St. John's to stop pursuing amalgamation with Mount Pearl, Paradise - for now

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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New report recommends merger but St. John's mayor says city will focus instead on regional co-operation

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe speaks with reporters Friday on the release of the St. John's Amalgamation Report 2011.

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe says he and city council still believe in amalgamation with Paradise and Mount Pearl, but in the wake of a new review of its feasibility, will focus more on regional co-operation.

The city released its latest amalgamation study to the public Friday. The report - the fifth of its kind, cost about $34,000 - recommends St. John's continue to pursue amalgamation with Mount Pearl as well as the Elizabeth Park, Evergreen Village and St. Anne's Industrial Park areas of Paradise. This would bring together all lands which drain into the Waterford River basin and then into St. John's harbour.

The report says tax rates in St. John's would initially go down as a result of amalgamation, but acknowledges rates in Paradise and Mount Pearl - despite being lower in the longer term - would initially rise.

O'Keefe said Friday afternoon that given the lack of support in Paradise and Mount Pearl for amalgamation, the city will concentrate more on regional co-operation - but that amalgamation is an inevitability.

"You can read this report and you can pick at it and you can get enough information to kill the whole concept of 'let's all of us work together.' Or you can look at the report and you can find more than enough material to show that on a regional basis, the coming together, the re-organization of the St. John's metropolitan area is going to be a benefit in a number of ways for all of us who live here."

Paradise Mayor Ralph Wiseman dismissed the recommendations of what he said was a St. John's-centric report, calling them "amusing."

"What they're looking at is taking the service area of Paradise, and the industrial park of Paradise, to enrich their own coffers. That's basically what they want to do," he said.

"So this is a St. John's report, looking for a way to subsidize St. John's. They should move on and deal with their own problems. If it has to do with the provincial and federal governments, they should do that. They should not be looking to the people of Paradise to pay for them, and to leave the town of Paradise high and dry without the St. Anne's Industrial Park and any of the revenues that we'll be getting from the Elizabeth Park area."

Mount Pearl Deputy Mayor Jim Locke likewise said his city doesn't see any benefit in amalgamation.

"Our position as a council on the issue hasn't changed. We still view it as a non-issue," he said.

"There's no compelling evidence from our perspective as to the benefits to the residents of Mount Pearl for such an amalgamation."

Still, O'Keefe mused about the possibility of bypassing Mount Pearl and pursuing amalgamation with Paradise alone, but he also said the city wouldn't be asking the provincial government to step in to compel any sort of merger.

"We're not going to push, because when you push and you achieve something, you create bad feelings," he said.

"If the province is not going to do it, and the current politicians in the region are not going to do it, then we're not going to keep pushing it. We're not going to knock our heads against a wall."

Politicians and bureaucracies change, said O'Keefe, and some sort of re-organization is inevitable, he added, pointing to the success of the amalgamation of the communities into Conception Bay South.

Mount Pearl doesn't have any more room to grow, he pointed out, which is going to cause problems down the road unless something is done.

"The face of the metropolitan area, when my grandchildren are 25, is not going to be the current face of this area. It is going to change," he said.

Wiseman and Locke - who both received the report Friday - both welcomed O'Keefe's remarks on pursuing more regional co-operation.

"It's always better for us to co-operate regionally and look at ways that we can benefit from each other as opposed to trying to take over each other," Wiseman said.

Part of that greater co-operation is presenting a unified voice to the province in matters like the province's current fiscal arrangement with municipalities, O'Keefe said. To that end, he's called a meeting of metropolitan mayors for next week.

"None of us can exist any more with that arrangement the way it is. It has to change," he said.

"We're going to meet, and we're going to talk about coming up with one voice and approaching the province together as the urban core of the metropolitan area, and approach the province in a co-operative fashion in that way. So those are some of the things that we could be doing a lot of, and we're going to continue to go down that road and do more of that, and it's my hope that will lead us to where we want to be, five, 10, 15 years from now."

And where they want to be, he said, is with a reorganized metropolitan area.

"It may take time because of the current players, but it will happen, and it might happen despite people being involved because it will be driven by factors such as economics, and it will be driven by factors such as the need for more coherent planning, but it will happen."

Locke, though, disagrees that it's inevitable.

"That's not new. They've been singing that song for a number of years now."

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramDanie

Geographic location: St. John's, Paradise, Mount Pearl Elizabeth Park Evergreen Village Waterford River

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Recent comments

  • Turry from town
    January 09, 2012 - 05:49

    Hey you!! Mt.Pearl citizen! Don't talk about boundaries,if it were not for St.Joh's,your little town would dry up. Your only a dot on the map.

  • MOUNT PEARL CITIZEN
    January 08, 2012 - 17:19

    I think the Mayor, and Council should keep within their own boundaries, why should we as citizens of Mount Pearl give up our excellent services for less,and pay more taxes for it? The money hungry Council should focus more on their less then dismal performance as a Council, and leave the decision of amalgamation to the people of their respective communities. Just a little tip for your ego, Mr O'Keefe, NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO LIVE IN ST JOHN'S !!!

    • Dickie
      January 09, 2012 - 11:34

      "why should we as citizens of Mount Pearl give up our excellent services for less,and pay more taxes for it?" What services besides snowclearing are better? Everything else that Mt. Pearl calls services is somewhat dependent on St; John's built and maintained infrastructure. What percentage of Pearlians are in Bowring Park on a sunny summers day? Lets put a number to it and charge Mount Pearl that percentage of the operating cost of the park. Sound fair? That plus 10 more silmilar examples should prove to cause a tax hike to the Pearlians. Maybe you'll end up paying more than St. John's when all the math is done. Then You'll be looking for amalgamation.

  • pearlio
    January 08, 2012 - 13:22

    How do you find Mt. Pearl? Drive west until you run out of class. There should be one city so it can be centrally planned and you avoid this mess we have right now with big city type traffic everywhere.

  • Dickie
    January 07, 2012 - 16:57

    Put flow meters on the septic lines and water mains coming to/from St; John's, Place electronic tolls on the entrances. Fire department per hour use charges. St. John's charge back to other municipalities at a rate equal to percentage cost plus administration costs. Lets see where the Paradise and Mount Pearl Mill Rates go then. Amalgamation is not only inevitable but is also fair to the region

  • stop wasting tax payer money on pet projects
    January 07, 2012 - 15:06

    I know I'm glad my taxes paid for another $34,000 report. I guess when all the tories were turfed this past election Dennis the Menace realized that he didn't have the political backing to force this through. Which is great in my books because almgamations always look good on paper, hard to argue against the principles of economises of scale, however, in reality the complexity and confusion rarely result in the conceptual savings. Just look at Eastern Health. The proponents take their eye off what should be the true objectives of the organization. So being super-mayor has to go on hold. Boo-hoo.

  • Kent
    January 07, 2012 - 13:04

    Mount Pearl keeps bragging about their snow clearing..... How hard can it be to clear a couple of dozen streets? I could probably do Mt. Pearl with my snowblower in a couple of hours. Ha, ha

  • Maggy Carter
    January 07, 2012 - 12:54

    Mayor O'Keefe has been jilted. The whole thing was captured on the jumbotron. His best brown suit on, down on one knee, non-refundable $34,000 ring in hand, he popped the question. This wasn't the first time. The subject of his amorous intentions has long made it clear she's not interested - knowing all too well that what the mayor wants is not really a marriage so much as a conquest. But that hasn't stopped the Mayor from making a fool of himself yet again. His intended left him standing alone to face the cameras. 'She doesn't know what she's missing - I'm a really good catch. If she won't marry me, then maybe I can at least persuade her to hang out.' But the comely young Miss will have nothing to do with him. She knows a stalker when she sees one.

  • Turry from town
    January 07, 2012 - 10:10

    Amalgamation needs to happen to level the tax structure for people in this area.Some are paying more,some are paying less.St.John's citzens are paying the bulk of taxes for those in the entire region.Eventhough there are regional arrangements,the city doubles in population everyday.All one has to do is look at the traffic in town,and all the highways coming into St.John's.The extra demand on infastructure( roads,water systems,sewage systems ) has this infastructure operating at overload capcity.Any maintenence,upgrades etc... is being paid for by a fraction of the population that use them daily.The taxpayers of St.john's.So yes,regional cooperation is one solution,but paying for road repair,snowclearing,line painting,lighting etc...has to be paid by all,including those who commute everyday from outside to come to St.John's to go to work or pedal their wares and trade.There is alot of anamosity between communities,and that will be there until we are all one municipality.

    • Gary
      January 09, 2012 - 06:13

      LOL.....That is why it will always be looked at this way, ST. John’s "get over it/yourself "!! If it was up to ye then NL would all be St. John’s, Amalgamation does "Not" need to happen. We could all work together and yet keep our own individuality, try planning for a change

  • jeremiah
    January 07, 2012 - 10:01

    Amalgamation of of the NE Avalon will and must happen. Too bad shorted sighted people like Simms and Wiseman do not have the intelligence to see the big picture. They are just bumps in the way. Unfortunately they have a negative affect on all of us for their own vested interests.