PICTOU – Forty people have signed up to speak at municipal amalgamation hearings next week.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will conduct its hearings being Monday at 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn followed by a public session at 7 p.m. Another public session will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m in Scotsburn.
The NSUARB website has a complete list of documents filed in regards to proposed amalgamation of Pictou, New Glasgow, Stellarton and the Municipality of Pictou County.
The deadline to have a name added to the list to speak at the evening sessions was March 2. If a person’s name is not on the list by this time, they will be ineligible to speak at the hearings.
Some of the names on the Stellarton list include: Harry Munro, Sean Murray, Gary Stewart, Dr. John Hamm, Elmer MacKay, Joe Gennoe, Phyllis Porter and Patty Lloyd. In Scotsburn, names include: Diane Cameron, Barb Harris, Chester Dewar, Terry Curley, Patrick Carty, Lynn MacLean and Eleanor Lilly.
A complete list of speakers can be found at the NSUARB website. Each speaker will be given five minutes to have their say.
An entire week has been set aside for the hearings, but Elaine Wagner, chief clerk of the board, doesn’t think five days will be required. The NSUARB will be releasing a preliminary decision on the evidence presented following the hearings but its final decision won’t come until after a public plebiscite is held In late May.
Following the hearings, the MOU steering committee will be hosting its public information sessions in hopes of getting its message to the people before a May 28 plebiscite.
“We recognize there are a lot of questions about what amalgamation would look like and why it is a good choice for Pictou County. That’s why we’ll be holding community information sessions to help residents understand all of the research that’s gone into our plans. The first community session will be held in Hopewell on March 29. We encourage everyone to watch www.onepictoucounty.ca and local newspapers for dates and times, and attend these important sessions so we can explain further and answer your questions,” said the steering committee in a press release.
During a recent Pictou County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, which had the steering committee as guest speakers, a question was asked regarding the MOU plebiscite and what happens if one of the municipal units decides against amalgamation?
Pictou County CAO Brian Cullen replied that results of the plebiscite are non-binding. “Once the results are in, each council will evaluate the results from their municipal unit and make a decision whether the application stands or whether it will be withdrawn.”
He said if one unit decides to withdraw, the others will have to decide whether amalgamation moves forward, and more work would have to be done to determine any impacts.
Another question was asked about what would happen to Trenton and Westville if the amalgamation of the other four units goes ahead?
“They will continue to exist as individual municipal units with their own governance structure,” said Cullen.
Someone also asked whether Trenton and Westville are still able to join the process.
Cullen said the two towns can’t join now, but if the merger takes place, they could after the October municipal election. “If they choose to join, they would be welcome. There is a process in the legislation to allow for that.”