Windsor and West Hants amalgamation being forced by citizens group
West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee dismisses both the petition and the group behind it
Fed up with years of bickering between the Town of Windsor and neighbouring Municipality of West Hants, a citizens group has made an unprecedented application to provincial regulators to force amalgamation on the two municipalities.
"Its never been done before for amalgamation. This is a revolutionary act, really," said Kathy Monroe, of the Avon Region Citizens group.
"Any kind of a vision or growth for this area is stunted because of their inability to co-operate."
She puts most of the blame on "contrariness" from the West Hants council.
The municipalities have repeatedly fought over who pays for a long list of shared services used by citizens from both areas, including the water utility, library and community centre.
The last straw — or spark as it were — occurred in 2015 when West Hants voted to spend $3 million to build its own fire department. It had long disputed the cost of using the Windsor fire service.
"That's top of the list. It's the complete unwillingness to even negotiate, even to discuss. Even when consultants tell you this is the direction to go," said Monroe.
More sign petition than voted in 2012
This week Avon Region Citizens — joined by the Town of Windsor — submitted its request for an amalgamation hearing to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
Along with the application were 2,300 signatures from residents of West Hants. That's far more than the 1,699 who voted in that last municipal election in 2012, when there was a 28 per cent turnout and half the council was acclaimed.
The test to get a hearing under the Municipal Government Act requires the greater of 10 per cent or 100 of the electors in the area proposed to be amalgamated.
Warden dismisses malcontents
West Hants Warden Richard Dauphinee dismisses both the petition and the group behind it.
"You drop a block of gold on their lawn and they'd say it was killing their grass," Dauphinee told CBC News. "There's a few leaders and a bunch of followers. People signed a petition to get it out of their face."
In November 2015, West Hants council rejected amalgamation with Windsor on the grounds it was premature. The motion refused to share the cost of studying the idea.
Dauphinee said West Hants already has enough on its plate. It's still digesting Hantsport, which it absorbed after the town dissolved in 2015.
'It makes sense'
The mayor of Windsor — who announced his resignation on Friday to take a new job in Halifax — says the time is right to amalgamate.
"It makes inherent sense for the Municipality of West Hants and Windsor to become one regional government," said Paul Beazley.
"There is only 18,000 people in this area. One regional government is what's needed to break down barriers to work together to become one Avon region."
Even if they succeed in convincing the Utility and Review Board to approve amalgamation, backers says it's unlikely to occur before upcoming municipal elections in the fall of 2016.
Instead, Avon Region Citizens wants to make amalgamation the key question facing every candidate in both districts this fall.
"Our job will be to put the right people on both councils. We will ask everyone, 'do you support amalgamation?' That is the key to the future of this area," Monroe said.