Municipal marriage is a rocky road
By Aubrey Smith
Municipal economic history is about to repeat itself in Central Newfoundland. Some 15 years after the amalgamation of Grand Falls and Windsor, the town of Bishop's Falls is negotiating with the Department of Municipal Affairs to join the team.
Why? A look back at the first amalgamation will shed some light on the reasoning.
Prior to joining with Grand Falls, Windsor had a history of lurching from one urgent demand to the next, such as water and sewer services in the late 1950s, snow-clearing and fire-fighting equipment, and road construction and maintenance. Meantime the Windsor tax base, which had never been very broad, was shrinking as the Grand Falls tax base grew.
Grand Falls had all the government buildings, the hospital and the businesses patronized by Windsor residents. It also had the paper mill. Furthermore, the Anglo Newfound-land Development (A.N.D.) Co. Ltd., which owned the mill, bore every municipal cost for Grand Falls up to 1960, when ownership was given to the people and its new town council. After the town was incorporated, this financial support continued as grants in lieu of taxes.
By contrast, although hundreds of Windsor residents worked for the A.N.D. mill, the company did nothing to support that town because it had no facility there. This policy of non-support continued with subsequent owner Abitibi-Price, now Abitibi Consolidated.
The inequity abated in 1991 when Premier Clyde Wells forced amalgamation upon the two towns by threatening to give a portion of the Grand Falls tax base to Windsor. That threat, plus provincial dollars thrown in to upgrade Windsor's infrastructure and write off accumulated debt, sweetened the deal enough so the two rivals reluctantly amalgamated on January 1, 1991.
Like Windsor, Bishop's Falls may be reaching the limit of its abilities to stand alone. If it becomes part of this larger town, Bishop's Falls will probably lose certain things to gain future solvency.
For one, the name Bishop's Falls - for Anglican Bishop John Inglis, who visited the falls on the Exploits River in 1827 - will likely become history. The Town Hall in Bishop's Falls will become redundant, but because Bishop's Falls is 15 kilometres from Grand Falls-Windsor, a sub-depot for service and maintenance equipment will likely remain. Essential response time may save the Bishop's Falls fire station, but the town library could be replaced by a larger regional one worthy of the amalgamated population - an idea that should be explored and, if approved, put in a central location.