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The Town of New Glasgow announced Friday afternoon that they would enter discussions with the Municipality of Pictou County and Town of Pictou to develop a memorandum of understanding on things that are critical to respective municipalities.
NEW GLASGOW – Despite Tuesday’s announcement that the province would be pulling its funding toward a Pictou County governance study, three municipal units are forging ahead.
The Towns of New Glasgow and Pictou along with the Municipality of Pictou County are collaborating to develop a memorandum of understanding on items critical to their respective municipalities while putting a new system of governance to deliver services.
New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan made the announcement Friday morning in the presence of Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes, Municipal Deputy Warden Andy Thompson, New Glasgow town council and members of the public.
“It is premature to say what the changes will look like, but we are not waiting,” said MacMillan. “We are moving forward. We are a coalition of the willing.”
He did extend an invitation to the other municipal units, the towns of Stellarton, Westville and Trenton, noting they could get onboard should they so choose.
“Once that MOU is developed we are going to share it with the other towns,” he said. “They will have a short time to reflect on the terms, consider them and either get on board or not.”
The trio anticipates having the memorandum of understanding in place by June 1 and aims to start deliver services in a potentially new way this fall.
“By April 1, 2015, we expect the governance and operations in this county will look very different,” said MacMillan.
Several services already shared among Pictou, New Glasgow and the county were touted at the announcement. Currently, IT services, business development services, building inspection, land use planning, some communications services, Pictou County Investment Strategy and the NSBI Investment Readiness Strategy are joint efforts. Bringing two cruise ships to the region this fall was also a shared initiative.
“The Municipality of Pictou County are good neighbours and partners with New Glasgow. We believe in a co-operative approach to local government in Pictou County,” said county Deputy Warden Andy Thompson. “Our warden and council have taken this co-operative approach on a number of initiatives with the Town of New Glasgow.”
While MacMillan noted the plan came together in a few days, Hawes said there had been informal discussions about the three units moving forward for the last few months.
“We waited for the governance study, and I didn’t think it would work to be honest with you,” he said. “We may be the smaller one of the group, but we’ve got a lot to offer and we’ll all benefit each other.”
The announcement from Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey that the province would be pulling its $150,000 of funding for the governance study turned out to be the impetus that the three municipal units needed to move forward.
“This is to everyone’s benefit and Pictou’s council is of one mind on this,” said Hawes. “What’s good for one is good for all.”
New Glasgow’s CAO Lisa MacDonald there is considerable overlap in approaches at the three municipal units, from financial software to street infrastructure rating systems.
“Sometimes you have to proceed with those who have a regional vision,” she said. “This has taken place through open dialogue. When there’s a regional discussion we want regional action to follow.”
MacDonald noted that some people talk regional but act local and cited New Glasgow’s closing of the John Brother MacDonald stadium to support the Pictou County Wellness centre as an example.
“We stepped up to the plate on this issue to support the region.”
Representatives from Stellarton, Westville and Trenton weren’t present for yesterday’s announcement. MacMillan noted that there was no reason they weren’t informed.
“It was New Glasgow’s announcement. We invited the county and Pictou, because we are partnering with them,” he said. “It is my sincere hope that the other towns will come on board.”
Stellarton and Westville’s mayors were only aware of the other three units’ initiative after yesterday’s announcement.
“I wasn’t aware of it and we weren’t invited,” said Stellarton Mayor Joe Gennoe. “We’ll have to wait and see if we want to be a part of it. That would be a council decision.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn