
"I would think some of [the resistance] may come from the Rothesay area that would be saying, "Look, we are paying taxes now right around what [Quispamsis] is and we already have the garbage [collection] and we already have a lot of our town with a water supply. All of a sudden we are going to be taking on an area that doesn't have those items in their taxes, maybe our taxes will go up," Cochrane said.
"So there might be some concern there."
If the 11,600 people who live in Rothesay and the 15,239 citizens who live in Quispamsis joined into a single government, the newly created municipality would become the fourth largest city in New Brunswick.