It was billed as a Special Council meeting to establish North Frontenac’s ‘Goals’ for 2019-2022’s Strategic Plan, but Coun. John Inglis opened up another topic — Mayor Ron Higgins’ interview on Lake 88 (available as a podcast on the radio station’s website) in which Higgins talked about the Township, his role as Frontenac County Warden and then his plans for One Small Township, a multi-faceted plan for economic development that Council has yet to buy into.
Inglis said it sounded like Higgins was talking about Township involvement in the project when he used the term ‘we’ in that part of the interview.
“You should have mentioned that the Township doesn’t support it,” Inglis said. “We agreed you would no longer imply the Township was behind this project.”
“You said ‘North Frontenac is the first Township to initiate the concept of contributionism,’” said Coun. Vernon Hermer.
Higgins apologized saying he was referring to the management team of One Small Township.
And then, Higgins said that financing is imminent.
“I’ll be getting a cheque in mid-February,” he said. “I’m expecting to break ground on some projects in early spring.”
Higgins said he couldn’t name his backers at this time, but urged Council to support them.
“Part of it is that the people (putting up the money) would like to be recognized with a plaque in the Township office,” Higgins said. “There’s going to be up to 50 jobs created and people moving into the community.”
“I’m trying to look at scenarios,” said Inglis. “I think we have a certain amount of responsibility to do that.”
“If Council doesn’t want any part of it, then we’ll go the co-op route,” said Higgins.
He said he had asked Township treasurer Kelly Watkins about the possibilities of setting up a trust fund to put the money in.
Higgins said the plan is to set up something like similar properties in British Columbia.
“I’m concerned about the true source of the money,” said Coun. Gerry Martin. “I’ve heard about money laundering schemes.”
“This reminds me of the advice the OPP gives seniors,” said Hermer. “If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
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Council did establish its goals for the 2019-2022 term:
Investigate incentives for business
Support initiatives for Seniors to remain in the Community for as long as possible
Proceed with a multi-unit affordable residence for senior
Explore opportunities for Seniors to remain in their homes
Enhance and Sustain Capital Assets/Infrastructure
Maintain Asset Management Plan to ensure long term sustainability
Maintain Reserves/Reserve Funds
Enhance Communications Plan
Train Council on Social Media
Enhance communications mechanisms and information to reach all of the public
Attract a diverse Council.
Much of the discussion was focused on potential economic development but several members of Council were resigned to the fact that there really wasn’t a lot any Council could do.
“The Municipal Act says we can’t get into competition with other municipalities by offering tax incentives,” said Coun. John Inglis. “I personally don’t see a lot of opportunities for us.”
When it came to development, Inglis pointed out the “competing interests” of the municipality being a desire to expand the tax base while maintaining the “pristine nature” of North Frontenac.
Mayor Ron Higgins pointed out the lack of overnight accommodation available (most lodges and trailer parks get booked for the season) and suggested the Township might get involved in a small cabins project similar to what Bon Echo Provincial Park is trying.
“The cabins can pay for themselves in one season,” he said.
“But does the Township want to get into the accommodation business?” said Inglis.
“You have to find the land first,” said Dep. Mayor Fred Perry.
When it came to job creation, Coun. Gerry Martin had this to say: “Most people who come here are in the second stage of their lives. They’re not looking for jobs.”
In several cases, the wording of the goals was influenced by staff members Corey Klatt, manager of community development and Darwyn Sproule, public works manager, who said they use such things when applying for grants.
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Council also passed a couple of other resolutions.
One was to get 24-hour ambulance service (particularly at Robertsville) and a potential septic waste disposal site on the agenda for the next Frontenac County Council meeting.
The other was a Gerry Martin request to look into changing the Township logo.
“I just don’t like it,” Martin said.