On September 24, Central Frontenac Township hosted a special session at Oso Hall to which council and staff representatives from all the lower-tier municipalities in Frontenac County were invited.
The purpose of the meeting was to identify areas in which the four municipalities could cooperate to manage their work and costs more efficiently. Several specific topics were discussed, and in all of them, the majority of attendees decided that their municipalities could benefit from mutual cooperation with the others. The consensus was such that although it was the first such meeting ever held, at the close of the meeting the group decided they should meet again in three months’ time.
Several resolutions came out of the session, and although not binding, they will be taken back to the individual councils for possible adoption.
EMERGENCY SERVICES JOINT TRAINING: The first topic discussed was a suggestion by North Frontenac Fire Chief Steve Riddell that the emergency response departments cooperate on training and equipment sharing. They presently do cooperate on responding to calls but have never done joint training exercises. Central Frontenac has just revamped its training facilities and agreed that joint training made sense. Several representatives suggested that cooperating on certain equipment purchases could bring better prices – it is unlikely that the price of a new fire truck could be lower, but the price of purchasing bunker suits, for example, might be.
A motion was adopted to encourage the fire and roads departments to communicate with each other across the county and report back to their individual councils.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT - Although each township has a committee or person that has been designated as responsible for economic development, the county has a full-time economic development officer, Anne Marie Young, and South Frontenac Councilor Allan McPhail said, “We’re relying solely on the county but we have to work together.”
North Frontenac Deputy Mayor Jim Beam said that each township has very different needs and areas and they could cooperate but a large part of it is up to the individual townships..
South Frontenac Councilor Ron Vandewal asked if the townships had ever communicated to Anne Marie Young specifically what their wants and needs are, and it was suggested that a special committee with representation from each township be struck to work with the economic development officer. The suggestion was adopted as a motion and passed.
WASTE MANAGEMENT: There was less consensus on the issue of waste management and the possible sharing of recycling and hazardous waste facilities.
The suggestion was made that if the townships cooperated they could deal with bigger recycling companies.
South Frontenac is in the process of building a permanent hazardous waste facility while North Frontenac has established three hazardous waste sites.
A motion was formulated that the township staffs assemble recycling statistics and that the public works managers examine the possibilities of recycling and hazardous waste sharing. The motion passed but was opposed by South Frontenac councilors Bill Robinson and John Fillion.
REGIONAL ROADS: South Frontenac works manager Mark Segsworth had suggested the topic of “regional roads”. Road 38 and 509 are two examples of roads that straddle townships and Segsworth asked if there should be a certain standard and consistency of maintenance throughout.
Councilor Vandewal asked if the townships could be missing out on grants because the roads are not called “county roads”. Central Frontenac Deputy Mayor Gary Smith said, “What we’re missing out on is, the county has gas tax money but no roads; we have roads but no money. How can that be worked out?”
County Warden and Central Frontenac Mayor Janet Gutowski said that she had consulted with other counties in Ontario and some had roads that they identified as county roads but they did not do the maintenance on them; they contracted with their municipalities to do the work. This system allowed them to apply for grants when programs came up.
A resolution to direct the public works managers to investigate the feasibility of designating a regional road system across the county and report back to each council and the group was adopted.
COUNTY GOVERNANCE: The most contentious topic turned out to be county representation, a topic that Mayor Gutowski was reluctant to discuss at the meeting, saying that a questionnaire on county governance was being circulated to the individual townships.
Previously, after rejecting a $30,000 consultant’s report, all the townships had passed resolutions that the county adopt a nine-member or nine-vote council, with extra representation for South Frontenac, but at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 22, South Frontenac decided to reply to the questionnaire by asking for a five-member council.
North Frontenac Deputy Mayor Beam said that this move by South Frontenac effectively meant that the issue of county governance was “dead in the water” because there wasn’t time to approve any changes and hold a public meeting a full year before the next municipal election.
Councilor Vandewal said the issue wasn’t dead; if the other townships wanted something different they could bring it back to them.
Central Frontenac Councilor Frances Smith said that the group should pass a resolution right then to send back the message to the county that the previously formulated resolutions submitted to the county remain unchanged. Her motion was adopted.
The next joint council meeting will be held during the third week of January 2010.
Central Frontenac Deputy Mayor Gary Smith, who proposed that the meeting take place, said later that he was pleased with the outcome.
“I think we can accomplish tings if we met together in an open forum like this,” he said.