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OPINION: Clarifying the record

Map depicts the proposed Three Rivers amalgamated region.
(File Graphic)
Map depicts the proposed Three Rivers amalgamated region. (File Graphic) - The Guardian

An open letter to the residents of Three Rivers on the amalgamation process

BY BRIAN HARDING

GUEST OPINION

The Three Rivers Steering Committee has written the following open letter to all residents:

The Three Rivers Steering Committee would like to advise that the 6 participating Incorporated Municipalities have all had public meetings with their own residents. Each community, excepting Lower Montague, has had their vote. (Lower Montague’s vote was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 17th, 2018.)

We fully support the unincorporated communities desire to have the same process. The Steering Committee is concerned by the continued misinformation that has been appearing in the media since the public meetings in November. We would like to take this opportunity to clarify the incorrect information.

COMMENT: Somewhere two unincorporated areas were included into the Three River’s mandate.

IN FACT: The Three Rivers Region is made up of the Cardigan Fire District, Montague Fire District and Georgetown Fire District. In these Fire Districts, there are 7 Incorporated Municipalities and 32 Unincorporated Communities.

 

COMMENT: We won’t gain a single benefit and will lose direct access to services provided by the government.

IN FACT: We all receive government services such as snow plowing, road maintenance and waste collection. Also, by being a part of an amalgamated community, residents will have much more influence with government in issues such as emergency room closures at Kings County Hospital, future senior housing needs as well as many other regional issues.

 

COMMENT: The Government drove the process from the hiring of consultants, making initial recommendations and appointing the Steering Committee who were deliberately chosen to reflect the Government’s mandate.

IN FACT: The Government had no involvement in the hiring of the consultants or the appointment of the members of the Steering Committee. The amalgamation process was initiated by the 7 Incorporated Municipalities of Montague, Georgetown, Cardigan, Brudenell, Lower Montague, Valley Field and Lorne Valley. The elected Councillors in each community appointed the Chair and one other Councillor from their midst to serve on the Steering Committee. Also, the Steering Committee hired the consultants. The Government’s only contribution was to provide the funds to allow this process to go further.

 

COMMENT: The two public meetings were monopolized by the Accountants and the Steering Committee.

IN FACT: The reason for the two public meetings was to present the Steering Committee’s proposal, that took two years to prepare (in consultation with MRSB) to the residents for analysis and discussion.

 

COMMENT: The two public meetings were the culmination of the Steering Committee work that had been held as a closely guarded secret for more than 2 years where members had to sign confidentiality agreements.

IN FACT: Yes, the public meetings were a culmination of the Steering Committee’s work which also included members from the Unincorporated areas (two plus one alternate from Montague Fire District, one from Cardigan Fire District and one plus one alternate from Georgetown Fire District) who were appointed in follow up meetings by residents of the Unincorporated areas in the respective Fire Districts in November 2016. As for confidentiality agreements, it was to ensure all residents in the region received the same information at the same time.

 

COMMENT: Most people in unincorporated areas had no idea they were even implicated in the process.

IN FACT: In August and September of 2016, two flyers were sent out to all residents in the region discussing the process and who was involved. A website was initiated where questions could be asked and answered and two public information meetings were held in October 2016. In October 2017 another flyer was mailed out to the residents with the advantages of amalgamations and the dates of each public meeting. Information was also available in the Guardian, the Graphic and CBC.

 

COMMENT: Incorporation will silence the Rural Voice.

IN FACT: It is true that the Unincorporated Communities in the three fire districts are rural. However, it is also true that of the now six Incorporated Municipalities involved in the Three Rivers amalgamation, only one, Montague, is a town. The balance are all rural/farming based communities who also pay for their own septic and water and do not have street lights or sidewalks. They have always had a voice, since they were incorporated. Why are they involved in the amalgamation? They realized that we either grow or die. Their residents are also aware that the towns of Montague and Georgetown (even though Georgetown has withdrawn) and the village of Cardigan cannot continue having their taxpayers pay the operating costs on hockey rinks, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, marinas, libraries and the Kings Playhouse that we all use at one time or another.

 

COMMENT: Proposed budget is $3,000,000.00 of which taxes will cover one half and government grants and transfers are planned to cover the rest. Grants and transfers cannot be counted on for long term. There is $358,700.00 allotted for streetlights and sidewalks.

IN FACT: The proposed budget is $2.6 million with almost $1.0 million in taxes. The balance is from the New Revenue Sharing Funding formula recently announced as well as equalization and gas tax funding. At this point, Montague, Georgetown and Cardigan are the only municipalities that receive these funds. With the amalgamation of the whole region, (because funding is based on population and/or assessment) we will receive much higher levels of funding which will support programs and services for the region.

 

Regarding the vote in the unincorporated areas on January 20th and 22nd, the question must be asked are votes being tabulated separately for each of the 32 unincorporated communities? Failure to do so would be denying those communities that may want to join in the amalgamation their democratic right to self-determination. (This would be exactly what the group behind this vote are saying the provincial government is doing to them.)

In closing, we want to say again that our website address is 3riverspei.com and you can find contact information there for all members of the Steering Committee. We urge anyone with questions or concerns to reach out to any one of us for accurate information.

 

- Brian Harding, Chair, on behalf of the Three Rivers Steering Committee

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