Growing town or city-to-be?

C.B.S. in no rush to become urban

Dave Bartlett talkingtelevision@gmail.com
Published on January 2, 2012
The Town of Conception Bay South is one of the fastest growing towns in the province. Some of the businesses are shown in Manuels.
Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

There's no question Conception Bay South - like many municipalities on the Northeast Avalon - is booming.

But is the largest town in Newfoundland and Labrador contemplating a jump to city status?

After the Town of C.B.S. brought down its 2012 budget earlier this month, The Telegram put that question to Mayor Woodrow French and Deputy Mayor John Hicks, who chairs the town's financial and administrative services committee.

"We raise it around the table and have a bit of fun with it," said French of the city/town conundrum.

"I remember one time saying we should look at city status and somebody, I don't (remember who), said, 'What would you rather be, the (smallest) city or the biggest town?' So we really don't know."

But French said he feels the way the town is run means there's no need, or at least no rush, to become a city.

"Under (a C.B.S.) city's act we would have more freedom to do some things with financing, but the bottom line is we're still subject to the Municipalities Act, regardless of which way we go," said the mayor. "It's not a priority within council, but it's something we're keeping our eye on."

Hicks said because of the growth facing C.B.S. it has needs beyond that of more rural towns.

"We have this growth that requires we keep certain things and provide certain services," he said, noting in recent years the town has had to renovate its swimming pool, added an Astroturf soccer pitch and is in the process of adding another ice surface.

And that's just under the recreation banner.

The town opened a new business park - The Gateway - in 2011 to try to increase its commercial tax base and has also decided to collect its own garbage in the new year instead of continuing to contract out the service.

But Hicks also said many residents of the town still rely on wells for drinking water and septic tanks for sewage and that means some are paying for services they don't get - a problem C.B.S. is trying to deal with.

"We are the largest municipality that's not a city in Newfoundland and Labrador, and as the mayor often says, we've got residents that don't have a drop of drinking water," he said.

But Hicks also acknowledges the way many people feel about the urban-rural mix of the town.

"One of the things people like about Conception Bay South ... is it's got a strangely urban-rural feel that doesn't really exist anywhere else around this area. And people who come here, come for a reason, and we have to try and preserve that while we're managing the growth," he said.

"One of the key ways you preserve something is that you understand its value and you put plans in place to keep it," Hicks added.

"So as long as we understand our rural part of Conception Bay South is important to us, then that's going to be maintained. It's just as simple as that."

dbartlett@thetelegram.com