It is a new era for the two Antigonish municipal councils.
Elected officials from the Municipality of the County of Antigonish and the Town of Antigonish held their first formal joint committee meeting, Jan. 10, at People’s Place Library.
At the opening, Mayor Laurie Boucher, who chaired the session, outlined the evolution of the process, which began almost three years ago, with “very informal” meetings between both councils, every six to eight weeks.
“We would have presentations and participate in discussions,” she noted for those in the gallery.
These ‘informal’ meetings had an agenda, but were closed to the public. Because they were unofficial, motions were not made.
Not having the ability to make motions became a consideration last year, when the councils came together to discuss the issue of changing the traditional dates for the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition.
“We wanted to be able to present a united front,” Boucher said of that issue.
As part of formalizing the sessions, the councils approved a terms of reference in November. Now, the joint committee will be able to make and pass motions, which will move to each respective council for its final approval.
A joint committee recommendation must receive majority approval before moving on to the councils.
Elected officials from each council are eligible to vote during the joint meetings.
As outlined in those terms, joint council committee meetings will take place, quarterly, on the third Wednesday in February, June, September and November.
The mayor and warden will alternate as joint council committee meeting chair.
As Boucher moved along in the agenda, she said there would not be a discussion on the first item – the BurMac Cup.
She noted the joint council committee had moved its scheduled February meeting to January, because representatives of the annual hockey game between Burke and MacIsaac residences at St. F.X. requested an opportunity to make a presentation regarding its potential return to the Antigonish Arena.
Boucher added that a few days earlier they informed municipal officials that they had decided not to make a presentation.
“They told us that they are thinking of other options,” she said.
County clerk Glenn Horne updated joint committee members on the governance review of the Antigonish Arena; the town and county are co-owners of the Building for Youth on James Street.
As part of the process, he noted, the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs is conducting a “complete review” of areas, such as bylaws.
Horne said the provincial department will be presenting “a small number of options” – two to four – for the municipalities to consider.
He added those recommendations are expected by the time the joint council committee meets again, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 15.