Antigonish-Guysborough Road has been included in the latest provincial government highway improvement plan.
“It is nice to see – we have been lobbying for a while on the need to upgrade that road,” Municipality of the County of Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron said after council’s monthly meeting Dec. 19.
“It’s a vital link between Antigonish and Guysborough, and to see the province actually recognize that and get it on the capital list is important.
“We are very pleased with the minister’s [Lloyd Hines] response to that request,” he added.
Hines, transportation and infrastructure renewal minister and Guysborough Eastern Shore Tracadie MLA Lloyd Hines, recently released the province’s 2019-20 five-year Highway Improvement Plan.
Five kilometres of the much-travelled roadway connecting the two municipalities in the region is also part of the province’s Gravel Road Program for 2019-20.
During the council meeting, McCarron noted his recent visit to Havre Boucher as part of an initiative he launched in 2018.
“I call it ‘The Warden’s Tour,’ just getting around to each district throughout the county in the next year,” he explained.
Despite wintry weather conditions, McCarron said municipal officials were pleased with the turnout of more than 40 residents in District 9.
“We want to have discussion about what is happening in the county and what people are happy about, or not happy about,” he said.
The first tour stop came in November, when residents of District 1 gathered in Arisaig.
“There have been a lot of good questions,” McCarron noted of the first two sessions.
Along with the warden, the district councillor and municipal staff members are on hand.
“We just bring out some of the things that the county is doing and, obviously, we are there to engage our citizens to find out if there are areas of concerns that they would like more information on.”
“I am looking forward to getting around to the rest of the county over the next year,” McCarron said.
ESREN decision coming
McCarron told reporters after the meeting that council expects to make a decision on its future with the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) early in the New Year.
“We asked the province for some information, and we received that,” he said.
“Right now, what we’re going to do, in early January, we’re going to sit down and go over several aspects of the REN, and see where we go as a council.”
McCarron anticipated council will be ready to make a decision at its regular monthly meeting in January.
The municipality, along with the other ESREN members - the Town of Antigonish, Town of Port Hawkesbury, Municipality of the District of Guysborough and the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s – submitted an intent to withdraw notice last March, which is a requirement of their agreement with the province.
In recent months, stakeholders, including participating municipalities, the province and ESREN officials have been addressing concerns, such as the requirement to sign on for three years, along with the level of provincial funding and the REN’s governance model.
“Over the last three years, ESREN has been involved in a lot of different projects,” McCarron said, when asked if the county had formed an opinion on how the initiative has performed.
“We want to really take a good look and see how those projects are impacting the county and county businesses.
“I think council just wants to take a good reflective look on the whole piece,” he added.
McCarron said whether or not the other partners decide to continue with ESREN will not affect the county’s decision.
“If another partner leaves, it does impact every other partner within the REN; however, I think our county is of the mind that we’ll make a decision that best reflects the county’s needs,” he said.
“We won’t be, probably, swayed in either direction by someone else’s decision to stay or not to stay.”
Plastic bag ban
The move to ban plastic shopping bags was on the agenda during the most recent Antigonish town and county joint council meeting.
“We feel the importance of removing that from the waste stream, but we want to get some feedback from our staff,” McCarron said, of where the county stands in their decision-making process.
He noted Councillor Donnie MacDonald is also exploring the issue in his position as a member of the Eastern Solid Waste Management Committee.
“I think there is a strong feeling that getting rid of plastic bags is the right move,” McCarron offered.