Georgetown is now back in the Three Rivers amalgamation.
Mayor Lewis Lavandier broke a tie vote to include the Kings County community in the amalgamation during a council meeting Monday night.
Lavandier said he felt the amalgamation proposal, which includes seven Kings County communities, will give Georgetown a chance to grow and prosper.
“None of this would be possible if we had not worked together and tried to do what’s best for our residents. I think this result tonight is certainly in the best interest of our residents,” said Lavandier, who has served on the council for 18 years. “I think it’s fantastic and I think Georgetown will grow and when I leave here as your mayor, I feel we’ve accomplished something and our future is just fine.”
Not all shared Lavandier’s enthusiasm.
Coun. Faye McQuillan, Coun. Cindy MacLean and Coun. Cody Jenkins voted against the motion.
While McQuillan and MacLean said they were not necessarily against amalgamation, they criticized the transparency of the process and felt there were unaddressed issues.
Jenkins said he did not see how services would be maintained with a decrease in property taxes and said he has always wanted to let residents decide on the issue in a plebiscite.
Deputy mayor Mark Stephen and Coun. Ronald Gallant voted in favour of amalgamation, while Coun. Phillip Hebert did not vote either way.
In P.E.I.’s new Municipal Government Act, the failure or refusal of a councillor to vote on a matter before council is considered a vote in favour, that is unless the member is excused by a resolution of council or is prohibited from voting due to conflict of interest.
Neither was the case on Monday night, with Hebert noting prior to the vote that he agreed with some arguments both for and against amalgamation.
“I don’t think what we vote on here really matters. I think (amalgamation is) happening either way and that’s where I stand on it,” said Hebert, who following the meeting said he also had problems with the entire process and felt residents should have been able to vote in a plebiscite.
Georgetown and Montague had previously dropped out of the amalgamation proposal, which would combine seven communities with several unincorporated areas.
After a steering committee made a proposal to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) with all seven communities, including Georgetown and Montague, the two towns filed objections. The commission then appointed a mediator to assist in resolving the differences between the parties, which reached a tentative agreement in late July.
The memorandum of settlement saw a number of agreements for Georgetown, including a lower property tax rate and assurances that funding for parks and Kings County Playhouse would remain at the same level.
Last week, Montague town council voted unanimously to accept the memorandum and proceed with amalgamation.
Following Georgetown’s meeting, Hebert said he found some of the guarantees in the memorandum were too vague and could include loopholes.
There were a little over a dozen members of the public at the meeting, including several residents of unincorporated areas included in the amalgamation proposal.
Prior to voting, council heard four town residents speak in favour of the motion, including two former mayors. One resident said he was undecided on the motion but disliked the amalgamation process, while another said they were against the motion.
What it means:
- Georgetown will transfer its services to Three Rivers, the tentative name of the amalgamated area.
- Georgetown’s residential tax rate will drop from 85 be 39 cents per $100 of assessment, while commercial rates will lower from $1.70 to 85 cents.
- The amount of gas tax allotted to Georgetown will be no less than what the community previously received.
- Kings Playhouse, the A.A. MacDonald Gardens and public parks will receive the same level of landscaping and maintenance. Recreational and community facilities will continue to operate at their current level and in their general location, if reasonably required, to serve residents.
Georgetown will continue to be known as the “capital of Kings County”
What members of the public had to say:
- “It is a bittersweet thing… but we must go on to a brighter future to a better hope and I know the will of Georgetonians will survive and thrive and continue to grow.” - Former Georgetown mayor Michael Gallant.
- “It all sounds good on paper, but what does the future really hold… this government, we trusted them and what did they do? They tried to close our school and we had to fight like hell to keep that open.” - Resident Ruth Chaisson.
- “I’m afraid if something is not done. We’re not going to have our rink, playhouse, boardwalk and other amenities in our community. We just won’t be able to afford to maintain them.” - Former Georgetown mayor Mark Gotell.