A chorus of Murray River residents voiced dissatisfaction with trustee Robert Hughes for moving an amalgamation study forward rather than waiting for a locally elected council to make the decision.

“In my opinion, you’re not representing the village of Murray River,” resident Lewis Miller said during a November 21 public meeting in which Mr Hughes single-handedly passed a resolution to support a study into the benefits of combining Murray Harbour and Murray River fire districts into one municipality.

“You’re representing the government, and the government has an agenda here. They had it in the other areas and you have it here today, it’s very clear,” Mr Miller said.

Mr Hughes was appointed by Communities Minister Rob Lantz to oversee the municipality in July when council couldn’t form a quorum due to councillor resignations.

A full council is expected to be in place following the slated December 4 election.

Some residents took issue with only one day of notice provided to the public in advance of the meeting.

“I just heard about this meeting an hour ago, and 1:30 pm in the afternoon, in the middle of the week: not a good time,” one attendee said.

Mr Hughes apologized for the short notice, adding he attempted to make the meeting convenient for the community by holding it during the CAO’s regular working hours on a Tuesday to avoid having to pay additional wages.

Some in attendance supported immediately moving forward with the study.

“It’s just learning what the options are. And at that point the public can make an educated decision on what works for the municipality,” Shannon Cupello said.

The study is expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000. Provincial funding has not been confirmed. The study is expected to be finished by early 2025.

The decision to move forward is in tandem with Murray Harbour Council’s resolution passed to pursue the joint study at a public meeting earlier this month.

Murray Harbour mayor Terry White believes information gathered in the study will be beneficial.

He compared Murray River and Murray Harbour to family members. “We all know each other and work with each other.”

Mayor White was adamant his community has no interest in joining Three Rivers or Belfast so he feels a need to act now in order to prevent being forced into a less favourable position.

“We want our area to be our area and if it has to be Murray River, Murray Harbour, Beach Point and our home fire districts, then so be it. I don’t want to see it be part of Montague.”

Minister Lantz has the power to propose and approve municipal restructuring in accordance with the Municipal Government Act.

He told The Graphic there is no situation where he would force or impose restructuring of Murray River or Murray Harbour municipalities.

“I’m taking a hands-off approach,” he said, adding he would however support initiatives led by Southern Kings municipalities if councils choose to move toward full incorporation or amalgamation.

“I think it is in communities’ best interest,” Minister Lantz said, noting various federal funding opportunities that are lost in the current municipal arrangement.

Mr Hughes said he shares the minister’s opinion.

“I personally believe from what I have seen that there’s a lot of benefits potentially of this community becoming part of a larger municipality,” he said.

He said embarking on the process would allow the municipality a stronger and more informed say.

Some Murray River residents also suggested council strengthen public accessibility and transparency related to notice and recording of special meetings.

By Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 29, 2023 at 03:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eastern Graphic   Montague, Prince Edward Island
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