STRAIT AREA: Municipalities are giving themselves the option of leaving the local enterprise network.
Following its recent budget deliberations, council for the Municipality of the District of Guysborough voted to send a letter of notice to the Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN).
“We didn’t serve notice that we are leaving the [ESREN],” said Pitts. “We are required to give them a year’s notification if we’re contemplating leaving. If we only decided to leave next year and we didn’t give them notice, we remain in for another year and supply the funding.”
Pitts said he feels the municipality shouldn’t have to make such a decision a year ahead of time but instead be allowed to make it at budget time. When asked why Guysborough is contemplating leaving, Pitts said it is because for budgetary reasons. He pointed out that the municipality recently raised its tax rates and cut funding to programs.
“It’s a part of doing business and therefore, down the road, if things don’t turn around shortly, that’s going to have to be cut,” he said. “We were faced with the predicament of either we give notice to the REN or we withdraw funding from our own economic development office and we will not be withdrawing funding from our own economic development office. Our economic development office, we have a proven track record.”
During a regular monthly meeting last week, Antigonish Town Council also voted to serve notice of leaving the ESREN. Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said this isn’t because the town definitely wants to leave but because they want to be confident in where they will be next year.
Boucher said the CAOs of the municipalities involved will meet within a week to see where they are going from here.
“I do believe the municipalities remaining do want to make this work, it will just be whether we have enough support from enough municipalities or not,” said Boucher. “Again, we would like this to work. We believe it is working. There’s no specific incident that happened. I think John Beaton and his team are doing a great job.”
Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said Port Hawkesbury Town Council served their notice, as did the District of St. Mary’s.
“We wanted to make sure we had the ability to have an option to do something else with economic development,” said Chisholm-Beaton. “We’re hoping that the ESREN will continue to thrive and grow and continue past the end of March, 2019 but the town hopes that will be with all of the municipal units together, all of us united and going forward.”
Chisholm-Beaton said it isn’t a matter of being disappointed with the work of ESREN. In fact, Chisholm-Beaton said the town is happy with the progress ESREN made to date, pointing to items such as Start-Up Port Hawkesbury.
Council for the Municipality of the County of Antigonish voted to send their notice last week as well. Warden Owen McCarron said the county took a bit of a defensive position after Guysborough served its notice.
“It will give us a year to talk about opportunities and how ESREN goes forward,” said McCarron. “It will give us a chance also to sit down with our colleagues in Guysborough and get a better understanding if it is their intention to completely withdraw.”
McCarron said serving notice is part of the Memorandum of Understanding that the ESREN municipalities signed when joining. The Antigonish Warden said the ESREN did a lot of good work and has a solid team.
“It is business as usual with ESREN as we speak and we continue to want to work with them and promote ESREN as an economic development engine,” said McCarron, noting because the funding is based on population, Antigonish County contributes the most to the network. “Obviously, we have to be responsible to the rate payers so we just served notice but now it gives us that year to work through any bumps in the road.”