ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Town of Antigonish council supports the continuation of the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN), but what about support from the other municipalities contributing to the organization?
Waiting on those answers was where discussion on ESREN ended for town council during its regular monthly meeting Nov. 19.
“Probably about a year ago, we all put in our notice to end our membership by the end of the year,” Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher told reporters after the meeting, noting it was a precautionary move by the municipalities to avoid being left alone supporting the regional REN.
“Since then, we’ve come together. We really like the spirit of the REN and want it to succeed but, in order for it to succeed, we really need the cooperation and commitment of all parties.”
Antigonish partners with the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, the Town of Mulgrave and the Town of Port Hawkesbury in making up ESREN.
Boucher said the get-togethers were about trying to get to the bottom of the challenges the municipalities were finding with the REN.
“We tried to find out where the lack of communication was,” she said.
“The problem in some municipalities is that they weren’t receiving communication as to what the REN was doing. They feel they’re giving a lot of money for the little input they have; they have a problem with that.
“Another problem, the province was not fulfilling their full financial contribution. So that was another thing which had to be rectified. The third thing was we were hoping each municipality could give a commitment of, at least, three years.”
Boucher said work has been done to address problems one and two. For communication, it was agreed a council member could sit on the ESREN board, just not as a voting member.
And with problem two, she noted a meeting she and Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton had with the provincial minister, resulting in success.
“Since then, they said they would fund their full commitment going forward, and they did look at the governance model and made a little change to it,” she said, her second point referencing the board participation situation.
“We’re hoping that will open up the lines of communication between the board and individual councils and that will be enough to help communication, so everyone knows what the real benefit of the REN is.
“Now we’re going back to each council and seeing what the commitment is again. We’ve solved two of those problems so, I guess, the big question is; as a municipality, do you want to be in the REN or not?”
Boucher said the town is “proud” to fully support ESREN.
“We do believe it’s doing good things; we have seen a direct result of that in a couple of projects, and we would like to see it continue, so our support is there,” she said.
“We’ll have to wait and see what other municipalities come in to see if the formation will be favourable to us or not. We’re hoping that, within the month of December, each municipality will bring it back to their councils and see where they are … just to have an idea of where we stand with all five municipalities.”
The following evening (Nov. 20), Antigonish County council held their monthly public meeting and Warden Owen McCarron was asked about council’s perspective on the ESREN situation.
“Over the next few weeks, council will take the opportunity to sit down [and] evaluate the responses from the province on their side of commitment to ESREN,” McCarron told reporters after the meeting.
“As a council, we’ll be in a position, probably by our next council meeting [in December], to let ESREN know where we are as a county.”