A new report released by the Town of Grand Bay-Westfield addresses concerns raised by residents of the Westfield West LSD, the rural community that will merge with the town under sweeping municipal reforms announced by the province in mid-November.
On Nov. 18, the Government of New Brunswick released a highly anticipated municipal reform white paper, cutting the number of local government entities in the province, and forcing dozens of municipalities and rural areas to merge.
Under the changes, 75 per cent of the LSD of Westfield West and the entire Town of Grand Bay-Westfield are to form one new municipal entity. As well, a new “rural district” will be created out of the LSDs of Petersville and Greenwich, as well as 25 per cent of the Westfield West LSD and 75 per cent of the Kingston LSD.
The town’s report, written by CAO John Enns-Wind, elaborates on details of the municipal changes, set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2023. It notes several residents have come forward with questions and concerns about the proposed changes. The report is an attempt to answer them.
“Local government reform is an endeavour that is much needed and valued, but the results tend to please fewer people,” reads the report. “The reform will take time and patience.”
The report addresses whether taxes will rise; who will provide protective services such as police and firefighters; and whether LSD residents will lose their representation on the Fundy Regional Service Commission.
In response to a tax increase, Enns-Wind said the details of the reforms still need to be ironed out, so it’s still unknown.
“They may go up,” he said. “It’s not that they will, or they won’t. We just don’t know.”
Another question was whether LSD residents will lose their annual funding to the Westfield and District Recreation Association. After further study of the reforms, Enns-Wind said legacy associations such as this one should continue to be supported.
“There’s a lot of misinformation on Facebook,” said the CAO. “At the end of the day, we want to provide the correct information. We’re doing that realizing that there’s a lot of stuff still up in the air. This type of change can be anxiety-inducing for people and all we want to do is provide some certainty.”
In a previous interview, Westfield West LSD chair Ray Riddell told the newspaper residents are unhappy with the proposed changes and said the LSD should remain a rural community.
“We will lose our seat we presently fill on the Fundy Regional Service Commission and some of us will be represented by the mayor of Grand Bay-Westfield,” he wrote in an email. “This is very important as the (commission) takes on greater powers, such as cost-sharing of recreational and regional facilities, which has been soundly rejected here after two referenda.”
He added the former Village of Westfield went through similar changes with the Town of Grand Bay and the communities are still having issues.
“It is a shocking decision for us in this LSD,” Riddell said.
On whether LSD residents will lose their representation on Fundy Regional Service Commission, the town report explains that the type of representation will change.
“Rather than the chair of the LSD representing Westfield West, it will be the mayor of the new entity,” reads the report.
Another common question is who will be responsible for road maintenance. The white paper outlining the reforms states the Government of New Brunswick will retain responsibility for road maintenance but doesn’t address residential streets and other assets, such as wastewater systems and recreation assets, reads the report.