Nova Scotia

Pictou County mayors consider amalgamation

Mayors in Pictou County are debating the idea of merging their municipalities into one government as a way to save money.

Mayors in Nova Scotia's Pictou County continue to debate the idea of merging their municipal governments as a way to save money.

Wardens and mayors from the area met with Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell on Tuesday.

The province has offered $100,000 for a study on whether the County of Pictou and the towns of Stellarton, Pictou, New Glasgow, Westville and Trenton should amalgamate and share municipal services.

For MacDonell, there's one key question.

"If there's four [chief administrative officers] or five CAOs for the population they have, how much bureaucracy are they paying for when a smaller bureaucracy could actually deliver the same services?" he asked.

There are currently 41 elected officials representing 46,000 people in the area.

A governance study would look at how the municipalities are organized and whether there are ways to save money.

While some municipal leaders already support the idea of forming one government, others say more time and money is needed to study the issue.

"My bias is to do the study, but a comprehensive study, and we are hoping they will give a few more dollars towards it," said Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes.

The mayors say any study must clearly show what impact amalgamation would have on taxpayers.

"In order to go to a plebiscite or a vote, to me that's the bottom line — what effect will it have on your property taxes, service delivery? It's all encompassing," said Hawes.

"I only have one vote," said Stellarton Mayor Joe Gennoe, "but if they can prove to our council that it would save money, we'd be for it."

Westville Mayor Roger MacKay said the provincial government would have to upgrade infrastructure in the communities.

"If we are willing to do … this amalgamation and become one, the province certainly has to help out the struggling communities," he said.

The municipalities have until Sept. 30 to decide if they want to go ahead with a governance study.

But MacDonell said they would not be forced to amalgamate if they don't want to.