WATCH: At this time next week, North Cowichan and Duncan could become one. The two municipalities are going to the polls this Saturday to decide whether or not to amalgamate. Luisa Alvarez has the details.
North Cowichan and Duncan used to the same municipality until 1912 when downtown merchants split off to form Duncan. But after this weekend, history could repeat itself as residents head to the polls to decide on amalgamation.
“I’ve been in the downtown core for about 15 years and it’s nice to be able to pick up the phone, call city hall if I have an issue. I get an answer within five or 10 minutes. North Cowichan, I deal with on a regular basis, I don’t get a call back for like two weeks or three weeks so amalgamation for me, no I’m not for it,” said Duncan resident Gordon Heppell.
While the City of Duncan may be the big name in the area, it is actually quite small. It’s fewer than two square kilometres in size with just 5,000 people.
Meanwhile, North Cowichan is larger with a population of 30,000 so joining the two has been a point of contention for a long time. Finally last year, a citizen’s assembly studied the issue and ultimately decided to recommend amalgamation.
This would be the second attempt at merging the two municipalities. Forty-five years ago a vote took place but both sides voted against amalgamation.
Fiscal savings for both municipalities is one of the top reasons for amalgamation. According to the Cowichan pro-amalgamation website, it would be around $830,000 in annual savings.
“We are spending so much money running city hall here in Duncan and then so much money again running city hall in North Cowichan so to combine it kind of just makes common sense,” said Duncan Coun. Roger Bruce.
But Duncan’s Mayor Phil Kent says the numbers aren’t that convincing.
“Studies showed that both municipalities were quite efficient and running quite well so there was really little financial difference between the two and it would have really only a small impact on the two municipalities,” said Kent.
The next advance polling takes place Tuesday, June 19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For Duncan, residents voting will be held at the Duncan City Hall. For Municiplaity of North Cowichan residents, voting will be held at the North Cowichan Municipal Hall.
The official vote will take place Saturday, June 23.