COCAGNE (GNB) – A feasibility study has been launched to examine whether the local service district of Cocagne should become a rural community.

The study, announced by Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch, follows an initial assessment, a public meeting and a local petition.

"The study will enable residents of the local service district of Cocagne to assess if and how a rural community might better serve the needs and interests of the community," Fitch said. "The broader community – including residents, community organizations, service providers and businesspeople of the local service district – will be consulted."

The study will determine what differences rural community status could make for the people of Cocagne. This includes:

●    number of councillors;
●    initial staffing needs;
●    services that the rural community would be responsible to provide;
●    the effect on property taxes; and
●    how rural community status could help meet the needs and interests of the community.

Rogers Despres, chair of the advisory committee of the local service district of Cocagne, is chairing a round table mandated to represent various community interests during the study. Those interests include community organizations, businesspeople and service providers from the local service district as well as the entire local service district advisory committee.

The working sessions will begin this month and run throughout the fall. The group will next meet in the coming weeks.

Consultation sessions and public meetings will be held so that the entire community is well informed and given an opportunity to ask questions and express opinions.

The minister could authorize a plebiscite should the study reveal that the incorporation project is feasible and if there is strong support from the community for this option. Support for the project from local residents would be sufficient if the majority of votes were in favour of establishing a rural community.

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