Montague changes heart on idea of new Three Rivers region

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 23, 2016

Rookie Counc. Daphne Griffin was one of the first to have a change of heart about amalgamation after residents raised concerns. She said the decision to rejoin the amalgamation talks was all about democracy.

©THE GUARDIAN/Steve Sharratt

Will rejoin discussion on creating new administrative area of seven communities, 8,000 people

MONTAGUE – The Magnificent Seven is back after the town of Montague had a change of heart this week and will rejoin six other communities in discussions to create a new Three Rivers region.

In a surprise decision Monday night, the council opted to rejoin the gang and, like the old western movie, test the co-operative waters.

“I guess you could say the council had a change of heart,’’ said Coun. Wayne Spin. “I think some of us felt differently after thinking things over and our decision to rejoin was unanimous.”

The decision follows recent public pressure by some citizens who were disappointed when the town opposed the size of the proposed seven-community region and dropped out a few weeks ago. The town said it preferred the boundaries of the town’s fire district only. Many people petitioned councillors to stay with the regional talks if only to glean information on the regional plan options.

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“I respect your decision to change,’’ said former mayor Merrill Scott during the council meeting. “I’m glad on behalf of all our citizens that we will be at the table to learn about the amalgamation process and decide whether we want to be part of it.”

The Three Rivers concept is intended to see seven communities join forces as one regional unit with a population of 8,000 people. Communities involved include Georgetown, Lorne Valley, Cardigan, Brudenell, Montague, Valleyfield and Lower Montague. The six other communities have continued meeting since Montague pulled out but will now welcome the seventh member back.

A proposed region would allow for greater revenues to be sought from both the province and federal governments and be based on “target taxation” in which those who don’t have the full services of sidewalks, streetlights or waste and water services would not pay for them.

“I think it’s best to safeguard the interests of the town by being part of it,’’ said rookie Coun. Daphne Griffin, one of the first to change her mind and support the motion to rejoin the talks that was introduced by Coun. John MacFarlane.

Ironically, Premier Wade MacLauchlan, guest speaker at the Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce business awards last week, mentioned the importance of a Three Rivers region twice during his speech.

“This is a good night to acknowledge the considerable effort and leadership involved in the initiative to create strong regional government in the Three Rivers area,’’ said the premier. “The province encourages this initiative with funding support and we look forward to further stages of this work.”

The comment caught the ear of many elected officials in attendance, including a table full of Montague councillors attending the banquet.

It is expected the communities will now hold a series of public meetings to explain the regional concept and gather public opinion.

ssharratt@tc.tc

Twitter.com/Guardiansteve