Antigonish

News

A Letter to the Community

October 28th, 2022

Dear Antigonish Residents,

At two Special Council meetings held on October 20, 2022, the Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish voted to move forward with consolidation.

We understand and respect the varying views, differences of opinion and strong emotions some residents feel with respect to consolidation. However, we feel obliged to speak up concerning the disrespect, taunting, intimidation and threats shown towards several Town & County Councillors, Warden McCarron, and especially Mayor Boucher.

Mayor Boucher, in particular, has been experiencing personal attacks, anonymous voicemails, and defamatory social media comments, some of which have been reported to the RCMP. This is bullying plain and simple and does not reflect who we are as a community. We can vigorously disagree, but no matter the issue it is not ok to name call, demean and threaten.

This is unacceptable behaviour and deeply troubling. As CAOs for the Town and County, we are asking this small group of residents to stop with the harassment. We are asking the rest of our community not to condone this harassment. The decision to move forward with special legislation for consolidation was not made lightly, and it was a decision made by both Councils, not one individual person.

We are not discouraging public discourse, but it is our duty to create a safe space for discussion and debate and we ask all residents, before you post a comment, send an email or pick-up the phone, please remember, these are real people, your friends and neighbours, who are receiving it on the other end.

Sincerely,

Jeff Lawrence
CAO
Town of Antigonish

Glenn Horne
CAO
Municipality of the County of Antigonish

Antigonish Town & County Council Vote to Move Forward with Consolidation

October 21st, 2022

Antigonish, N.S. – At two Special Council Meetings held on Thursday, October 20, 2022, both Town and County Councils voted to move forward with consolidation. Both councils passed a motion that stated:

Municipal /Town Council requests the provincial government consolidate the Municipality of the County of Antigonish and the Town of Antigonish into one municipal unit through special legislation.

In September 2021, both councils voted unanimously to participate in an exploration of consolidation.

The vote was four in favour and three against the motion for the Town. At the County, the vote was five for and three against, with two Councillors having to abstain from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

“We began this process to explore consolidation, with the intent to determine if residents, businesses and the overall community will be better served if the Town and County become one municipal unit. I truly believe the answer to that question is yes,” says Owen McCarron, Warden for the Municipality of the County of Antigonish.

“I wholeheartedly believe this is the right move for our community,” says Laurie Boucher, Mayor for the Town of Antigonish. “Looking ahead five, 10, 20 years I am confident of the positive impact this will have on municipal service delivery, infrastructure investment, and enhancement of rural and urban areas of our community. Both municipal units are financially strong, and we have tremendous staff. This is an opportunity to work together on our terms, to build a municipality to grow right along with our community.”

Both Councils endorsed the community engagement process as part of the exploration of consolidation.

The community engagement phase started in the Spring and included 24 public engagement sessions hosted in-person and online. Two community mailouts were sent to almost 10,000 households, a special phone line was created along with a designated website and email address where 170 messages were received, and an online discussion tool was available which received almost 2,000 unique visitors and more than 3,000 total visits.

“We absolutely wanted to engage with our residents to hear their thoughts and concerns,” says Warden McCarron “At the end of the day, it was a proactive approach and I believe we gave residents sufficient opportunities to share their views. We listened and heard many different opinions throughout the engagement process. The Mayor, myself and members of both councils heard from residents on both sides, as well as those who just wanted to ensure we had community interest at the heart of our decision.”

“No one came to their respective decision lightly. I am proud of our Councils for remaining committed to the process,” says Mayor Boucher. “This is a step forward. We are removing our boarders, owning our vision of removing barriers for the community and increasing our capacity to better serve Antigonish.”

On September 12, 2022, the County and Town issued a joint release announcing that if both municipalities were to dissolve and a new consolidated municipal unit was formed, it would result in an increase of $1 million a year in policing costs. By keeping the name, Municipality of the County of Antigonish, there would be no change in the funding formula. There will be a new organizational structure, created in partnership with equal representation from the County and the Town. Employees from both municipal units will be given equal opportunity to be part of the new structure.

“We have seen tremendous value in partnering with the County on a variety of projects and initiatives over the last couple of years. Our strategic directions are already closely aligned. By pooling our resources, not only will be able to accomplish more, but we will also be able to better serve our community,” says Mayor Boucher.

Now that there has been a decision from both councils to move forward with consolidation, special provincial legislation will be drafted and presented during the Spring sitting of the Nova Scotia Legislature. This legislation will guide the Town and County through the transition process. A transition committee will be formed once the provincial legislation is passed.

The work of the transition committee will include hiring a CAO and designing a new administrative structure for the consolidated municipality. The committee along with current Councils and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will undertake another community engagement phase to identify new electoral boundaries. The consolidated municipal unit would plan to begin operation April 1, 2025.

During this transition phase, current Councils will remain and continue to oversee operations for the existing municipal units. Staff will remain in their current positions while the new organizational structure is determined.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” says Warden McCarron. “We are prepared for the task before us, and we will do it together.”

“This is a historical moment for our community, and one we believe will create a stronger community for all,” says Mayor Boucher.

Media Contacts:

Shannon Long
Town of Antigonish
902-318-9245
shannon.long@townofantigonish.ca

Shirlyn Donovan
Municipality of the County of Antigonish
902-863-1117
shirlyn.donovan@antigonishcounty.ns.ca

Town And County Extend Deadline For Feedback On What We Heard Report

September 29th, 2022

Update on Thursday, October 6: The report is now open for public feedback until Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 4 p.m.

The Town of Antigonish and Municipality of the County of Antigonish have extended the deadline for feedback to the What We Heard Report related to the Exploration of Consolidation until October 6, 2022. The Report was released to the public on Thursday, September 15. The original deadline for feedback was Thursday, September 29, 2022.

“When the report was released, we built in a two-week window for Antigonish residents to review it and submit feedback,” says Laurie Boucher, Mayor of Antigonish. “Taking into consideration what our community has gone through since the storm last weekend, we wanted to extend the deadline.”

The What We Heard Report is a summary document of information gathered throughout the community engagement stage of the exploration of consolidation. There were 24 engagement sessions, both in person and online, and community members had the opportunity to send emails or leave voicemails with feedback.

The report is a key piece of information Councils were looking for as part of their overall decision-making process. The purpose of the report was not to measure who was for or against consolidation, but to capture the overarching themes of the discussions that took place as part of the community engagement.

“We are asking residents to review the report and let us know if anything was missed,” says Owen McCarron, Warden with the Municipality of the County of Antigonish. “We know thousands of our residents went days without power and/or internet access this week. Extending the deadline was the right thing to do.”

If anyone feels their perspective was not captured or there is a major theme missing, they are welcome to submit their feedback via email to info@antigonish.ca, phone 1-833-563-2786, or drop off their written submission to the Town or County offices by October 6, 2022 at 4 p.m.

It is expected that Councils will make the decision on whether to move forward with consolidation or not this fall.

For more information on the exploration of consolidation and to read the What We Heard Report, please visit www.antigonish.ca

Media Contacts:

Shannon Long
Town of Antigonish
902-318-9245
shannon.long@townofantigonish.ca

Shirlyn Donovan
Municipality of the County of Antigonish
902-863-1117
shirlyn.donovan@antigonishcounty.ns.ca

Town and County Share Public Engagement Themes From Exploration of Consolidation

September 15th, 2022

(ANTIGONISH, NOVA SCOTIA) – The Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish have released the What We Heard Report, a summary document from the extensive community engagement sessions that details the key themes and discussions around exploration of consolidation. The release of the report comes one year after both Councils voted unanimously to explore consolidation.

Brighter Community Planning and Consulting was the successful firm hired to lead the Town and County through the community engagement process. The process involved 24 sessions, which included in person and online meetings. The What We Heard Report is a key piece of information Councils were looking for as part of their overall decision-making process. The purpose of the report was not to measure who was for or against consolidation, but to capture the overarching themes of the discussions that took place as part of the community engagement.

“The engagement sessions were an opportunity to inform the public on why consolidation is being considered as an option and to better understand potential impacts consolidation may have on residents, businesses and the overall community,” said Owen McCarron, Warden, Municipality of the County of Antigonish. “We heard from thousands of people and these interactions have told us what is most important to them. Those themes include maintaining fair taxation, high service quality, and our community identity.”

“Both municipalities have witnessed the benefits of working together on important initiatives in recent years including economic development, active transportation, physician retention and emergency management as well as collaborating on large events and new attractions such as the National Special Olympics and the construction of the Antigonish Skatepark,” said Laurie Boucher, Mayor, Town of Antigonish. “Currently our staff, at a number of levels within our organizations, work hand in hand, which is fantastic, and it results in great events and initiatives for the community. We also see this as an opportunity to take a closer look at the levels of duplication to see where expertise could be focused in a wider range of areas to better serve the community. We believe it’s good practice to explore this opportunity now to allow us to continue to build a stronger Antigonish for all.”

Mayor Boucher and Warden McCarron with the What We Heard Report

Mayor Boucher and Warden McCarron with the What We Heard Report

While no engagement process is ever perfect, the Town and County made efforts to take stakeholder feedback into account and adjusted its approach early on to allow for greater dialogue. Along with the engagement sessions, two community mailouts were sent to almost 10,000 households. A special phone line was also created along with a designated website and email address where 170 messages were received and an online discussion tool also received almost 2,000 unique visitors and more than 3,000 total visits.

“At the end of the day, I feel confident that we did our absolute best and engaged the community in a thorough consultation process that provided residents ample opportunity to share concerns, learn, and provide feedback that will ultimately help Council come to a final decision later this fall. We did listen to feedback and adapted the format of our sessions to include more question and answer rather than one on one conversation. We also listened to the community and have slowed the process down to take all aspects into consideration” added McCarron.

The Town and County issued a joint release earlier this week announcing that if Councils decide to move forward, the consolidated municipal unit would be legally called the Municipality of the County of Antigonish to avoid $1 million in additional policing costs. All other aspects of consolidation would remain the same. A new organizational structure would be created in a partnership of equals between the Town & County. Council’s guiding principles, including valuing staff from both organizations, would be the driving force behind the creation of a consolidated municipal unit.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the What We Heard Report until September 29, 2022 at 4 p.m. The Report is available online at www.antigonish.ca and hard copies are also available at both the County and Town office, People’s Place Library and local councillors will have copies. Residents are encouraged to read the report and provide feedback if there is anything they feel was missed. This is an opportunity for the community to review and assess if any of their concerns or questions were not included in the summary and provide feedback.

If anyone feels their perspective was not captured or there is a major theme missing, they are welcome to submit their feedback via email to info@antigonish.ca, phone 1-833-563-2786, or drop off their written submission to the Town or County offices.

It is expected that Councils will make the decision on whether to move forward with consolidation or not this fall.

For more information on the exploration of consolidation, please visit www.antigonish.ca

Media Contacts:

Shannon Long
Town of Antigonish
902-318-9245
shannon.long@townofantigonish.ca

Shirlyn Donovan
Municipality of the County of Antigonish
902-863-1117
shirlyn.donovan@antigonishcounty.ns.ca

Town and County Provide Update on Policing as Part of the Exploration of Consolidation

September 12th, 2022

Town and County provide update on policing as part of the exploration of consolidation.

Answer to Police Contract Question

Town and County provide update on policing as part of the exploration of consolidation

(ANTIGONISH, NOVA SCOTIA) – As the Town and County of Antigonish prepare to share feedback received during its public engagement sessions almost one year after both councils voted unanimously to explore consolidation, they are providing information on what they have learned regarding policing contracts in a consolidated municipal unit.

The public engagement held in the spring was aimed at gathering input to better understand the opportunities and concerns of residents, businesses, and the overall community if the Town and County consolidates. Throughout the engagement sessions, both the County and Town acknowledged the potential for consolidation to change the costs associated with their respective policing contracts. As a result, staff have been working diligently with provincial and federal government partners to better understand the options before Council makes their final decision.

When consolidation was first reviewed by Councils, it involved the dissolution of the Town and County and the creation of a consolidated municipality. Further engagement with the provincial and federal governments, as well as independent legal counsel, identified that a new municipality would require a new contract for RCMP services which would result in additional costs with no changes to the level of service for the Antigonish area. However, using the same collaborative consolidation process but dissolving the Town of Antigonish, and retaining the legal name of the Municipality of the County of Antigonish would eliminate the need for a new contract and avoid approximately $1 million in additional costs per year.

“At the end of the day, whether you currently live in the Town or County, we all call Antigonish home,” said Laurie Boucher, Mayor, Town of Antigonish. “The way to move forward and avoid the increase in costs is to dissolve the Town and simultaneously restructure the County where the two units enter as equal partners to create a consolidated organization.”

Currently, the Town and County have their own, separate contracts with the RCMP. Each unit has a 70/30 funding formula meaning each municipal unit covers 70 percent of the contract and the federal government covers the remaining 30 percent of the costs. This funding formula would continue under a consolidated municipality.

“The goal when reviewing the option for consolidation is to determine if the residents, businesses and the overall community would be better served by one municipal unit while also creating efficiencies therefore, we need to avoid any unnecessary costs in the process,” said Owen McCarron, Warden, County of the Municipality of Antigonish. “Our goal is, and has always been, to build a stronger Antigonish for all.”

If both Councils decide to move forward, the consolidated municipal unit would be legally called the Municipality of the County of Antigonish. All other aspects of consolidation would remain the same. A new organizational structure would be created in partnership between the existing municipalities, and Council’s guiding principles, including valuing staff from both organizations, would be the driving force behind the creation of a consolidated municipal unit.

“Based on what was presented to us by our government partners and legal counsel, it is as simple as a name to avoid a significant unnecessary increase in policing costs. The Town will always be the Town and our history will remain strong and proud, that I know for sure. If we move forward, we are doing it together, to build a stronger Antigonish as partners with equal opportunities,” said Boucher.

The Town and County are committed to keeping the community updated on progress and information gathered as Councils assess the consolidation opportunity. The public engagement findings will be released later this week in a What We Heard Report that will be available for comment until September 29th. Councils are preparing to vote on whether to consolidate this fall.

For more information on the exploration of consolidation, please visit www.antigonish.ca

Media Contacts:

Shannon Long
Town of Antigonish
902-318-9245
shannon.long@townofantigonish.ca

Shirlyn Donovan
Municipality of the County of Antigonish
902-863-1117
shirlyn.donovan@antigonishcounty.ns.ca