Amalgamating Wabush and Labrador City have been talked about for decades - and now it's time for area residents to have their say.
In 2017, a feasibility study was conducted on the two towns, which have a combined population of about 10,000 and are located just five kilometres apart. That study recommended the two towns follow in the footsteps of other towns in this province, such as Grand Falls-Windsor, and move forward with amalgamation.
Before that happened, however, it was recommended the towns provide an opportunity for residents to discuss the issue and to offer suggestions on how it should happen.
Labrador City Mayor Wayne Button says this is a decision that has to be made by the residents of the individual communities.
“It’s not a decision that will be made by council, it has to be something that is desired by the people,” he says.
Two community sessions on amalgamation will go ahead March 26 at the Catholic church in Wabush and March 27 at the curling club in Labrador City. Both sessions are scheduled for 6:30-9 p.m.
The sessions will be chaired by consultant Carol Spicer and a report will returned to councils within five weeks. At that point, both councils will decide if a plebiscite will be held.
Button says some of the points residents should consider include:
• What should an amalgamated community look like?
• What process should be used to elect a mayor and council of an amalgamated community?
• How do you feel about the current service delivery from your community?
• What option would you support? Stay the same, develop a new service agreement or amalgamate?
The feasibility study made several recommendations, including looking at the number of councillors that should be elected from each community. The full study is available for viewing at the websites of both towns.
During the sessions, participants will be asked to vote anonymously on certain questions by using electronic devices.
Have a say
Button and Wabush Mayor Ron Barron are hoping for a good turnout at the meetings.
“We don’t care if people are for or against the idea of amalgamation, but it is important to hear the thoughts from a large cross-section of residents, not just, say, a small number who are opposed to the idea," Button said.
"It's important to get the true feeling of what the people of these communities want for their future.”
Button hopes residents understand this is "the biggest decision people will have to make in the history of the towns that are just over 50 years old and we want people to show up so people are well represented, regardless of what they think."
History of cooperation
In recent years, Button added, both towns have had success with shared services in the area, like the landfill and, most recently, recreation.
"We have a steam truck and help them with that, they have a bucket truck and help us with that," Button said.
Amalgamation is designed to do away with the duplication of services, and both mayors expect people will have lots of questions about how things will work.
One issue that has been on the minds of many is taxation. It's not yet certain what changes could potentially come if the two towns join forces.
Barron says there may be some unknowns, but the important thing is to discuss amalgamation openly.
Both mayors say it’s not their decision to make - it’s a decision to be made by residents, they say, and for that reason, they are hoping for a large turnout for the public sessions will help steer councils on the amalgamation decision.