SANDY POINT — Small communities throughout the province are finding it more and more difficult to supply residents with the services they require. For that reason, more than 60 people from 13 communities of the Straits were present at Tuesday night’s meeting in Sandy Cove to discuss the concept of regionalization.
The regionalization would take place from Eddies Cove to Anchor Point, if the area supported the notion.
According to host and MHA for the Straits–White Bay North Christopher Mitchelmore, the meeting provided a venue to residents and town officials to voice their concerns, or their support, regarding possible regionalized services.
Many municipalities on the Great Northern Peninsula are challenged with dwindling populations and fewer businesses. This results in a smaller tax base to draw upon revenues. Just providing chlorinated water or snow clearing can be a budgeting fiasco for some. That doesn’t include maintaining recreation buildings or eroding infrastructure.
The biggest concern from the district is access to clean drinking water in communities that are not part of the local service districts or municipalities, especially with the presence of salt water, E.coli and minerals in some wells.
“Clean drinking water is very important for many towns here in the area,” said Anchor Point Mayor Gerry Gros. “Many people use wells and are either getting salt water, dirty water or none at all. It’s a very unfortunate situation.”
Gros believes the improvement to services is what propelled the residents to attend the meeting and learn more about the regionalization process.
“We did a feasibility study on an amalgamation about nine years ago and it was identified as a need at that time, but it never went any further because so many people opposed it at the time,” he said.
Gros added at that time, there wasn’t such basic infrastructure divides like there is today. There is now a need to advance the region, both in infrastructure and economic development.
“Regionalization would be the way to go,” said Gros.
Flower’s Cove Mayor Keith Billard understands that residents want to be guaranteed the services are obtainable and change is sometimes difficult to envision.
“Amalgamation isn’t a bad word; it’s a good word,” said Billard. “There are 13 communities here and we all share some services now. If we were to amalgamate, the only difference would be the quality and quantity of services provided.”
The Straits has a regional fire department, hospital, school, arena, senior citizens home, development association and soon a regional daycare.
Billard believes the area could work together to make good decisions and prosper in the end.
“We would be almost 1,800 people strong — making us a very strong Straits government, with each community retaining its own individual identity,” he said. “We need the services, we want the services — this is the only way.”
If given the green light, regionalization may happen in phases. For example, Deadman’s Cove and Bear Cove may connect with adjacent Anchor Point for water services, while Savage Cove and Sandy Cove may also join Flower’s Cove.
Mitchelmore said his office will continue to work with constituents.
“Dialogue will continue with Department of Municipal Affairs regarding the concept of regionalization should the people want it,” he said.
A survey was mailed to 776 households and Mitchelmore said his office will be collecting the responses next month and host a meeting with the results.
“We’ll continue to talk with constituents and continue the conversation,” he said.