| Jan 27, 2005


Feature Article January 27, 2005

Feature article January 27, 2005

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Community Needs study presented to North Frontenac Council

by Jeff Green

North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire is so enthused about the content of a Community Needs Study that was completed by Northern Frontenac Community Services (NFCS) that he would like to see it used as a starting point for the Strategic Plan of Frontenac County.

Linda Rush, who initiated the Community Needs Study for NFCS through a Trillium grant application in 2003 (the study was completed by Tara Hamilton in 2004) presented highlights from the study to a North Frontenac Council meeting last week.

The Council meeting was the last official function for Rush, who has just retired as Director of Adult Services for the agency in order to devote her efforts to making art.

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She described the methodology of the Needs Study to Council. The study was based primarily upon 16 in-depth interviews conducted with individuals of different ages and socio-economic status who live in Central and North Frontenac or in the northern part of South Frontenac, the service area of NFCS.

The study was conducted partly in order to help NFCS itself determine how to effectively serve the needs of the community. NFCS provides services for adults, ranging from family counselling to services for the elderly, and through its affiliate agencies also delivers mental health counselling for women suffering from abuse. Through its Child Centre, the agency also provides daycare services and other childrens related programming. The Child Centre is also the home of the Ontario Early Years Centre which is responsible for delivering children and family-related programming service throughout the provincial riding.

In terms of strengths, the study makes reference to Northern Frontenacs ruralness, community cohesiveness, and acceptance, local resourcefulness, opportunities to share talents, community members connection to the land and the environment, family, the local economy, social and recreational opportunities and community based services and solutions (page 11).

It is in dealing with community needs that North Frontenac Township will be called upon to act. The study identifies gaps, including: local economic development, youth issues and demographic unsustainability, poverty and lack of opportunity, employment, transportation, medical services, affordable housing, and others.

The study documents certain factors that are familiar to councillors; the population is older, poorer and less educated than the provincial and national average, and population numbers are stable or decreasing while the provincial and national numbers are on a steady rise.

In terms of issues with government, the studys conclusions are things the Township Council is painfully aware of.

Another common theme identified by the participants dealt with the impact of changes and regulations at the municipal (and County) government level. People spoke about the northern part of Frontenac County being off the political radar screen, about increasing taxes, various permits, finding a balance between the needs of seasonal and permanent residents and challenges relating to the rural/urban divide within the County. (excerpt from page 22 of the study)

One of the functions that Northern Frontenac Community Services served in the past, before losing most of its funding in the massive provincial government restructuring that took place in 1995, was that of community development. Community development work, the ability to identify community needs and develop solutions, is something that the Community Needs Study identifies, and in responding to the presentation by Linda Rush, Township Councillors spoke of a desire to foster a closer relationship with NFCS to try to accomplish community renewal.

Councillor Betty Hunter said she would like to see more communication between Council and the NFCS Board, so we can be informed about anything we could be looking at doing to improve situations that NFCS is able to identify for us.

Mayor Ron Maguire reiterated his opinion that the Needs Study be used by the County of Frontenac as a starting point of its strategic planning exercise this year and requested that Northern Frontenac Community Services keep in contact with Council on matters where the agency and the township can work together in a fruitful manner.

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