GUYSBOROUGH – What should have been a routine point on the monthly Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) council meeting agenda, a report on the recent Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL) library board meeting, spurred a long discussion about the fate of the libraries in Canso and Guysborough.
At the Feb. 17 meeting, councillors voiced concerns about the hours at each library branch and the fear that those few hours may be reduced as the ECRL creates a budget for the coming fiscal year.
The ECRL has asked the MODG to increase its funding. At this time, the MODG has no plans of doing so; they provide the ECRL with $35,990 per year and own and maintain the buildings ECRL uses in the municipality at a cost of approximately $40,000 a year. Council put forward and passed a motion to send a letter to the ECRL board about their concerns.
Warden Vernon Pitts told the media after the council meeting, “ECRL are looking for a major increase in funding but they’re also, in the same breath, they’re also looking at cutting services…. We have 16 hours of service here in Guysborough and we have 24 hours of service in the community of Canso; to me that’s substandard anyway. If they’re going to cut services what’s left to cut? Is the next thing to close the libraries?
“What we are trying to do is get ahead of this. We’re trying to make them realize that … the municipality does the maintenance, the lights, the phone; we do all the bills in regard to that so I can’t see where these costs are coming from,” said Pitts, adding that an ECRL board meeting set for Feb. 18, would hopefully result in some answers to questions council has about funding and service.
In regard to last month’s meeting with representatives from Emergency Health Services (EHS), Pitts said council has not received any additional response to their questions about availability of ambulances and response times. He added, “I noticed watching CTV news that there are major problems in other areas. So, we’re not the only one bucking the trend, shall we say. Let’s see where it goes. It’s not good news, what you’re hearing; be it equipment issue or manpower issue. We are going to have to get that sorted out. The only way we can do that is to have an exchange of ideas … Until they contact us, our hands are basically tied.”
Council has also filed a freedom of information request in regard to plans for the Irving Oil property in Guysborough and a former gas station property in Boylston.
Pitts said, “Council is not going to slacken off on this. This is a priority for our council. It is not only the property in the Guysborough area it is also the old service station in the Boylston area. We want them all cleaned up. This day and age there’s no need of it.”
In the coming month, the MODG will formulate the budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Pitts said of the budget planning to date, “As everyone through the municipality knows, likely province wide, the last number of years we’ve taken a $3 million hit in regard to property assessment commercial (due to decommissioning of Sable Offshore Energy Project). We have a plan in place, a five-year-plan … as long as we stick to the plan; I think we are going to weather this alright.
“We are not looking at any major tax increases going forward. We just went through our preliminary budget meeting planning session at the CLC a number of weeks ago. Things aren’t too bad. We are very comfortable. Let’s not rock the boat,” said Pitts.
When asked if there would be an increase in taxes he said, “I believe we are still going to have the lowest tax rate in the province of Nova Scotia when we get through the budget process … I anticipate perhaps, maybe there will be a very minimal increase.”