WINDSOR, N.S. – Hants West MLA and minister of municipal affairs Chuck Porter introduced legislation that would consolidate the Municipality of West Hants and the Town of Windsor into one new municipality. Essentially amalgamating the two units into one.
Warden Abraham Zebian, driving back to West Hants from the legislature in Halifax, said he was thrilled that the legislation is making it’s way through, adding that the residents of Windsor and West Hants will be active participants in the process.
“It’s an exciting period of time, people have more of an open mind about things and are willing to approach it,” Zebian said. “We’ve committed that tax rates will not change, service levels will not change, we’ll become stronger and more efficient.”
A coordinating committee, comprised of the Warden, Deputy Warden Paul Morton, Windsor Mayor Anna Allen, Deputy Mayor Laurie Murley, and a transition coordinator will lead the effort.
A new regional municipality is expected to be created by April 1, 2020.
Both councils passed motions to enter into negotiations with the province to consolidate in July.
According to a press release from West Hants, both councils met at West Hants council chambers with the Department of Municipal Affairs on Sept. 24, determining that consolidation of the two municipal units was the best way forward.
Zebian said specific items such as how many councillors there will be or how the districts will be drawn up, will ultimately be up to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.
He did say that a mayor, elected at large, will head the new council, rather than a warden, who is appointed by the elected council.
“Our citizen's opinions are very important, we’re going to be engaging them a lot,” he said.
One of the items he’s hoping the citizens can help decide is the name of the new municipality through a contest or some other mechanism. As of now, the new municipal unit will have the generic title of New Municipality of Windsor - West Hants, but that is expected to be changed shortly after a new council is elected in 2020.
“We want a name that represents the entirety of Hants County.”
No public consultation meetings have been scheduled as of yet, but Zebian said that will happen in the “very very near future.”
Zebian added that they’re looking into setting up a sub-council that will focus specifically on the rural areas of the region and rural issues.
The Region of Queens Municipality has been cited as a model that both the Town of Windsor and Municipality of West Hants have cited as the framework for this consolidation.
It’s a similar situation - a former town, Liverpool, amalgamating with a larger rural municipality with a variety of smaller communities sprinkled throughout.
“We have a lot going on, the twinning of the highway, a new sports complex going up, a lot of development happening all over the municipality and the town,” he said. “Eliminating that stigma… that these two units are constantly fighting and will never be able to get along, we believe this will really set us above that.”
Mayor Anna Allen said she expects this process to be the model for how other municipalities consider merging in the future.
“We are moving forward to build the best government structure that we can,” Allen said. “There were challenges to get to that point, and we’re past that, which was the first hurdle. The next piece we’re looking at is actually designing that structure so it works for everybody.”
Allen said the legislation is expected to be passed within a couple of weeks by the provincial government.
“I’ve been talking about amalgamation for the last 20 years, so it’s been a long journey for me personally, I’ve always believed this was the right thing to do for the community,” she said. “To see it get to this point with two municipal units, who have had their issues over the years, they’ve finally agreed to get something done.”
“We all know it’s not going to be easy, but we all know what our goal and our vision is.”
Allen said, “we wouldn’t dare move forward without the public” as the discussion continues.
The Valley Journal-Advertiser reached out to Hants West MLA Chuck Porter, but he couldn’t be reached as of press time.