Prospect of combined County/CRCA/South Frontenac administration building dims

Written by  Wednesday, 13 March 2019 11:58
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The idea of South Frontenac Township, Frontenac County and the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority sharing an administration building isn’t looking too likely, at least in the short term, following a discussion at South Frontenac’s Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night in Sydenham.

“It’s been pointed out that we really haven’t had that discussion here at this table,” said Mayor Ron Vandewal.

Well, Tuesday night they had that discussion and while there was general consensus that a new facility would be nice from several angles, South really doesn’t need it and there isn’t much of an appetite for it.

“There’s a need to be cautious,” Vandewal said. “I don’t see this building as being at its breaking point yet.”

Vandewal said he needed some pretty clear direction soon as he and CAO Wayne Orr were to meet with the other two stakeholders this month. He said he didn’t want to string them on only to “send a terse email later on saying ‘we’re out.’”

Virtually no one on Council argued for a new joint facility and some, like Coun. Ray Leonard, said: “I’m not really in agreement with this new building.”

“How would we repurpose this facility were we to be in on this?” said Dep. Mayor Ron Sleeth.

Coun. Ross Sutherland said: “I do think we’re overcrowded here but I don’t think we need 130 per cent more office space (as suggested in some of the architectural drawings.

“I think we need to look at other options (such as a new building for South or expansion of the existing facility).”

“Is there room where we could add on to this building?” asked Coun. Norm Roberts.

“There is land but I just don’t know if we could build on it,” said Orr.

There were suggestions that space now used for records storage might be used for expected staff increases as the demand for services increases (Orr cited projections that staff could grow by as many as eight people in the long term) but Coun. Alan Revill pointed out that proximity to records is important to the planning, building and financial departments.

“We should look at getting those records digitized,” said Sutherland.

Vandewal suggested some staff (for example public works and fire) could be accommodated in other facilities the Township owns but in any event, that’s way in the future.

“There are a lot of challenges to spending $5 million on a new building right now,” he said. “For example somebody might want a new firehall and Road 38 is always going to be there.”

Frontenac County Strategic Plan

Geography certainly plays a big roll when it comes to what townships’ expectations for Frontenac County’s priorities should be.

Consultant Rob Wood was at Committee of the Whole Tuesday night to complete a process where each of the four member townships of Frontenac County were asked for their thoughts.

For example, in the two northern townships, wifi and cell phone coverage are high on the list, as is waste disposal.

In South Frontenac, the No. 1 priority seems to be planning. Of the four, South is the only Township that has its own planning department while the other three use County planners.

“We’ve talked about South Frontenac being the planning authority for South Frontenac rather than have a separate body do it,” said Dep. Mayor Ron Sleeth. “Those individuals at County who vote on the decisions are so far removed from what we think is important — both positively and negatively.”

“The devolution of planning powers to South Frontenac,” said Coun. Ross Sutherland. “The goal should be for them to work with us.”

And like all municipalities, economic development is something the politicians like to trumpet. And tourism is a huge component of that.

However, things are a little different in South Frontenac as pointed out by Sleeth.

“There is a market of 140,000 people just to the south of us that likes to make day trips,” he said. “In the north, it’s about coming to a lodge or renting a cabin but here, we need to create ways to entice people to drive out of the city for the day to spend $100 on things.”

One thing all of the townships seem to agree on is the need for the County to create a roads department — not to fix potholes and remove snow but to access upper tier roads money from the Province in much the same manner that Lennox & Addington County operates.

Mayor Ron Vandewal had an additional priority of his own.

“Do we need five CAOs?” he said. “The County CAO is very good outside of the County with the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus and regional groups, but what is provided for the County I don’t know.

“The paramedic service has a manager; Fairmount Home has a manager. Do we need an extra layer of management over them?”

“I agree with the mayor,” said Coun. Norm Roberts. “What do we get for our money.”

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