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Cumberland County votes to receive the Clear the Deck report

When three municipalities in Cumberland County came together as one several years ago, the work done to create one municipal body was only the beginning.

 Now that work has taken a big step forward with the release of its Clear the Deck review.

With the dissolution of the former towns of Springhill and Parrsboro, the Municipality of the County of Cumberland went from a predominately rural municipality to a hybrid rural/urban unit providing a range of service from three locations.

“What became apparent to Council upon taking office almost two years ago was that the Municipality was still operating as essentially three separate municipal units. If we were ever going to be successful, we needed to stop being the municipalities of Cumberland and become the Municipality of Cumberland” Mayor Murray Scott said. “This review lays the foundation for that transformation” 

Earlier this year, Council called for proposals for a review that would lead to the complete integration of all aspects of the Municipality through a review of service centre locations, public works service delivery, rate/revenue structure, a harmonization water and sewer rates across the municipality as well as harmonization of bylaws and policies and a capital asset financing plan and policy. 

The consultants’ report on this work was presented to municipal council on Wednesday by Kevin Latimer of Cox and Palmer, who led a multidisciplinary team of consultants in authoring the report.    

Council received the report and directed CAO Greg Herrett to develop an implementation plan for discussion and approval in September. 

CAO Herrett said, “municipal consolidation is a hot topic these days, but for us it’s more than that – we’re living it. It’s critical that we go forward with a ‘One Municipality’ mindset to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that consolidation of these municipal units have provided for. There are many takeaways in this work for municipal units out there considering consolidation."

The object of the review was to resolve the inevitable overlaps resulting from bringing three municipalities together. The proposed reforms are based on the municipality’s existing facilities and settlement patterns that balance concepts of better service delivery with those of accountability and accessibility through standardizing and simplifying much of the work of the municipality. The outcome will be a municipality that will be better positioned and better organized to serve its citizens 

The review found Cumberland County’s financial position and above-ground infrastructure to be in great shape and well maintained with service facilities appropriately located across the municipality. 

The consultants noted that the municipality has a suitably sized workforce and do not recommend any job losses, in fact they recommend that addition of 4 additional employees in key areas.

However, the county does not have a plan to fund tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure maintenance and enhancement that will soon be required.

Lead consultant Kevin Latimer applauded the municipality for the initiative. 

“There is no guarantee of success in this changing world. What does seem certain, however, is that those municipal governments that operate the most efficiently, delivering the best possible services to citizens who themselves are engaged in making their communities better places to live, will do better than those that fail to manage themselves well,” Latimer said. “Cumberland has chosen to build its own dynamic future.“The present review represents a serious reflection on what will ensure Cumberland’s evolution post – dissolutions for years to come. The Municipality signalled change with its call to Clear the Decks. We trust this report and recommendations will help foster further dialogue and action towards better meeting the needs of the residents of Cumberland County. Now it’s time for all hands on deck. It’s time to finish the job.”

Recommendations coming from the review include:

The existing Public Works garages in Upper Nappan, Parrsboro and Springhill be maintained to achieve acceptable response times and effective service delivery from Cumberland North, Cumberland Central and Cumberland South.     

The Upper Nappan service centre should continue to accommodate public facing administrative operations staff and function as the main public-facing service centre.

The Springhill service centre, located in the former town hall building on Main Street, should serve as the Municipality’s central administration building with the senior management team and corporate support functions being located there.

That the Parrsboro service centre should be repurposed.

That public facing customer services should be provided in Parrsboro, and to meet emerging opportunities on the North Shore, and Pugwash from storefront presences.

That the organizational chart be completely realigned to streamline operations in all areas with an emphasis on the Public Works function.

That service boundaries should be reviewed and that rural and suburban tax rates should be established based on proximity to municipal services provided.That a comprehensive asset management be prepared to establish the Municipality’s future obligations to maintain existing infrastructure and plan for funding major infrastructure renewal and growth. The consultant also recommended that significant funds be put aside to fund these investments.

The consultants also made recommendations regarding the harmonization of bylaws and policies. 

The proposed changes will have the end goal of:

The result of this One Municipality effort will be service delivery standards that are understood across the municipality.

Cumberland County will have a tax structure that is transparent and fair.

Cumberland County will have a plan for the future with the funds to maintain its existing infrastructure and a plan to ensure that is has funds for future infrastructure renewal and growth. 

With its adoption and implementation, the Municipality of the County of Cumberland will move forward with a ‘One Municipality” mindset. 

 

View the Clear the Deck, Final Report here.

View the Clear the Deck, Final Report Appendices here.