PEI

Consultant recommends amalgamation for West River area

A third-party consultant has recommended amalgamation for five communities in the West River area.

Plan would save money and property tax for five communities, says group chair

This map shows the five communities that would amalgamate under the proposal. (CBC)

A third-party consultant has recommended amalgamation for five communities in the West River area.

About 100 people gathered at a public meeting Tuesday night to hear the recommendation.

More meetings will be held Sept. 11, where residents of Afton, West River, New Haven-Riverdale, Meadowbank and Bonshaw will each vote on the matter.

Elizabeth Wilson, an Afton councillor and chair of the West River Group, says changes to the Municipal Government Act would force each municipality to raise property taxes if they went it alone instead of amalgamating.

The act requires each municipality to have an official plan and a town office open at least 20 hours a week, Wilson said.

The tax rate after amalgamation would be 16 cents for every $100 of property tax assessment, she said, but 19 cents for New Haven-Riverdale in order to fund their black fly program.

New municipality would be P.E.I.'s fifth largest

If the communities go it alone, the property tax rate would go from 16 cents to 56 in Bonshaw, from 10 cents to 34 in Meadowbank, from 20 cents to 36 in New Haven-Riverdale, from 13 cents to 23.5 in West River, and from 12 cents to 17 in Afton, Wilson said.

Amalgamation would see the new West River municipality become the fifth largest on the Island, Wilson said, with a population of roughly 3,200.

The West River separates Afton from Meadowbank. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"I think people don't like to change. We get so that we're used to a certain way. One of the messages I heard was if it isn't broken, don't fix it," Wilson said.

"It's already broken because we have to do, as rural muncipalities, a lot more things. We're taking on more responsibilities because they've been passed onto us by the Municipal Governance Act."

Afton community centre would likely be new town office

Afton looked at creating an official plan 10 years ago and the cost would have been roughly $50,000, Wilson said. But New Haven-Riverdale already has an official plan and that could be amended to fit the new, larger municipality, she said.

As for a municipal office, that would likely be the existing community centre in Afton, which is accessible and has a boardroom. The new municipality would hire a chief administrative officer to work at least 20 hours a week.

"We've been little rural communities. Everybody does everything either by donation or for small honourariums. So the whole idea of staff is new to us," Wilson said.

'Productive and open discussion'

The act also requires municipalities to have an emergency plan — something none of the five West River area communities currently have, she said.

The act recommends each community have $200 million in property tax assessments in order to survive in the long term and Afton currently has about $132 million in assessments, Wilson said.

The goal is for residents to be informed about the options on the table, so they can have "a productive and open discussion among our residents for the future they want to see for their municipality," Wilson said.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Chapin

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