Municipality of Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott brought a positive message to members of the Amherst Rotary Club during its bi-weekly meeting in Amherst on Monday, April 24.
The mayor said the municipality has undergone significant change over the past year, all aimed at improving efficiencies as an organization, investing in important infrastructure and making the most from its budget.
“We’ve done a lot as an organization since coming to office in 2020 and this council has not turned its head away from any issues. We’ve faced our challenges head-on and tried to find the best use of the money we have,” Mayor Scott said following the meeting. “As a council, we realize there’s only so much money around and huge challenges. We’re trying to be as responsible as we can when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars.”
The mayor talked to Rotarians about the Clear the Deck initiative, which became All Hands on Deck as the municipality made some organizational changes so it would finally begin acting as one unit, following the amalgamations with Springhill in 2015 and Parrsboro and 2016.
He spoke about the recent successful application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to merge the Parrsboro, Pugwash and Springhill water utilities into one utility and the introduction of water meters for Springhill residents that will see water rates based on consumption instead of a flat rate.
One of the highlights of the past year for the municipality was the opening of the new $2.198-million library in Pugwash that replaced cramped quarters in the former train station that was not accessible. The mayor credited council for agreeing to move forward with the project that had been proposed for several years as part of a larger community centre and he applauded the community for stepping up to raise more than $500,000 to help fund the project.
The mayor spoke to Rotarians about the reasoning behind the review of policing services that began a year ago and resulted in the call earlier this month for requests for proposals from service providers, while he talked about the fire services review that will see the development of a new system of four hub departments and the establishment of 12 local departments and the hiring of a fire manager.
Mayor Scott said the municipality has made several major infrastructure investments during 2022-23, including capital paving in Springhill and Parrsboro as well as the replacement of culverts in Parrsboro and said the work will continue in 2023-24 with the replacement of underground infrastructure and repaving of Junction Road in Springhill and Athol Road within the former town boundary. This project, he said, was made possible in partnership with the province and the federal infrastructure program.
“We are a united council and have a great staff working together to make these projects happen,” the mayor said. “Everyone is committed to making a better Cumberland County for all our residents.”
The mayor said the municipality is in the midst of its budget deliberations and council should soon be in a position to announce the budget and set the tax rate for 2023-24. While taxable assessment is up, the mayor cautioned, the municipality is facing financial pressures from higher costs associated with salaries, policing, fire protection, insurance and solid waste.
“We understand property values have gone up, but just like every business owner and homeowner, expenditures have gone up for us and are growing dramatically. That’s the reality of life, everything is going up, but we’re doing the best we can when it comes to budget deliberations. Hopefully, we’ll have something to announce in the next month or so,” the mayor said.