I love my community. I have dedicated a significant amount of my personal and professional time to the beautification of Antigonish, in particular Main Street, and making it a destination and a public space to be enjoyed by residents and visitors. This includes considering everything from benches, garbage cans, and landscaping, to signage and murals. It also includes flowers.
As you’re likely aware, in August 2020 and 2021, the Town experienced water shortages. Although official orders for water conservation measures were not issued, notices were posted asking residents to voluntarily conserve water and make wise water decisions. As a result of the shortage, in combination with the hot, dry weather, hanging flower baskets were removed at the peak of their growth. The Town cannot ask residents and businesses to conserve water while we continue to water our own flowers. That is not a reasonable or fair expectation to put on citizens.
Based on the previous two years, in 2022 a decision was made to not provide 70 hanging baskets on Main Street businesses saving thousands of dollars. In previous years, businesses purchased these baskets, but more recently the Town took on the full cost of the hanging basket program. To add to the beautification of our Main Street, self watering planter boxes were purchased.
As we look to the future and continue with plans to brighten up Main Street, the Community Enhancement Committee plans to purchase self-watering hanging baskets to replace the traditional hanging baskets which require daily watering. More planters will also be added to James Steet and all the bridge baskets and planters will return. We also look forward to continuing our partnership with the CACL as we rely on their dedicated service with watering.
But all of this comes back to the water supply. The Town of Antigonish’s main water supply is the James River Dam. It’s also the main water source for the County’s fringe area surrounding the Town. It’s not news that the Dam doesn’t meet either of our needs in times of severe drought. For supplemental supply both the Town and County rely on the Wright’s River Wells. The Wells have been independently assessed and they have proven to not be able to sustain long term pumping nor do they have the capacity for expansion. Work is being done by the Town and the County to determine new sources of water. Underground deep aquifers (a body of rock and/or sediment that holds groundwater) have been identified and test wells are planned for later this year.
But as was made clear last year, time is not on our side. On September 14, 2022, the Town issued a mandatory water conservation order. A mandatory water conversation order in the middle of September is virtually unheard of.
We know we need another water source to meet our growing demands. Since 2019, the Town has engaged with Earth-Water Concepts, a consulting firm that specializes in groundwater analysis. They have produced studies needed for the renewal of permits, conducted assessments on supplemental water needs, and most recently have provided assessments of drought conditions and potential alternate sources of water.
The Town and County own and operate separate water and sewer systems. While the County owns the pipes in the ground, the water consumed in the fringe area is purchased from the Town and the wastewater is treated by the Town. Our water and sewar systems are physically linked and significant investments are required to continue to meet the needs of our growing community.
As separate municipalities, how do we approach our water and sewer challenge? Current and future Town councils and administration are responsible for operating in the best interest of the Town. Should Town council have to choose to pay for millions of dollars of upgrades that would benefit County residents? Don’t think for a moment that we aren’t intertwined, yet we are divided by two councils having to make decisions for only a portion of the population.
New housing developments in the fringe are necessary if we want to grow and attract new doctors, nurses, working professionals, entrepreneurs, and teachers. When people are coming to Antigonish, they see our area as a whole, not two distinct units. Believe it or not, these new developments have a major influence on maintaining a thriving Main Street. So, who should have to foot the bill to accommodate the changes needed? Do we turn our backs to our neighbours and say good luck? That isn’t the reason I put my name on the ballot. I became a Councillor to do right by my community and build for tomorrow. By coming together, we eliminate the debate and get right down to solutions.
We are one community divided by municipal boundaries established over 100 years ago. Our boundaries do not define us. As a Town Councillor, Chair of the Community Enhancement Committee, and Town resident, I truly believe our whole is greater than the sum of our parts.
Chair, Community Enhancement Committee