Working together

Andrew Robinson
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If you're ever on Martha's Vineyard and need to rent some bathrooms, the place to go is Dottie's Potties.

The Cape Cod company has heated portable toilets to rent for work and recreation events. They also provide septic tank cleaning, installation, pumping and maintenance.

To St. John's residents, of course, that company name is a ripoff.

Here, "Dottie's potties" refers to the relentless scourge of potholes that pop up every year. They're named after the late Dorothy Wyatt, who even embraced the term herself during her colourful reign as mayor in the 1970s.

Today, every spring, the streets are still covered in these craters, and every year, city hall evades liability for burst tires and bent rims.

Road maintenance is a sore spot with residents of St. John's, as are municipal services in general. But it would be unusual for any city in the world not to receive its fair share of gripes.

Former mayor Andy Wells often deflected criticism for poor services by jumping aboard "brown-baggers," people who use city streets and amenities during the day, but live in lower tax havens outside the boundaries.

Wells was a vocal advocate of amalgamation, but his cries fell on deaf ears in provincial government circles. Successive administrations have vowed not to force the issue, and there is no stomach for it outside the capital.

Shared services, on the other hand, are a different issue.

An exclusive survey released last week by MQO Research found that 71 per cent of residents in St. John's and surrounding communities supported regionalization of services. Furthermore, only 21 per cent of those surveyed felt their tax dollars were being spent wisely.

This should be a clarion call for action.

Many services are already shared, including fire protection and waste disposal. But co-operation rarely comes without a struggle.

Take the Team Gushue Highway.

St. John's has agreed to cover part of the cost of maintaining this road. But Mount Pearl has refused to chip in, insisting it's a provincial road - albeit one that will be used frequently as an intercity access by Mount Pearl residents.

In today's Telegram, in the last of a series called MetroView, Bonnie Belec looks at the thorny issue of shared services and how citizens feel about value for tax dollars.

The MetroView series has examined every nook and cranny of the MQO poll, commissioned exclusively by The Telegram and the St. John's Board of Trade.

For more than a week, reporters Steve Bartlett, Bonnie Belec, Daniel MacEachern and Barb Sweet have talked to municipal leaders, experts, advocates and ordinary citizens about the poll findings. As well, the numbers are broken down into easy-to-read graphs on The Telegram's website under the heading "MetroView 2012: The Numbers."

Organizations: MQO Research, The Telegram, St. John's Board of Trade The Numbers

Geographic location: St. John's, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod Mount Pearl

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