| Mar 16, 2006

Feature Article - February 23, 2006

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Feature Article - March 16, 2006

Gambling with taxpayers' money

Editorial by JeffGreen

At their meeting last week, the normally cautious North Frontenac Council spent quite a bit of money. After accepting a bid of $273,000 for a new fire hall, they accepted a $38,000 marketing proposal for their Crown Land Stewardship Program.

There was little similarity between the two expenditures.

Council has been working on the fire hall project for years. They came close to building a fire hall last year, but backed off and reconsidered. They worked through a variety of design proposals seeking one that gave them the space they needed at a price they could afford. Nonetheless, when they set out a request for proposal that included engineers’ drawings for the project, they still received bids that ranged considerably in price, from a low of $273,000 to a high of $355,000.

Even then, they took time to consider whether the lowest bid, which was a full $50,000 lower than the next to lowest one, encompassed the entire project. Only then did they accept it.


The marketing plan for the Crown Land Stewardship Program, on the other hand, was submitted as an unsolicited proposal from the same consulting company that had prepared a marketing strategy in the first place.

This, it seems to me, was a lapse in judgement on council’s part.

The North Frontenac Council is a hard working group of people, who are doing their best to serve the interests of the ratepayers in their township. For example, they met for 12 hours, dealing with a variety of matters, before making the decision about the marketing contract. This council has also had to deal with staffing changes on an ongoing basis throughout their tenure, and they have been working on developing proper budgeting for the township as well.

The Crown Land Stewardship Program represents a tremendous potential for tourism development in North Frontenac, and with this council’s time being almost up, they want to make something happen with this program. They don’t want to let it slip by.

Still, they took a gamble by accepting an unsolicited offer without seeking other proposals.

The contract has not been signed, and the Economic Development Committee of council will have a chance to work out the details with Northbridge, the consulting company in question.

There are some gaps in Northbridge’s proposal that will hopefully be filled in before that contract is signed. For example, the proposal talks about a rebate program for marketing materials, a rebate program that no longer exists. The proposal also seemed unclear on how much of a revenue increase can be expected in the first year of the plan, at least to my eyes. A larger question pertains to who will maintain an online booking system that will be set up, and at what cost.

North Frontenac Council has always strived to make the Crown Land Stewardship Program revenue neutral. They have decided they must spend money to make the program work.

They should still be very careful about how they spend that money. - JG

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