FREDERICTON (GNB) – A feasibility study has been launched to determine whether the local service districts of Hanwell and Kingsclear should be combined into one rural community, become separate rural communities or remain as they are.

The announcement made today by Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch follows an initial assessment and local petitions for a feasibility study from residents.

"The study will enable residents of the two local service districts to assess if and how one rural community or two separate ones might better serve the needs and interests of the community than the current model," Fitch said. "The broader community – including residents, community organizations, service providers and businesspeople of the two local service districts – will be consulted as part of the study."

The study will determine what changes a rural community could make for the residents of Hanwell and/or Kingsclear. This includes:

●    boundaries;
●    name;
●    number of councillors;
●    initial staffing needs;
●    services that the rural community would initially provide;
●    services that the provincial government would continue to provide;
●    the effect on property taxes; and
●    how such changes could help meet the needs and interests of the communities.

A community round table made up of residents representing various community organizations, businesspeople and service providers has been engaged in conducting the initial assessment and getting the petitions for a feasibility study. The round table, chaired by Peter Michaud, was recently expanded to include both local service district advisory committees.
 
The mandate of the round table is to represent the various community interests as part of the feasibility study process, while provincial staff will provide technical assistance. Working sessions began in July and will continue through fall.  

"Public consultation will be held, providing an opportunity for residents, property owners, businesses and community organizations to be informed of all available local governance options, ask related questions and provide their viewpoints," said Michaud. "These options will include joining together as one rural community, establishing two separate rural communities or remaining as individual local service districts."

The minister could authorize a plebiscite should the study reveal it is feasible to establish a rural community and if there is strong support from the community for this option.

The rural community model, available since 2005, has characteristics similar to those of a municipality (that is, an elected council), and is designed to serve rural areas. It puts community information and decisions in the hands of community members, helps them plan the future they want, and enables them ensure that local services meet the community's needs and make the best use of property tax revenue.