I spent the better part of the last week talking to candidates for mayor and council in South Frontenac. The profiles that resulted from those conversations start on page 6 of this edition. I woud first like to thank all of the people I talked to. They were honest and forthright about where they think the township is going and the role that the township should be playing.
A couple of divisions emerged and depending on how the election pans out the township could be headed in a different direction.
One of the divisions is over spending. All of the candidates are committed to controlling spending on existing operations, while maintaining services, paving roads, and so onw. But a number thought that the township needs to respond to the current and likely future influx of young families seeking to raise families in the countryside. The traditional rural character of the township and its small hamlets might not. Where there are now a number of parks, ball diamonds and soccer fields, and an arena up at the top end of the township, some candidates are talking about splash pads, new recreation centres, even swimming pools.
As one candidate put it, and I’m paraphrazing, South Frontenac needs to decide if it is going to be ,ore suburban.
The is a big change from anything that has been seriously discussed in the past. Until now, the township has been steadily improving its roads, modernizing its parks and beaches, and essentially maintaining the same character as the township had 30 or 50 years ago. Some fancy houses have been built on and even off the water, and subdivisions have gone in here and there. But aside from the Frontenac Arena, which was built in pre-amalgamation days (1976) by 4 Frontenac townships working together, nothing else like it has even been seriously contemplated.
Since South Frontenac was created in 1998, with the exception of the Sydenham library, the only recreational infrastructure projects that have been completed have been enhancements to pre-existing facilities, notably Centennial Park in Harrowsmith and the Point Park in Sydenham.
The idea of building a recreation centre as an add-on to a potential new office complex, which is being floated by one mayoralty candidate and hinted at by another and also promoted by several council candidates, would be a big change. South Frontenac Council spent its first ten years figuring out how to amalgamate fully and its next ten implementing amalgamation and consolidating its public works infrastructure.
When this idea is combined with the realisation that tackling Road 38 is now a real priority for the township, budgeting is likely to become a more contentious, and costly, enterprise over the next four years.
The second issue of note during this election is the vigorous assertion, by a number of candidates, that the only way to solve the townships planning woes is to wrest responsibility for subdivision and plan of condominium approvals from Frontenac County. A change of that order may or may not solve some of the problems the township has been having, but it also seems to miss the point.
What everyone says they want is a transparent, rules based process. If there were an up to date Official Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw in place, good complete information from the planning department for developers large and small, and a chance for affected parties to air their concerns, presumably good decisions would follow that allow the township to grow while protecting community and environmental concerns. It would not matter who makes the final decision as long as all of these safeguards are in place.
The possible pitfall of setting up a made in South Frontenac process that inserts council into the mix in a big way via enhanced public meetings, is that politics could run roughshod over the rules.
Sometimes a fair and reasonable planning decision will run counter to the interests, perceived or real, of the neighbour down the road.
South Frontenac needs a planning process that is overseen by professionals under a set of rules that are debated and approved by Council.
Any other outcome will lead to a continuation of the tendency towards decisions being made by provincially appointed appeals tribunals overseen by people who have no connection to either South Frontenac or Frontenac County as a whole.
(Next week, we will focus on the elections in Addington Highlands and Central Frontenac. Candidate profiles of the 10 candidates for council in Central Frontenac, and the 6 candidates for council and 2 candidates for reeve in Addington Highlands, will be published. These profiles will be posted at Frontenacnews.ca as soon as they are completed, hopefully on Sunday the 14th or Monday the 15th.)
A number of letters to the editor have been published in the Frontenac News in recent weeks about Judy Farrell, a member of Tay Valley Council who was the subject of an investigation by a third-party investigation into allegations that she harassed Tay Valley Township staff.
In a report to the township, the investigator concluded that Farrell had indeed harassed the staff members. Farrell, and her lawyer, asked for a copy of the report and were told that for privacy reasons they could not be supplied one. The report prescribed that Farrell undertake sensitivity training and apologise to the staff members involved.
Farrell refused, and in response council stripped her of many of her duties, including sitting on township committees and attending conferences. About all that Farrell was left with was the right to attend council meetings.
Some of the letters to the editor deal with some of the statements made by Farrell on her Facebook page on September 11 of this year. In last week’s edition of the Frontenac News, an article was published (Tay Valley Debacle Colours Election) about the controversy and how it relates to this year’s election campaign inTay Valley, where Farrell is running for Deputy Reeve.
Farrell was called as the article was being prepared, but did not respond in time for publication, so we used her Facebook post to characterise her position on the issues that led to her being censured by Council.
Farrell contacted the News after the article had been published and she was interviewed this week. She did not say anything that contradicts her Facebook post of September 11, but added some detail about the situation.
The first thing that Judy Farrell said was that the much of what was said in the letters we published was not true.
“How can you publish such unsubstantiated statements,” she said.
The letters she was referring to were by Mark Burnham, a member of Tay Valley Council, and David Taylor, a Tay Valley resident.
We also talks about the statement made by Keith Kerr, Tay Valley Reeve, on September 19, which was published on the township website. The statement refers to her September 11 Facebook post, and includes some pretty pointed language, including the following: “It is convenient for Councillor Farrell to blame others for her mistakes, but that does not make her statements true.”
For her part, Farrell went back to the beginning.
She said “it’s no secret that Tay Valley is known as a difficult place to build because of the way the planning and building departments operate. All of this has come from efforts to make improvements and deal with these problems. Efforts that were done in a respectful way.”
According to Farrell these efforts began after MPP Hillier, who lives in Perth, received complaints from Tay Valley residents about how hard it is to get approvals in order to build.
“Randy Hillier, along with representatives from the Perth Real Estate Board and the Lanark Leeds Home Builders Association, came to a committee meeting and talked about the issues that are of concern. This was June 26/2017. When the delegation was finished I said that we would look into this and try to rectify this. The next day a gentleman from Black Lake wrote a summation of the meeting on his Facebook page, and I gave it a thumbs up. The Planner and the CBO accused me of harassment.”
Farrell said that she has never met privately with either the township planner or the Chief Building Official except in 2014, before taking office, when she was applying for permits for her own home. She did have disagreements over decisions and fees with each of them at that time. She said she has not met with them later on and has never discussed their performance with them in her role as a member of council.
“They say that I said the Planner was over paid but I never said that. I did say that we should look at the cost of our planning and building departments. At conferences there is talk about sharing services with other townships to save money for both townships. I brought that up at council, but I did not say anything against our staff in a personal way.”
Farrell also said that the township did not follow its own procedural bylaw when the complaints were made.
“They should have sat down with me, the CAO [Chief Administrative Officer] and the complainants and we could have dealt with the problems. But instead he hired an investigator,” she said.
This point is addressed in Reeve Kerr’s release from September 19: “Councillor Farrell also suggests that the Township’s internal procedure was not followed. The truth is the CAO attempted to deal directly with Councillor Farrell about staff complaints prior to the investigation. That was ineffective and an investigation was ordered by Council after further incidents were reported.”
According to Judy Farrell, there were no further incidents.
“Everything that I have done or said was done in a council meeting. How does a Councillor doing their job get to the level of harassment?” she said.
She also said that her lawyer accompanied her when she met with the investigator looking into the harassment allegation, and afterwards her lawyer said that nothing that there was no way she could be found to have harassed any township staff member based on what came out at that meeting.
“So, when they said there was harassment I wanted to see the report. How can I defend myself when I cannot see the report?” she said.
Keith Kerr, speaking on behalf of Council, clearly sees things differently. Again, from his September 19 release: “It is important for the public to understand that Council has certain legal obligations where its staff are being harassed, and accordingly could not accept Councillor Farrell simply refusing to apologize or accept that her conduct contravened the Occupational Health and Safety Act … Councillor Farrell is directly responsible for the decision of Council to direct me to respond to the ongoing issues created by her behavior.”
The dispute has been expensive, for both sides. The township has paid $160,000 in costs, according to what a member of council told the News, and Judy Farrell said she has spent $30,000 in legal fees.
The restrictions on Farrell will cease to have effect as soon as the new Tay Valley Council is sworn in later this fall. Judy Farrell is running for Deputy Reeve.
“I did not think, after one term, that I had the experience to be a good Reeve, but I have the ability to be a good deputy and listen to the taxpayers concerns.”
She supports the current Deputy Reeve, Brian Campbell, who is running for Reeve against both Keith Kerr and former Deputy Reeve Susan Freeman.
“Only if Brian Campbell is elected will there be change. If Kerr or Freeman get in, it will be status quo,” she said.
Voting begins on October 15, and the results will be posted just after 8pm on October 22.
On Sunday evening (Sept. 30) a fire swept through a residential building that at one time was the schoolhouse for the Village of Ompah. The building had been converted into a single family dwelling in the years following the school’s close in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. It was occupied by a family of 4 until this week. The family is reportedly living in Perth and a number of local people are attempting to reach out to support them.
“The good news was that no one was injured in the fire. I believe the family pets made it out unscathed as well,” said North Frontenac Fire Chief Eric Korhonen.
Korhonen said that North Frontenac Firefighters and the Kaladar Barrie department responded to the fire. By the time they arrived, the building was beyond saving and the efforts were focussed on preventing the fire from spreading and making sure it was completely out.
The department still needs to complete an investigation, but Korhonen said it looks like the fire will be classed as “cause undetermined” because the building had burned completely and all evidence about what may have caused it has been destroyed
The Ompah Schoolhouse was built around 1870, roughly at the same time as the Anglican Church in Ompah. It closed about 100 years later, when Clarendon Central Public School opened in Plevna.
Barbara Sproule was the teacher in the one room school between 1958 and the school’s closing. She remembers that the building was rather basic; the school was heated by a wood stove, and did not have running water, although it did have a well and hand pump.
“We had a caretaker who came in early to start up the stove, but there were winter days when we started the day with the children sitting around the woodstove until the building warmed up.” She said, “but we made do and everyone co-operated. Those were good years.
Sproule was only 16 when she started teaching at the Canonto school, and 17 when she started teaching in Ompah, not much older than some of her students.
“I never told them my age, but I think they knew,” she said.
Not only did she teach in the Ompah school, Sproule also attended the school, as did both her mother and her son.
When the school closed it was purchased by members of the Thomas family as a cottage, and it was later renovated into a family home. The current owners have lived there for several years.
The Ontario government has given a bit more time for the incoming municipal councils to think about whether they will permit cannabis retailers to set up shop within their jurisdiction. At first, they were faced with a decision in December, at their first or second meeting, but that has been pushed back to January.
Still, it has given candidates for council a different kind of question to answer than they are normally used to during the municipal election campaign. It is simple on the surface; do you think your township should allow cannabis to be sold within its borders? But since it is a yes or no question, it tends to pack an extra punch. When asked at all candidates meetings, it tends to elicit a response that is perhaps what you would expect from people who have lived all of their lives in a world where marijuana is forbidden, an illicit drug. No one wants to say, “I have been smoking pot for 40 years, why shouldn’t it be sold in our town?”. That means they are admitting they have been a lawbreaker for 40 years at the same time as they are asking for people to vote for them. Some want to say, “I’ve never tried it, and I don’t plan to, but ...” and some talk about making sure it is not being sold near schools. Some even refuse to be pinned down, using the “I’d like to hear what the people think” or “maybe we should hold a referendum” cop out lines.
What those asking and answering the question about cannabis sales really need to do is cast their mind forward a couple of weeks. Once cannabis is legal on October 17, it will join millions of legal products that may or may not be good for us, such as candy bars and sugary drinks, gasoline and potato chips, and beer and wine and whiskey.
It will be subject to restrictions, although not likely as onerous as those tobacco is subject to, and will only be sold in dedicated stores, for now.
At one time local municipalities, heavily influenced by religious based temperance movements, maintained restrictions over the sale of alcohol. But as municipalities have amalgamated and expanded, the logic behind restricting the sale of alcohol has faded. All it meant was an inconvenience for local residents and a disadvantage for local business, neither of which are desired by municipal councils.
The main reason that the cannabis prohibition has been lifted in Canada after 80 years is that it had become hopelessly outdated. The percentage of the population who use cannabis is too large, and it is untenable for (at least) 15% of the population to be criminals just because they use a common drug, be it for medical or recreational reasons or for a combination of the two.
Municipalities that vote to prohibit the sale of cannabis in January will be dooming theirs and future councils to revisit these issues over and over again, until the sale is finally legalised. Municipalities that take the plunge and permit retailers to set up in their jurisdiction, with all the provincially mandated restrictions that are already in place, will likely never have to deal with the matter again.
Jennifer Clow has worked in retirement homes and long-term care facilities as a PSW and in other capacities for most of her working career and she knew that what she really wanted was to run a home that was more like a family home than an institutional facility. The ideas behind the Gentle care philosophy that the Fairmount Home in Glenburnie has adopted in the last few years were well known to her 15 years ago.
So, when her neighbours across Road 38 from the farm where she lives with her husband and family decided to sell their home, she quickly made a deal to buy it in order to open a retirement home.
At the time it was a challenge for the building and planning department of the Township of Central Frontenac to determine what was required in a private home for seniors and infirm people, operating outside of the healthcare system. That led to a fair bit of confusion and some interesting back and forth dialogue between Clow and the township.
Commercial banks did not have as much trouble. They just weren’t particularly interested in financing the venture.
The Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation, which was then only a couple of years old, saw Jennifer Clow as someone who was going to start a viable business and provide an important local service.
“They told me that the loan I took out at that time, which was for $100,000, was the largest they had ever underwritten. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money today, but at the time it was a lot for me, and for them,” she recalls.
One of the smart things that she did back in 2006, was to invest in a sprinkler system for the addition that she was building onto the original house in order to bring the capacity of Countryview Care to 15 residents.
“The system was different then. We weren’t even licensed by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, but even if we had been, sprinklers were not mandatory at that time, but we put them in anyway.”
Clow has recently taken out a new loan from the CFDC in order to put a sprinkler system into the original part of the building, which does not have a system in place.
Countryview Care is now a licensed retirement home under ministry guidelines, but although this requires a lot of paperwork and other expenses for the business, people who live in the home receive no subsidy to cover their living costs.
Even though Countryview is a ‘retirement home’ and not a ‘long term care facility,’ Clow offers end of life care for her residents.
“The last thing people and families need when they are facing death, is to have to move to long term care. And the worst place to die is in the hospital. This is home for the people who live here. We might not have a lot of room, but we can accommodate family members when their loved ones need palliative care. We make it work. It might sound funny, but we have had many people die at Countryview Care and for me it is a privilege to be with them and their families at that time,” she said.
And her family at Countryview Care, which includes her employees and the homes’ residents, provided a haven for her about a year ago, when her own farmhouse burned down.
“Everyone was so upset that day, including me, obviously. All my staff came in to work as soon as they heard, even volunteers came in to support the residents and me. We all got though it.”
A few people, even some from the FCFDC, have encouraged Jennifer Clow to build on to the Countryview Care and make it a 40-bed home, and the demand is there for such a facility, but that is not the kind of home she wants to run.
“As it is now, I have a personal relationship with everyone who lives here. I take their well being, their happiness to heart, and that works for me,” she said. “It is a business, but it is more than that for me. I think people deserve to live in a place where they are treated well when they can no longer live at home and Countryview Care provides that.”
Disagreements and personality conflicts among members of municipal councils tend to remain in the background, coming out more often through innuendo and off the cuff remarks, delivered under people’s breaths or away from public view at all.
The same is true for disagreements or personality conflicts between members of municipal council and township staff, and in that case there are a set of rules, laid out in the Municipal Act of Ontario, that limit what municipal councillors can say to and about township staff members.
The so-called “chain of command” says that all comments or questions council members have about how township operations are carried out should be addressed only to the Chief Administrative Officer.
In practice, things tend to be a little different, especially in small, rural municipalities where everyone knows each other. But in rural municipal politics there are still a set of informal conventions that keep the business of municipalities moving along without too much acrimony.
This is what makes the current situation in Tay Valley Township so unusual. As our readers would know, the Frontenac News does not provide regular coverage of Tay Valley Council meetings. We do, however, distribute our paper to the Maberly Post Office, which is in the South Sherbrooke District of Tay Valley Township and we try to keep an eye on what goes on in Tay Valley. The western end of the township is rural and similar to Central Frontenac, but Tay Valley extends to the edge of Perth, and there is more development pressure at that end of the township.
About a year ago, complaints by one member of Tay Valley Council, Judy Farrell about some specific decisions made by the building and planning departments, led a staff member at the township to submit a formal harassment complaint against Farrell, Farrell’s brother Gord Ennis, and MPP Randy Hillier, who had intervened in at least one instance.
In a recent post on Facebook, (September 11) Farrell referred to two instances where she disagreed with township staff decisions. In one case, a resident from Black Lake came to Council to complain about their treatment by township staff when they applied for a building permit. In her posting Farrell acknowledged that she suggested “during an open council meeting, that 2 staff members played favourites in connection with permits sought by a property owner on Black Lake” which she then said was true and that the property owners had proof that others had not been subject to the same rules. She also acknowledges that she supported a Black Lake property owner on Facebook at the time, adding “I support the tax payer and if they are having problems, that is what I am there for. To help them through it.”
The second case at issue revolves around a case involving herself and her husband and how much they were charged for a site plan agreement, ($600) which she says is higher than others have been charged ($400).
While Farrell says that comments she made about those decisions did not single out staff members, but were addressed to Council as a whole, the harassment complaint against her was upheld by a third party investigator. The upshot of the decision was that she was told she must apologise, in writing, to the two staff members and undergo sensitivity training.
Not feeling that she had done anything wrong, Farrell had her lawyer ask for details about the process, including copies of the complaints, but they were not forthcoming. She decided not to comply with the decision of the investigator.
Council then applied a more substantial sanction. Farrell has been removed from all committees, is not welcome at the township office except to attend council meetings, and is not to address staff at all.
Not everyone on council supported applying these sanctions. Councillor Roxanne Darling and Deputy Reeve Brian Campbell voted against the sanctions in a recorded vote.
Darling told the News this week that her vote was based on her thinking that a compromise might be achievable, and that Council was acting in too much haste by imposing the sanctions when they did.
This matter has spilled into the election campaign, indeed it has become the dominant campaign issue. Judy Farrell is running for Deputy Reeve, against Barrie Crampton, a local historian. Brian Campbell is challenging incumbent Keith Kerr and former Deputy Reeve Susan Freeman in the race for Reeve.
All told, 7 of the 8 current members of council are running again, and there are contested races in each district, as well as for Reeve and Deputy Reeve.
Recently, after Judy Farrell’s September 11 Facebook post, in response to media attention that has been generated about Farrell’s case and social media activity around it, Council took the unprecedented step of allowing Reeve Kerr to present their side of the story to the public.
Kerr has since published a media release, which is posted on the township website. It presents the perspective of the majority of council about what has transpired. It says, in part: “While Council has remained silent out of respect for the process and those involved, the township will not remain silent in the face of these unprecedented, highly inaccurate, politically motivated attacks. The township needs to provide accurate facts so that the public can judge for themselves the allegations being made by Councillor Farrell.”
Kerr said that when council sought advice from their lawyer about how to respond to Farrell’s refusal to apologise or undergo training, Farrell refused to recuse herself from those meetings. Since she was to be the subject of the discussions, the discussions did not take place.
“Ask yourself, would you expect a councillor who has been found to have harassed staff to then participate in confidential discussions involving that councillor’s role in the matter, interrelated personnel discussions and legal advice about how to respond to the councillor?” said Kerr near the end of his release.
The entire matter will be come up again this week at an in-camera session of council, to hear an integrity commissioners report “pertaining to personal matters about an identifiable individual”. That report, we can say with 99% certainty, is about Farrell’s activities on council from the lens of the rules of behaviour for councils and councillors that are contained in the Municipal Act.
This private meeting will be followed on Wednesday night by a public all-candidates meeting at Glen Tay school at 26 Harper Road, off Hwy.7.
Rejecting a consultants report which called for their wages to more than double in order to keep up wiht wages in other Counties, Frontenac County Council raised the pay for members of Council from $9,400 to $11,900 for the new council, which takes office on December 1st. The wage for the County warden, which is currently $22,900, will go to $28,900, also a 26% increase. The Deputy Warden will receive $14,280. These increases will be topped up by cost of living (COLA) increases based on the consumer price index.
The consultant report called for a 4-year phased in increase in compensation for members of the council.It recommended that the salary for a member of council jump from the current $9,400 to $19,400 by 2022, the final year of the term for the council that will take office in December of this year. The consultants also recommended that the deputy warden receive a 20% premium over the council members salary, bringing their pay to $23,200 plus COLA by 2022.
Each year one of the 4 Frontenac mayors takes a turn as Frontenac County Warden. The position comes with a parking spot in front of the county administrative offices. The consultant recommends bumping the warden's pay package that to $46,900 by 2022.
The consultants also recommended that a process be put in place to further compensate members of council in the coming term for the provincially mandated elimination of a tax benefit for members of municipal councils. 1/3 of the compensation paid to council members has been tax free, but from now on, all of the money paid to them will be taxable. This recommendation was also rejected by the council.
Frontenac County council members also receive compensation from their role on their own township councils.
The consultant hired to complete the compensation review, Krecklo and Associates, based their recommendations on a number of counties, which are listed in the report, that they claim are comparable with Frontenac in terms of three listed factors (annual expenditures, full time employees, and number of dwellings) and came up with the recommended pay structure for politicians.
“It would be important to bring their compensation to the median (50th percentile) of the comparator group (i.e., paying the ‘going rate’) the report says.
But even in advance of the debate on the merits of the report at the council table, some members of council were skeptical about the methodology employed by Krecklo and about the proposed wage increases.
“There are counties’ on the list that are very different from Frontenac,” said John McDougall, a councilor from South Frontenac who is serving out his 8th and final year as a member of Frontenac County Council. “There are single tier municipalities included, some that are much larger than we are, and some that are responsible for roads and waste management which we don’t deal with at the Frontenac County level. I think the process we used recently in South Frontenac to come up with a proposal for council compensation, which was done by a panel of township residents, is a more realistic way to go about it.”
When contacted on Tuesday morning (September 18), Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said she was still reading the Krecklo report but she found, on first glance, that the proposed compensation increases were “bizarre”.
“That being said,” she added, “the year spent as warden is a very busy year. The job does take up a lot of time.”
For his part, South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal did not see much to like in the report.
“I don’t know what it is like in the elsewhere, but is way more of a responsibility being the mayor of South Frontenac than it is being the warden of Frontenac County, many times more,” he said. “If I get re-elected, I’m looking at $80,000 in pay for the year when I am the warden. As a ratepayer, I don’t want to pay for that. And how do we try to keep the county budget to a 2% increase with this money going to council compensation.”
“I think the study is way off the mark,” said North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins, “mainly because of the comparables that the consultants used. They did not compare apples to apples. We shouldn’t be looking at single tier counties or much more heavily populated counties at all. There are only two on the list of ten counties they looked at that are truly comparable to Frontenac County.”
Higgins said he thinks the increases called for in the first year of the “phase in” envisioned by the report, $2,500 for council members and $6,000 for the warden, “are likely about enough”
“From my analysis a $7,000 increase for the warden makes sense,” he said.
The timing of the report also promised to have an impact on the debate at county council this week.
Because the report came to Council during an election period, the 8 people debating and, ultimately voting on the pay package, fell into three distinct groups. One group, including Councillor McDougall (South Frontenac) and Nossal (Frontenac Islands) are leaving municipal politics and will not be affected one way or another.
Another group, including Mayors Higgins (North Frontenac), Smith (Central Frontenac) and Doyle (Frontenac Islands), have been re-elected by acclamation. They were deciding their own rate of pay over the next four years, including their one year turns as warden and deputy warden.
The final group are those who may or may not be in a position to benefit from an increase, depending on how the election goes. This group includes Councillors John Inglis (North Frontenac) who has been acclaimed to his own council, but may or may not be chosen by his own council to return to the county for the next four years, if he even seeks the position at all. It also includes Central Frontenac Councillor Tom Dewey who is seeking re-election in Kennebec Ward. If Dewey is re-elected by the voters he would have to put his name forward for the role the county role and then be elected by his own council to represent them to the county.
Finally, South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal is seeking re-election in a contested race with two opponents. If re-elected, Vandewal willreturn to county council for four years and walso take turns as warden and deputy warden.
Earlier this month, the salary for Mayor of South Frontenac was set at $33,621, a 9% increase. Vandewal voted against that increase, commenting afterwards “it could be interesting when staff come up for negotiation and ask for 9%.
In the debate at the county table, there was little support for the Krecklo recommendations.
Councilllor natalie Nossal did say that she "has been impressed by the effort and amount of hours put in by each of the warden's during my time on Council, and I think that should be recognised by a larger increase in wages."
Councllor John McDougall said that if people back in his home town knew he had vote for doubling the wages of conty politicans, "They would be spitting on me in the streets"
The vote for a $6,000 increase for the county warden was passed by 5 votes to 3. Mayor Vandewal voted against it. Vandewal was the only dissenting vote for the wage increase to Frontenac County Council members,
There was a 100% increase in the number of stoplights in Frontenac County when the new light was switched on at Road 38 and the Wilton Road in Harrowsmith a couple of weeks ago.
Both of the stoplights are located in South Frontenac. There is one on Perth Road in Inverary, along with the Harrowsmith one.
The inauguration of the new light was front page news last week in our paper, so it must be a big deal.
The last new stop light to be put up in our readership area was in Northbrook on Hwy. 41, in Lennox and Addington County, about ten years ago and it was front page news for us as well. It’s becoming a bit of an epidemic.
But consider this. Poor Sydenham, the heart and soul of South Frontenac, does not have a stoplight.
Both Inverary and Harrowsmith have something that Sydenham does not have.
Sydenham has benefited, it might be said, from local government building projects as well over the years.
A water system was built there, as well as a new ambulance base, a new library, a township office renovation. Then there was the Point Park lighting project, and the Point Park renovations parts 1 and 2.
Sydenham also has seen a major upgrade to the High School, and the renovation of the Grace Centre into a public space.
But there is no stoplight, and none is in the works, even though a pretty good argument can be made that one is needed at the corner of Rutlege and Wheatley.
And this is not the first snub of Sydenham in recent times. The new dog park is located in Harrowsmith as well, and a new fire hall was opened this year, the first ever constructed in the 20 year history of South Frontenac. And it was built, not in Sydenham but in Perth Road Village, of all places.
How is it possible that Sydenham has been left behind, supplanted in a township where it has always been at the centre of everything, at least in the minds of its to its own residents.
I asked our reporter Wilma Kenny, a daughter of Sydenham who is steeped in the storied history of a town that peaked as a commercial hub well over 100 years ago, how it feels to be living in a town that is no longer the only big fish in the South Frontenac pond.
She had nothing to say.
Sydenham has a couple of opportunities to return to a state of glory. It could become the home of a new senior’s housing complex that the township is contemplating building. Or it could become the host of the multi million-dollar Frontenac County/CRCA/South Frontenac HQ that may or may not be built over the next few years.
But what if those projects are never built?
Or worse yet, what if they too are built in Inverary or Harrowsmith?
(The following has been edited since being published in the print version of the Frontenac News on September 13, to include statements from PaulaMurray, the chair of the Board of Trustess with the Limestone Board)
Eleven candidates for Limestone School Board Trustee, including one in South Frontenac, have signed on the #TRUSTee hashtag campaign, joining a call for more open communication and an end to what advocates call a muzzling of trustees when they assume their roles with the Limestone District School Board.
Tom Mahoney, a sitting trustee from one of the Kingston districts, has become the lightening rod around which the movement for more open-ness has attained a focus. Mahoney is a one term trustee who is not seeking re-election. Indeed, he might actually only be a trustee in name only as he was censured in late May for speaking out of turn in public. He has been banned from board meetings, but for the rest of term of the board, which runs out in late November.
In an interview with the News on Tuesday afternoon, Mahoney said he intended to try and take his seat at the September 13 meeting. He freely admits that he had breached the Code of Conduct that he signed when he was elected to the board in 2014. In fact, he did so several times.
He wrote about that in preparing a statement to his fellow trustees this week.
“When my constituents ask me why the Board is not addressing an issue, the Code of Conduct prevents me from telling them. I disclosed at the Board’s Parent Involvement Committee that a portion of the Board, in my opinion, are not interested is answering to the public and that they prefer to handle matters in private session or preferably not at all. While I knew this was a breach of the Trustee Code of Conduct, I felt that my duty to the public who elected me outweighs my obligation to the code.”
Mahoney pointed out, however, that he has never broken the rules that members of boards, municipalities, and school boards must follow as far as revealing the details of deliberations that take place at in-camera sessions.
“I didn’t disclose anything from private session that the Education Act suggests should be in private session such as legal matters, or the sale of land. If I had been acting contrary to those imperatives, I could see why the Board would want to throw the book at me but I didn’t and I haven’t,” he also wrote.
In a response, Paula Murray, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, pointed out that Mahoney has a long record of discinplinary action regarding breaches of the board's code of conduct, and that he was already barred from attending a meetingfor a breach of the code of conduct in 2017,
"When dealing with code of conduct violations, the Board employs a progressive discipline model for all members including Trustees, employees and students," Murray wrote.
"In 2017, Trustee Mahoney received two cautions for behaviour in contravention of the Trustee Code of Conduct, and was warned that further infractions could result in censure and sanction. The subsequent motions (see attached) were passed following the initial two cautions. Given Trustee Mahoney had already been barred from one meeting in late 2017 as a result of a Trustee Code of Conduct violation, the Board imposed additional exclusion of meetings to underline the significant and serious nature of his actions.
"As part of his notice of censure on May 30, 2018, Trustee Mahoney was provided the opportunity to address the Board of Trustees regarding his censure. The Board has not received any correspondence from Trustee Mahoney as of Sept. 13, 2018."
The Board also provided the News with the "Record of Discipline" for Mahoney. It is a detailed document, The motion barring Mahoney from meetings for the rest of the term of the board, which was passed unanimously by the board of trustees on May 30, concludes with the following assertion: “Considering that this is Trustee Tom Mahoney’s third censure for violating the Code of Conduct, that, employing progressive discipline, he be sanctioned and barred from attendance at all meetings of the Board effective immediately until November 30, 2018.”
Christine Innocente, an activist parent from Pittsburgh Township, questions why the punishment for Mahoney’s breaches of the code of conduct have extended beyond what is contemplated in the Education Act.
On May 29th the Board passed the following motion, in a 7-0 vote.
As Innocente pointed out in a submission to the Board Chair Paula Murray, section 218.33 of the Education Act describes three courses of action in response to a breach of a school board’s code of conduct by a Trustee.
These include passing a motion of censure, removing that member from board committees for a period of time as decided by the board, or “barring the member from attending all or part of a meeting of the board or a meeting of a committee of the board.”
“There is nothing in the Act which contemplates banning a member from multiple meetings, or, as in this case, the final 6 months of a term of Council,” Innocente told the News on Tuesday.
In an email exchange with the Chair Paula Murray, Innocente brought her concerns about the length of the ban on Mahoney’s attendance at meetings forward, and received this response, which she shared with the News.
Christine Innocente: “I am struggling to locate documentation related to this Board right. Can you please provide direction as to where this right is articulated?”
Chair Murray: It is majority rules and the “Will of the Board” that determines our direction. I hope this answers your question.
Whether Mr. Mahoney ever does sit at the table at a meeting of the Limestone Board again, the question of the restrictive nature of the board’s code of conduct will become an election issue this fall.
The board can rightly claim that because children are involved, the rules around disclosure of details surrounding the operational aspects of schools within a board are legitimately more restrictive than the rules pertaining to a members of municipal council, for example.
For example, during our interview on Tuesday Mr. Mahoney said he wanted to discuss, in public, issues of disciplined in a specific school in Kingston. It is not too difficult for this kind of discussion to sway into revealing details about identifiable children, which is a reason to restrict public discourse.
However, some of the other issues that Mr. Mahoney seeks to discuss, such as his view that there a wedge between rural and urban members on the Limestone Board of Trustees, or even his speculations about the motivations of other members of the board, may be uncomfortable, even wrong, but they deserve a public airing. If the things he says can be tested against contrary opinions, if his claims can be subjected to public scrutiny and tested against contrary points of view and mitigating factors and facts, we would all be able to evaluate them.
Secrecy is a double edged sword. It is indeed hard to scrutinise an institution that does not allow elected officials to speak freely, but it also opens up the field for a whisper campaign. Also, trustees are publicly elected and the voters have certain expectations of public officials, one of which is that they represent the electors to the board.
A board that, upon election, immediately tells the trustees that their role is much more about representing the board to the public than representing the public to the board, opens itself up to movements such as #TRUSTee.
Through an oversite, the tiered response agreement that determines which resources are deployed for emergency medical calls has run out, and in a report to Head of Emergency Services/fire Chief Greg Robinson recommended that Central Frontenac renew the agreement with no changes to keep things rolling along. At a meeting of Central Frontenac Council this week (Tuesday, September 11) Robinson presented a report that also called for the township to consider making changes to one of the protocols in the agreement.
Central Frontenac volunteers answered 193 medical calls in 2016, “and that number has gone up since then” Robinson said. According to data collected by members of the Frontenac Paramedic Services, 67% of the time Central Frontenac fire fighters do not provide any medical services during the call. Currently, any time the dispatch service determines that an ambulance is more than 15 minutes away from a call, the fire service is called out.
“Most of the time in Central Frontenac, the ambulance is more than 15 minutes away,” said Mayor Frances Smith.
Robinson is recommending, in consultation with Chief Charbonneau, that for lower priority calls, those that are priority 4 (non-life threatening) firefighters only be called in if the ambulance is more than 25 minutes away.
“Hopefully this will have an effect,” Robinson said.
According to statistics provided by Robinson, among Frontenac County fire services, Central Frontenac is more encumbered by medical calls than either North or South Frontenac.
“62% of our total emergency responses are medical; compared to 17% for Kingston Fire & Rescue, 30% for South Frontenac Fire & Rescue and 40% for North Frontenac. It is clear that the percentage of medical calls we have is out of proportion to the other Fire Departments in the County,” he said.
He indicated that he believes Central Frontenac is being taken advantage of, so that the ambulance that is assigned to the Parham based can be re-deployed to the south in order to supplement the busy Kingston service.
“The Parham ambulance is not often available because it gets called into Kingston a lot. It appears that it’s not an operational requirement to keep an ambulance at Parham. This may be due to the fact that Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre knows CFFR will respond to any medical call. We often get dispatched to calls that do not meet the response criteria. These calls are for very minor medical conditions but the Kingston Central Ambulance Communications Centre dispatches CFFR anyway when an ambulance will be delayed,” he said in his report.
Members of Council want to hear more detail before making the changes that Robinson is suggesting.
“This sounds like significant change,” said Councillor Philip Smith, “it certainly requires more discussion.”
“Just because the ambulance service says no medical service was provided does not mean the people who made the call did not gain comfort from the arrival of someone within a reasonable amount of time, even if the ambulance does not arrive for 45 minutes to an hour,” said Councillor Brent Cameron.
“Medical services were not what we were thinking about when the volunteer fire departments were being set up in the 1970’s,” said Councillor John Purdon
“We are being dispatched to calls where we should not be dispatched,” concluded Greg Robinson. “There are provincial protocols for dispatch but there is leeway, and in my view calls come to Central Frontenac that would not go to other fire services. And this affects our fire budget” Robinson
When asked afterwards why he thinks Central Frontenac is being singled out for calls, Robinson deferred, but he did confirm that he feels that calls to other locations are treated differently by the dipathc centre in Kingston than calls to Central Frontenac
Constructions starts were slow in August in Central Frontenac, putting a bit of a damper in what is still shaping up to be a the best year in the last three, and one of the best in Central Frontenac’s 20 year history.
Permits for only $120,000 in construction were sold in August, down from almost $850,000 in each of previous two years. But overall in 2018, the township is just shy of $7.5 million, up a million from this time in 2017 and two million over the January to August total in 2016. Permits for 22 new permanent and seasonal residents have been sold this year, up from 21 at this point in 2017, and 14 in 2016.
The building department budget is also healthier than in recent, with permit sales over $105,000 already, up from $91,000 in 2017 and $83,500 in 2016. Interim Chief Building Official Allan Revill said that he expects the numbers to keep rolling along over the next month or two as the department continues to be fielding inquiries about possible projects as the summer fades into autumn.
Reg Peterson appeared as a delegate to Council to talk about what he considers inadequate maintenance on the road he lives on, Bordenwood in Kennebec ward. Mayor Smith encouraged him to call the Public works line during business hours when the road is in bad repair, or his local councillors.
Fees waived for youth program
Martha Johnson, the youth co-ordinator from Rural Frontenac Community Services (RFCS) appeared before Council as a delegate,
A group of teenagers from Arden approached the RFCS Youth department of over the summer with concerns over feeling pulled into “unsafe activities” due to a lack of stimulation available in the local community. RFCS responded by holding a brainstorming session in early August and two other meetings, one in late August and one in early September. AS a result, they are setting up a biweekly drop-in as a pilot project this fall. RFCS is providing the staffing from its youth and family services departments, a private donor has come forward to pay for food, and in partnership with the Kennebec Recreation Committee, RFCS was seeking a waiving of $210 in hall rental fees for 7 Wednesdays between now and Christmastime.
Council was happy to oblige.