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Murray ScottCumberland County’s mayor is looking back at a very productive year that saw some major changes within the municipality that will shape its direction into the future.

Murray Scott said the municipality’s biggest accomplishment was the implementation of the Clear the Deck initiative that completed the process that began seven years ago when Springhill and then Parrsboro were amalgamated with the Municipality of Cumberland.

“This year, council approved a plan to move forward for our municipality to begin working as one unit. Since the amalgamation of Parrsboro, Springhill and the municipality we have been attempting to come together as we look to the future,” Scott said in a year-end news release.

“We believe we have the plan. From our staffing complement, facilities, services to taxpayers and finances it has all been considered.”

With the dissolution of the former towns of Springhill and Parrsboro, the Municipality of Cumberland went from a predominately rural municipality to a hybrid rural/urban unit providing a range of services from three locations. The object of Clear the Deck 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 mayor said the municipality’s application to merge the Parrsboro, Pugwash and Springhill water utilities is presently before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and other reviews of service are underway, which will lead to a stronger community and see the Municipality of Cumberland thinking as one municipal unit instead of three.

Another highlight of the year was the ability to attract very strong candidates to fill vacant staff positions, while the construction of the new library in Pugwash is another significant achievement for Cumberland County.

Recent appointments include Peter McCracken as deputy chief administrative officer, Corey Skinner as manager of recreation programs and services, Stephen Wood as regional emergency management coordinator, Aimee Hirtle as director of finance and Greg Cufaro as lead bylaw enforcement officer, while Steve Ferguson has been appointed the municipality’s senior advisor climate change and special projects.

Earlier this year, the municipality announced plans to build a $2.198-million library to replace the existing library that has been in the former Pugwash train station since 1988.

Iron Maple Contractors began work on the new library in late June and it’s nearing completion with occupancy in early 2023.

One of the toughest things to deal with in 2022 was the impacts of post-tropical storm Fiona that caused extensive damage across Cumberland County including prolonged power outages and many downed trees.

“Obviously, post-tropical storm Fiona caused a lot of destruction throughout the municipality. It also brought together our communities, citizens, staff and other partners to show how resilient we are as Nova Scotians,” the mayor said. “The fact the premier of Nova Scotia came to Cumberland County, as did the chief operating officer of Nova Scotia Power, I believe, shows the concern and the commitment to the people of Cumberland County by these individuals.”

Looking ahead to 2023, the mayor said there are a number of reviews currently ongoing, including the recent decision by council to issue a request for proposals for policing services within the municipality. The municipality established the police review committee in May, which recommended a public engagement process be followed, while, in August, Narrative Research of Halifax was hired to facilitate this process and reported back to the committee in October. Council is also due to receive an implementation plan for its fire service review in the first couple of months of the new year.       

The mayor said he’s also looking forward to receiving news on several important infrastructure projects, including the Junction Road and Athol Road projects in the Springhill area. He’s also committed to fostering the county’s relationship with its municipal partners in Cumberland County and Nova Scotia.