I hope everyone had a reasonably good start to 2021, although we are living in the middle of a pandemic.
Our Council continues to work toward a day when all residents will have good quality high-speed internet service and much-improved cell service.
Our Fire Liaison Committee and our Council have reviewed our fire service in our rural areas for the last year and a half. One of the goals is to find a fairer way of funding our 18 fire departments. Our current funding formula is based on assessment only and leads to a deep divide depending on where assessments are growing faster and where they are not. At the same time, we are looking at other means to allow our rural volunteer departments to operate more efficiently and with the most up-to-date systems available to make better use of dollars and best serve all residents. We are working with the fire chiefs because they are the ones that know the job of putting out fires and attending accidents and other emergencies. We would never want to do anything to negatively affect our fire departments. Our responsibility is to make sure funding is done fairly and look for efficiencies in our operations.
Recreation is a large responsibility of our Council. We commissioned a study about three years ago, and a committee visited many of our rural communities for input on what we need and what we could do better. One of the first things we did was hire another person to help our lone person in that department. Then COVID-19 came along and greatly slowed down the ability of groups to gather. A lot of groups, both with and without buildings, struggle to pay their operating bills when they can hold either no or very limited functions. Council is considering putting extra dollars into the municipal service grants for this year only so that councillors can assist recreation groups in their area. Council is also looking into the high cost of insurance for recreational groups, including liability insurance for many volunteer directors. Ultimately, Council is responsible to you, all the residents in rural Pictou County.
If you do not know what your Council is doing, then we need to change that. Our first significant improvement was putting one staff member solely in charge of communications. That includes this publication quarterly along with our website, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Our next big venture to keep you better informed is to live stream our Council meetings. Hopefully, this keeps everyone in the know and allows you to see how difficult it can be, at times, to come to decisions on issues. On behalf of my fellow councillors and our staff, I wish you and your families good health and much happiness. Please, also carefully watch yours and your family’s mental health.
Warden Robert Parker