Scott continues to question amalgamation

Darrell Cole, The Amherst News
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Former MLA asks what’s the rush to join the county

SPRINGHILL – Former Conservative MLA Murray Scott is still not convinced amalgamation is the answer for Springhill’s financial troubles.

Former MLA Murray Scott does not feel a public meeting last week in Springhill has cleared up any questions with the town's proposed amalgamation with Cumberland County.

Speaking following town council’s public meeting last week on dissolution, Scott questioned why there’s such a rush to act without all the facts.

“Provincial documents indicate that Springhill is in the mid-range when compared to other towns in Nova Scotia in regards to most financial and infrastructure matters,” Scott said in a news release. “This being the case, why rush to dissolve the town without the citizens having all the facts and having been given an opportunity to provide some input.”

Soon after the town announced in March that it would be applying to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to dissolve the town and join the county, Scott and several other residents have been leading an opposition movement demanding additional information from Mayor Max Snow and town council.

Last Thursday, Snow and Deputy Mayor Darrell White presented the town’s case for dissolution saying the status quo is not working and suggesting the town is out of financial options because of its aging population, uncollected taxes, crumbling infrastructure and crippling debt.

Scott said there are many issues in that presentation that need clarification including projections of future deficits without supporting documentation, use of provincial indicators to highlight negatives while omitting the positives such as annual revenue from the federal government.

“The town said they did not know what the future tax rates would be under amalgamation, or whether the level of service would change,” Scott said.

Scott said that while residents were debating the future of the town, an international geothermal conference in Montreal was touting the community’s expansive geothermal resource.

“Springhill is rich in geothermal energy and well positioned to leverage this resource, but our town’s representatives dismissed this and did not seem to appreciate this very positive asset,” Scott said.

Scott said officials have estimated the value of geothermal energy to be in the vicinity of $7 million a year based on the current price of natural gas. He wants to know why the town is willing to lose this potential energy resource when others are seeing the tremendous opportunity it has.

Scott said two chartered accountants working for the citizens committee have different and opposing views to the town’s regarding its financial situation. He said the town has balanced its books five out of the last six years and reduced its long-term debt by $1.4 million over two years.

“What had gone so terribly wrong with this year’s town finances?” Scott asked.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Montreal

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