Baddeck residents overwhelmingly vote no to dissolving village
Voters wanted to see financial statements but commissioners say that's not possible
Residents of Baddeck, N.S., have overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to dissolve their village and merge with Victoria County.
The village commissioners voted to start the dissolution process last month, saying they don't have the resources to continue with services such as sewer, water and sidewalk clearing.
However, the electors say they are not ready to give up just yet.
More than 150 people attended a special meeting on Thursday night at the Inverary Resort to consider dissolution and many had questions, but most were frustrated at the lack of answers.
Resident Tracey Campbell said there were no handouts at the meeting and no financial statements.
"It's very difficult to make a decision of this magnitude when you don't have that kind of information," she said.
Throughout the evening, commissioners said they could not provide all the answers due to legal issues involving personnel.
In October, they fired the chief administrative officer and hired former Richmond County and Port Hawkesbury CAO Maris Freimanis to take over on an interim basis.
Freimanis said the village has not produced audited financial statements for two years and said two accounting firms he spoke to say it will be "almost impossible" to do so now.
He said there is money in four of the village's six bank accounts, but most of it is earmarked for specific expenses and can't be used for general operations.
"I'm not going to say we're bankrupt, but we're very borderline," Freimanis said.
The village used to have its utility and tax bills sent out by Victoria County. The previous administrator was in the process of trying to do that herself this year.
Freimanis said the bills are now going out late and the village needs the money to come in to continue operating.
Michele Stephens was the only village commissioner who spoke against dissolution.
"Once we get through this quagmire that we're in right now, yes, I do believe that we have a great future and I don't believe it's all doom and gloom," she said.
Several residents suggested postponing the vote on dissolution until financial statements could be produced, but when the commission would not entertain that idea, some said their only option was to vote against dissolution in hopes that financial statements could be produced and brought back to the public at a later date.
By a show of hands, no one voted in favour of dissolution. Many hands went up in opposition and commission chair Bill Marchant said there was no need to count.
After the meeting, Marchant said coming up with financial statements is not realistic.
"I don't believe it is," he said. "I'm not sure why they couldn't understand that."
Marchant said dissolving the village would not have changed the character of the community.
It would simply have been a change in governance with the larger county operating village services.
The commission chair said there is a little time to figure out next steps, but he is not sure how much and it's not clear what can be done.
"I'm going to go home and think about things," he said.
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