Compiled by: Lisa Atkinson
Date: July 1996
HTML Revision: April 29, 2001
This project has been made possible by financial assistance from the federal government through the National Archives of Canada and the Canadian Council of Archives.
Municipal Incorporation and Elections
The Municipality of the District of Argyle was incorporated in 1879 and the first municipal election was held on Tuesday 18 November 1879. There were initially five municipal electoral districts and six councillors elected: the Tusket district, being a very large one geographically, elected two councillors.
The first Council was obviously considered an interim one, for municipal elections were held again a year later, on 3 November 1880. The practice of holding municipal elections once every three years seems not to have been instituted for over a decade, as municipal elections were held in 1882, 1884, 1886, 1888, 1890 and 1892. Beginning in 1895, municipal elections began to be held once every three years, and have continued in that manner to the present day.
At the first meeting after the municipal election, which was usually the annual meeting held in January, the Councillors would elect from amongst themselves the Warden who would preside over the Council activities for the three year term. Council was obliged to hold at least two regular meetings each year: the annual meeting, held on the fourth Tuesday of January, and the semi-annual meeting, held on the first Tuesday of May. For many years these were the only meetings Council required to attend to the business of the municipality. Gradually, however, special meetings were held more and more frequently as they proved necessary to deal with the growing responsibilities of local government.
The Minutes of Municipal Council, as recorded by the Municipal Clerk and Treasurer in the Council's minute books, provide the best overall view of the activities of Argyle's municipal government. Minutes of the meetings held by the Council's various committees also give valuable insight to the activities and direction taken by Council. During the earlier period covered by this fonds, the committees appear not to have had the importance that they later enjoyed. Indeed, by the 1970s, it would appear that the real work of Council was done by committee rather than by Council at large.
Municipal Clerk and Treasurer
The two most important officials employed by the Municipal Council were the Municipal Clerk and the Municipal Treasurer. The Clerk was responsible for recording the minutes of all the Council meetings and administering the day to day affairs of the municipality. He had many financial responsibilities as well, although the Municipal Treasurer was responsible for the final and formal book-keeping for the municipality. Auditors were appointed at each annual meeting of Council to audit the financial records at the end of the year. In 1913 the positions of Municipal Clerk and Treasurer were combined when the Treasurer resigned due to ill health and the Clerk assumed his responsibilities by a motion of Council.
Although the Council officially made all the administrative decisions for the municipality at their meetings, it is obvious that the Municipal Clerk was the person who carried out all of the day to day business of government. This was (and is) a position of considerable power, as it was the knowledge of the Clerk that Councillors often depended upon to assist them in making informed and responsible decisions. A weak Council and Warden could result in the Municipal Clerk being the person directing most of the business and making most of the decisions for the municipality.
During those years when the Municipal Clerk also held the position of Secretary-Treasurer to the School Board, his power was even greater.
The Municipality of Argyle has a history of long-serving Clerks. From its first meeting in 1880 to 1986, the municipality employed only 5 Clerks: Enos Gardner, 1880-1898; Charles K. Hurlbert, 1898-1923 (he was Clerk-Treasurer from 1913); Bernard H. Hurlbert (Charles' son), 1924-1953; Cyriac Boudreau, 1951-1976; and Jerry P. Doucet, 1976-1991.
During Cyriac Boudreau's tenure as Clerk he also served as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Argyle Municipal School Board. When Jerry Doucet, who had been employed for several years as the Deputy Municipal Clerk, replaced Cyriac Boudreau in the senior municipal position, the work for the School Board became the responsibility of the Deputy Clerk. Thenceforth the Deputy Clerk attended to Municipal Council only during the sickness or absence of the Municipal Clerk. With the amalgamation of School Boards in 1981, the Deputy Clerk became an employee exclusively of the School Board. Although the work of the Deputy Clerk within the municipality continued to be carried on by staff members, particularly by Patricia Scoville, it was a number of years before she was given the appropriate title and salary.
Tax assessment and collection
Of all of the affairs of Council, the assessment of properties for tax purposes and the subsequent collection of those taxes was its pre-eminent duty, since all of their other activities were dependent on this source of revenue. In addition to taxing real property (ie land and buildings), poll taxes were levied against those who lived but did not own property in the municipality, personal property (ie furniture, boats, lobster traps, etc) was taxed and for many years a resident tax, dog taxes, school taxes, taxes for the relief of the poor, and fire taxes were also levied and collected as separate municipal taxes.
From 1928 there was one tax collector responsible for the collection of taxes for the entire municipality. His job was a solitary and peripatetic one, since it was the tax collector's role to go out into the municipality and collect tax from residents at their homes. Norman Hatfield was the tax collector in 1928 and he remained in this position until 1953 or 1954. The Council then chose to have the Municipal Clerk act as tax collector for a brief period. Consequently, Cyriac Boudreau became tax collector and, in addition to his salary as Clerk, was paid a percentage of the taxes he collected.
In June 1957 Arthur B. Wathen and Neri Surette (appointed Chief Assessor and Assistant Assessor, respectively, in 1956) were appointed joint tax collectors for the municipality. In 1959 Anthony Bourque replaced Arthur Wathen (who remained as Assessor) as collector, a position he held until 1971. In 1972 Council decided that no municipal tax collector would be hired, that collection would take place only at the municipal office by the general office staff, and that the practice of sending the tax collector "out on the road" would come to an end. Patricia (Bourque) Scoville became the main tax collector in 1976 after she was hired, although other staff members assisted with the job, and she did not hold the title of Tax Collector.
In 1928, there were tax assessors appointed on an annual basis in each of the electoral districts of the Municipality of the District of Argyle. One of the assessors was also appointed "Clerk to the Assessors" and paid an annual salary for those duties. For many years prior to 1928, and for many years after, the Municipal Council appointed assessors in each electoral district to assess the real and personal property in their respective districts for taxation purposes. As early as 1953 many complaints were beginning to arise throughout the municipality regarding irregular methods of property assessment. At the same time the Council was beginning to suspect that there was a great deal more taxable property in the municipality than that which was showing up on their assessment rolls. Nevertheless, it was 1956 before it was finally agreed that a reassessment of properties throughout the entire municipality was required and as a result a permanent assessment office was set up.
In 1969 the Yarmouth-Clare Regional Assessment Committee, a jointly funded regional assessment service, was established. In 1977 the provincial government took over sole responsibility for assessment and the municipal governments ceased to be involved. For a time a field assessment office for Argyle, containing property field cards, was maintained in the Court House and, after 1976, in the new Municipal Office, but this ceased around 1978. Since that time the assessment office has been located in the Provincial Building on Starr's Road in Yarmouth.
During the period of 1928-1986 Council operated with a varying number of committees. Some of the early committees remained in place for many years, while the 1960s and 1970s (a period of school consolidation and construction) saw a proliferation of special and temporary committees. Some of the standing committees whose functions are clearly evident in the records contained in this fonds include:
Hospitals & Sanatorium Committee - was mainly in charge of paying hospital bills that poor residents of the Municipality were unable to pay on their own. The Municipality was usually billed directly by the hospitals, and this committee then determined which patients should be required to pay their own bills. The committee also made recommendations on direct grants which were given from time to time to the Yarmouth Hospital and the Kentville Sanatorium.
The Overseers of the Poor - during this period were mainly involved with overseeing the operation of the Municipal Poor Farm at Argyle, and they reported to Council on a regular basis. The Overseers also determined which residents of the municipality would receive "Municipal Relief" -- that is, assistance in paying for any goods or services which they required but could not afford. There is evidence in the records that the overseers requested the municipality pay for a wide variety of items on behalf of the local poor, including groceries, fuel (oil or cord wood), dental and medical services and supplies, transportation and funeral services. This committee continued to operate under this name until 1962 when they began to be referred to as the Welfare Committee.
Welfare Committee - In 1970 this committee was split into two: the "Tidal View Home Management Committee" and the "Welfare Committee". The first of these committees dealt only with the former "Poor" or "Alms" House, while the latter dealt with all other welfare matters.
As early as 1968 the Welfare Committee and the Council began meeting with other local municipal units for the purpose of cost-sharing on the construction of a regional home for the aged. In 1971 the municipality agreed to contribute toward the building of Tidal View Manor, to be built next to the Yarmouth Hospital. It also agreed that they would use this facility for any Argyle senior citizens who were a charge upon the municipality.
In 1972 the Council began to talk about closing their former Poor House (by then referred to as Tidal View Home) and transferring the remaining residents to Tidal View Manor in Yarmouth. Shortly thereafter "Harbourside Lodge", a facility for the mentally infirm, was constructed next to Tidal View Manor, the transfer of patients was completed and the Poor House was closed.
Cost-sharing between the Municipality of Argyle, the Municipality of Yarmouth and the Town of Yarmouth for all the region's welfare and social services was realised in the late 1960s with the establishment of a Joint Welfare Committee, later known as the Joint Social Services Committee.
The Arbitration Committee - was a joint Municipality of Argyle, Town of Yarmouth and Municipality of Yarmouth committee responsible for determining cost-sharing for jointly used facilities and services provided by the Town of Yarmouth. The 1928 joint arbitration agreement included the administration of justice, jail, court house and the municipal clerk's salary. Argyle's Court House had ceased to be used for sessions of Supreme Court in 1925 and its Gaol had officially closed in the same year.
The Finance Committee - in conjunction with the Clerk & Treasurer oversaw the finances of the Municipality and made decisions about whether certain projects were viable or not, from a financial standpoint.
Special committees, some of which became permanent, were named by Council as required to address specific issues as they arose. In 1952 the Civil Defence Committee (which existed until formally abolished in 1979) was added to this roster, and was joined in 1953 by a Law Amendments & By-Law Committee and a Tenders and Public Property Committee. From 1951-1953 the subject of the establishment of a Vocational High School in Yarmouth, and Argyle's share in the expenditure, appears in the Council's minutes repeatedly, and finally in 1954 a Vocational High School Committee was established as well. In 1957 a Personnel Committee was established: formerly the Council, as a whole, had made decisions about personnel, salaries and all related issues.
A Board of Visitors to the Municipal Home was added to the list of special committees in 1959. The "visitors" made regular inspections of the Poor Farm and reported their findings to Council. The Board of Health was established in 1964, the same year that regulations concerning the installation of private sewage disposal systems were brought into force. Thereafter applications to install such systems had to be submitted to the Board of Health which issued permits and inspected sites to ensure compliance with the new regulations.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s many temporary committees were established to deal with the consolidation of schools and the resulting construction of new schools, but as their jobs were completed these committees were duly dissolved. In 1978 two new committees were named, one being an Industrial Committee, which became a standing committee, and the other the Sewer Committee, which was a special committee established to deal with the planning and installation of a sewage system in West Pubnico.
Sewage problems in the densely settled community of West Pubnico became a problem in the 1960s, and in 1968 McNamara Engineering Ltd. was engaged to carry out a pollution control survey for that area, and the Municipal Council applied to the Nova Scotia Resources Commission for financial aid to carry this out. This firm came before Council again in 1969, and also in that year a plebiscite was held in West Pubnico in order to determine what the residents of that area wished to have done. Various surveys were carried out by different engineering firms over the next several years, and by 1976 an estimate of approximately $2 million had been reached for the cost of the project. The sewer construction project went ahead in 1977. In 1979, in the middle of construction, the Sewer Committee and Council had to deal with a lawsuit by one of the contractors, Keltic Construction Ltd., which was suing for $100,000 in damages.
In 1980 the Industrial Committee was requested to contact the Department of Municipal Affairs about the possibility of a mine being established in the East Kemptville area, and to determine where the Municipality stood in relation to taxation of such property. In 1981 the terms of reference for the Industrial Committee were clarified and discussions began about attempting to build an industrial park in the Tusket area.
Argyle Recreation Commission
In December 1967 the Argyle Recreation Commission was appointed by Council. The Commission was given annual grants but had no paid staff to carry out any recreational programs on their behalf. The Chair of the Commission and his members requested several times to have a Recreation Director employed but were unsuccessful until 1979 when the Council agreed to supply funding for the position provided the provincial government shared one half of the expense.
In 1973 Council first began considering the need to build public housing in the Municipality, especially senior citizens apartment units. It approached the Central Mortgage and Housing Commission and the Nova Scotia Housing Commission which, along with the Regional Housing Authority, provided assistance for the construction of facilities in Wedgeport (1976), Tusket (1976) and West Pubnico (1979). The Municipality held a 10% interest in these properties.
Home for Special Care
In 1980 the Municipality of Argyle made an application to the Minister of Social Services to have a Home for Special Care constructed in the region. The application was not approved because the Department felt that there were already enough acute care beds in Yarmouth County to serve the area's population. In 1981 the Department reviewed the application and agreed to consider the Municipality's request. The same year the Council began looking at possible building sites for a 75 bed nursing home with the intention of acquiring a piece of land. A delegation of citizens from the Argyle area appeared before the Council shortly thereafter, requesting that the Home for Special Care be built in their district.
The process of establishing the Nakile Home for Special Care was a slow one. The 36 bed facility at Argyle, owned 100% by the Municipality of Argyle, was finally opened in December 1989.