The Town of Port Hawkesbury and the Municipality of the County of Richmond are joining forces on a couple of fronts.

During the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council on March 5, councillors passed a motion from an in-camera vote to approve the asset transfer agreement on the current provincially-owned water utility located at Landrie Lake in Richmond County. Following an in-camera vote, Richmond Municipal Council approved the agreement during their regular monthly meeting on February 25 in Arichat.

Presently, the water utility serves the Town of Port Hawkesbury and the Point Tupper Industrial Park. The new joint ownership provides both Richmond County and Port Hawkesbury the opportunity to directly manage and control their own water supplies.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton told reporters following the meeting that having control over the source and quality of water is one of the primary elements to healthy, strong, sustainable communities.

The mayor said the town has never had a boil water notice in the last 40-plus years with Landrie Lake as their source. Chisholm-Beaton said it made sense for the province to divest the lake to them and Richmond County.

Pending acceptance from the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, the transfer of ownership from the province will occur on April 1.

Terry Doyle, Port Hawkesbury’s CAO, said there is not a cost to the town, but they are responsible to establish a reserve fund so there will be a contribution to the reserve funds for the new water utility which will go towards the operations and daily upkeep.

Then during the same meeting, town councillors passed a motion approving a $5,000 contribution towards the cost of a $140,000 marketing tool as part of a strategy for business recruitment in the Strait of Canso.

The town’s contribution is contingent on funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and other municipal partners. While Richmond County did approve their $5,000 contribution, it was not without disagreement as Richmond Deputy Warden Brian Marchand questioned the necessity of such an expensive promotional campaign.

The group was formed in 2016 under the direction of the Strait Area Mayors and Wardens Committee and includes 17 key industries, six municipalities, and five economic development partners to maximize sustainable economic opportunities in the Strait of Canso.

The stakeholder group includes the Strait East Nova and Cape Breton Regional Enterprise Networks; the Municipalities of Guysborough, Antigonish County, Inverness County, Richmond County, and the towns of Port Hawkesbury and Mulgrave; the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce; Nova Scotia Business Inc.; ACOA; EDI Investment Canada; and employers around the region.

Chisholm-Beaton added the goal of the partnership formed around the Strait Area Economic Zone – which is a port development project – is to create a strategy and also to get materials to market the port appropriately.

While there was some debate in Richmond County about the other municipalities which benefit and take part in the group but do not provide funding, the fact that the ultimate decision was to help promote the Strait of Canso was positive.

Coming together on a water utility, taking part in the joint promotion of a common economic need, and the many other ways Port Hawkebury and Richmond County work together are very encouraging. Along with the joint council meetings between Antigonish town and municipal councils which have been going on for years, and the very existence of the Mayors and Wardens committee, demonstrate the recognition by elected officials of this need to work together.

The days of neighbouring municipalities going it alone, replicating each other’s work, and competing for the same business are hopefully over for good.

There is debate as to how municipalities can work together, but there is an underlying consensus that they do need to work together by meeting, keeping in regular communication and combining resources when and where it makes sense. Doing so can help each municipality achieve its goals and provides taxpayers value for their money.

What benefits one will benefit all, and now two more local municipalities are putting that adage to the test.