The Town of Canso shall be dissolved effective July 1, 2012.
That was the decision rendered by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSURB) Jan. 19.
With the Order of Dissolution, the area comprising the town will be annexed to the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG).
When that process is completed, Canso will no longer be chartered under the Municipal Government Act as a “town,” becoming a community of Guysborough County.
“We will continue to make sure this is as painless as possible for the people of the community when we do amalgamate into one municipal unit,” Paul Horne, Town of Canso deputy mayor, said, nothing this decision is part of a process town officials started more than 22 months ago with its application for dissolution to the provincial utility and review board.
Horne said there have been “no major hurdles yet” during the process. He added town officials were schedule to meet with Guysborough County representatives as one of the first steps of completing the process since the announcement last week.
“We will be bringing in one or two people to our office from the municipality [Tuesday] to oversee and try to understand what our system is all about.
“We apparently do things differently and we have to get on the same page,” Horne added.
He said one of the challenges facing the town as this dissolution process continues is the sale of its electric utility.
“Guysborough doesn’t want it and we are trying to sell it. We have a lot of irons in the fire right now with some locals and also with Nova Scotia Power, which we purchase our power from,” Horne said, noting work is underway to get everything ready to “take the utility to market.”
“We want to be able to do that as soon as possible,” he added.
Veteran Canso councillor Fin Armsworthy said the decision will be a “good move forward” for everyone in Canso, noting better opportunities that will be available for residents, including seniors, along with improved chances for attracting business to the seaside community.
“I think we are going to reap the benefits,” he added.
Lloyd Hines, MODG warden, described the decision to grant dissolution to the town and eventual joining with the municipality as “good news” for everyone involved in a press release on the afternoon the decision was announced.
With the move, the town’s area will be divided into two polling districts, which will become part of the MODG’s electoral boundaries.
From the time of the dissolution, until the next municipal elections in October 2012, the mayor of the town [Frank Fraser] and one councillor selected by town council, which has not taken place, will serve as MODG council members.
Fraser, who has voiced his misgivings with the possible dissolution throughout the process, had suggested Canso become a village and share services with the municipality.
The NSURB determined that would not save enough money for the cash-strapped town, while adding another administrative layer.
“My opinion was that we would have some self-governance if we kept it close to the people. We’re in a sort of urban town because we have water and sewer,” Fraser told CBC News on the day the decision was announced.
“It’s going to be rather difficult to become part of a rural municipality. In that sense, I’m very disappointed.”
Fraser did not return a call from the Casket for comment as of press time.
‘We are stronger’
The Town of Canso applied to the NSURB for dissolution in September 2010, with a preliminary board hearing taking place in the fall of 2010, which resulted in the board requesting the completion of numerous financial and infrastructure-related studies during the spring and summer of 2011.
The municipal units, along with provincial representatives, signed a letter of intent Nov. 17 that outlined financial and infrastructure arrangements if the two become one.
With the agreement, the county agreed to not contest Canso’s application to dissolve its incorporation and join the municipality during Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSURB) hearings, which took place Dec. 5.
With the letter of intent, the provincial government has agreed to provide financial support up to $6 million to help with the transition, including stabilizing tax rates.
Hines said the review board, province, town and municipality should be “commended for the level of effort and cooperation that has resulted in this board decision.”
He said the MODG will proceed with an integration plan to assume operation of the town’s municipal services when dissolution takes place July 1.
Hines added the municipality “will strive to assume the responsibility for the provision of municipal services in Canso with as little impact to residents as possible.”
The veteran warden praised Canso’s council, staff and residents for their “proactive involvement in the very difficult dissolution process.”
“Together we are stronger.” Hines added.
See the full NSURB decision at www.nsurb.ca