| Oct 02, 2008

Oct 2/08 - NF Council

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Feature Article - October 2, 2008 North Frontenac CouncilBy Jeff Green

Staff proposal for North Frontenac Library branches deferred

The Plevna branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library has been closed for the past 18 months because of mould problems, and a plan by the Township of North Frontenac to purchase a portable building from the Limestone District School Board to house the library has been embraced by Kingston Frontenac Library Staff.

However, the solution they are proposing may not be popular in the hamlet of Ompah, which is located 10 kilometres from Plevna, because a library staff report recommended that the two branches be amalgamated, probably in Plevna.

“The size of this portable is greater than Plevna and Ompah combined, thereby offering an opportunity to consolidate and improve services at a location beneficial to both communities,” is one of the recommendations in a report by Patricia Enright (rural branch manager) and Doug Brown (facilities manager) that was presented to the library board last Wednesday, September 24.

The report was accompanied by a proposed resolution which set out that the township would be required to purchase and outfit the portable and find a suitable location for it, and the library would then “provide and set up the book collection, shelving, furniture and equipment.”

All of this is in keeping with the relationship between the library and all of the municipalities it serves. The municipalities provide facilities, and the library provides service.

It is a further recommendation, “that the library transfer the combined library collections, staff, and hours from Ompah/Plevna to the new facility”. This recommendation is more controversial and led the library board to defer the entire matter until at least the next meeting of the library board in late October.

Frontenac County Warden Jim Vanden Hoek is the county council representative to the library board, and when he received his meeting agenda two days before the meeting (September 23) he contacted North Frontenac Township to find out what they thought about the proposal.

North Frontenac Chief Administrator Cheryl Robson said the library staff proposal seemed premature to her. “Our council has not decided whether to get the portable or not. We have to look at all the costs involved, including moving costs, repairs, hooking up to hydro and internet, and putting in washroom facilities. As far as consolidating branches, that was news to us,” Robson said.

North Frontenac Deputy Mayor Jim Beam sent an email back to Jim Vanden Hoek before the library board meeting asking that the matter be deferred if possible, and suggesting that a meeting take place between the township and the library board and staff.

Vanden Hoek pushed for deferral at the board meeting.

“There was discussion about amending the motion, but it was preferable to defer it, so we could hear from North Frontenac,” Vanden Hoek said.

Chief Librarian Deborah Defoe described the report from staff to the board as “premature. The board really felt it was premature to discuss it when the township council had not really discussed it fully.”

Asked whether it was possible to establish a new branch in the portable without closing the existing Ompah branch, Defoe said, “Anything is possible, but we will have to look at operating costs. The portable is larger than the Plevna and Ompah branches combined, so that will have to be taken into account.”

Secession plan to be brought to the public

Ever since North Frontenac Council decided it wanted to look at secession from Frontenac County there has been a standing item on the council agenda to discuss putting out a request for proposal for a consultant to consider how the township could go about becoming a single-tier municipality.

It is through Frontenac County, and the county’s relationship with the City of Kingston and the Province of Ontario, that services such as ambulance and long term care, and social services such as welfare, childcare, and disability support, are funded for so-called “lower tier municipalities”. How this could be done differently would be one of the issues that a consultant would have to consider.

At the council meeting on Sept. 11, Deputy Mayor Jim Beam had said he was concerned that the RFP was not being pushed forward and he wondered where the whole thing was going.

“I think we should decide whether we are serious about this, and if so, get on with it,” he said at the time.

At the Sept. 25 council meeting, Mayor Maguire made reference to Beam's concern. “I realize you are wondering where this is going,” Maguire said to Beam, “but there are two ways of looking at this. One is to find out what are the steps that we have to take to ensure it would be appropriate to make any decision in this direction. The other is to have enough information to justify why we would want to separate. Every two weeks we seem to be getting squeezed or getting the short end of the stick or losing our assets.”

Jim Beam agreed with Maguire.

“Every time I turn over a piece of paper it is a reflection of the disregard towards the north,” he said. “But we don’t want to get the cart before the horse here. People are saying that there has to be public consultation. We need to have input from the ratepayers before we go much further with this.”

Mayor Maguire suggested that the next six months will be critical. “We will then have our house in order, and we’ll know exactly what to tell them [the ratepayers]. If we need to go to a municipal-wide referendum we can consider that.”

Council will consider establishing a sub-committee on the matter.

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