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Provincial government has last say on possible regional government

Deputy Mayor Mike Tobin talks about regional shared services at last week’s Stephenville town council meeting.
Deputy Mayor Mike Tobin talks about regional shared services at last week’s Stephenville town council meeting.

Mike Tobin believes that shared services through regional government is something that will happen.

That’s something the Stephenville deputy mayor brought up to his fellow councilors at their regular general meeting on Thursday in a report from the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) Municipal Symposium held in Gander May 4 and 5.
When it will happen is something Tobin couldn’t put a definite date on but said the topic is very much alive at different meetings regarding municipalities that he attends.
He said the issue has ongoing discussions between MNL and the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment on it.
Gail Woodfine of MNL said municipal consultations have already been carried out on regional government and public consultations on the issue will start in the fall.
She said if government’s mandate is to make a change then MNL is certainly behind it.
Tobin said the Stephenville town council would support regional shared service but as a member of council he will not ask a taxpayer in Stephenville to subsidize a person living in another community.
“(Council members) are prepared to share in regional services and already do for some, such as animal control as one example,” he said.
Tobin said there is a role for the provincial government to build up a community first if it’s to become a part of a regional entity.
As an example, Tobin pointed to Fogo Island, which about four years ago was regionalized by joining three or four separate municipalities under the one umbrella.
“However, the provincial government had to put some money into some of the communities to make it equitable,” he said.
Tobin said one issue for the Town of Stephenville relates to some communities wanting fire services.
He said people in those communities probably don’t realize the cost of a fire department, which in Stephenville is $700,000 to $800,000 a year in wages and other expenditures. There are nine fully paid career firefighters and 24 to 26 auxiliary firefighters who get paid stipends depending on their involvement.
Tobin said for some communities it’s too high a cost but he feels they can’t expect Stephenville to provide the service and have the taxpayers of Stephenville subsidizing it.
He said another issue taking place is people who want to move away from the taxation area, which results in a diminishing number of taxpayers in a town like Stephenville yet those people use your roads and cause wear and tear to them.
Tobin recognizes he can’t tell someone in an unincorporated community they have to be incorporated but he don’t mind pointing out there are advantages to incorporation, like having access to federal programs like the Gas Tax.
With about 300 unincorporated communities in the province, Tobin said nobody wants to talk about amalgamation but he believes regional shared services could work where people just pay for the services they’re getting.

fgale@thewesternstar.com
Twitter: @WS_FrankGale
 

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