GUYSBOROUGH – The Municipality of the District of Guysborough isn’t in the business of maintaining highways. Council would like that recognized in a deal from the Province in support of Mulgrave’s amalgamation with the municipality. Who will pay for the refurbishment and maintenance of the 6.2 kms of highway 344 that run through the town, post-amalgamation, isn’t the only stumbling block in getting a deal MODG can live with, but it is a significant one. The municipality says there is a $14.2 million infrastructure deficit in the Town of Mulgrave, and while it doesn’t expect to get all of those costs covered by the Province, the additional $6.9 million price tag for bringing that stretch of highway 344 up to an acceptable level of maintenance is a big problem.
Mulgrave applied to the Utility and Review Board for dissolution because of an unsustainable economic situation. In a motion passed unanimously at a special meeting of MODG council on Friday, May 20, council said it empathizes with Mulgrave’s financial troubles, and is not opposed to welcoming the community to MODG. It is, however, opposed to the support the Province is offering to make that happen.
“Council has picked a hill to die on,” Guysborough Warden Vernon Pitts told The Journal Tuesday. “And the highway is that hill.” He said unlike decisions over one-time costs from amalgamation, such as the future of the school building in Mulgrave, the highway poses a “perpetual agreement” with cost implications for future generations.
MODG received a Letter of Intent from the Province on May 19 that outlines how the the provincial government is prepared to support MODG in assuming the obligations of the town. According to Guysborough, it’s not enough.
The Letter of Intent “provides insufficient funding to bring the infrastructure of the town to acceptable standards and to support the municipality in assuming the obligations of the town,” states the motion.
The Province has committed to $2.08 million for infrastructure upgrades in the amalgamation and will look after pre- and post-transition costs.
MODG is prepared to take over responsibility for local roads in Mulgrave, but not the stretch of highway 344 in town.
Warden Pitts said Mulgrave understands and agrees with MODG’s position.
“We don’t just have to look out for our residents; we have to also look out for the people of Mulgrave because they are going to be our residents.”
The MODG is now making preparations to defend its position in front of the UARB. “Our lines of communication have been, and will continue to be, open in regards to negotiations and I would look forward to a negotiated settlement rather than a hearing before the UARB,” said Pitts.
According to the 2011 census, Mulgrave has a population of 794 people. If the total infrastructure deficit was to be divided by the town’s population, it would amount to $28,000 per person.