| Jul 24, 2008

Feature Article - July 24, 2008

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Feature Article - July 24, 2008 Frontenac County CouncilBy Jeff Green

Maguire objects at County CouncilFrontenac County Council had mostly housekeeping matters to deal with at their only scheduled summer meeting and the absence of Central Frontenac Mayor Janet Gutowski meant that there were only three members of Council at the table. But that did not stop North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire from raising concerns on various issues.

And he wasted little time getting started.

“I would like to raise a general objection. I don't think things should be added to the agenda at the last minute. I don't think that should be allowed,” he said in reference to some items that were added after the members had received their agenda package. “How can we make decisions when we have no time to digest the information.”

Review of Governance -

Earlier this year, County Warden Jim Vanden Hoek made a commitment at a joint meeting between County Council and councillors from the four Frontenac Townships (North, Central, South, and the Frontenac Islands) that the current governance model of the County will be reviewed during this term.

Currently the Mayors from the four townships make up the Council.

An administrative report by County CAO Liz Savill was presented to Council last week.

It noted that when Ontario municipalities were restructured in 1996, in Frontenac County it brought a “dramatic shift from a council of 29 members” which “reflected a clear desire to ensure that the new corporation conducted its activities in a business-like manner.”

County Council addressed the question of the size of Council in 1993 and opted to retain the current structure. However, the townships did begin bringing their own Chief Administrative Officers (CAO's) to the monthly County Council meetings and a CAO's group was formed to vet various issues.

Savill's report concluded by saying “the effectiveness of the County over the last ten years' should be acknowledged. A number of very significant projects have reached successful conclusions under the direction of the four member council.”

The report recommends that a consultant be hired to review County governance and make recommendations for change.

“I suspect this is a long process that this council needs to deal with by the end of 2009, one year in advance of the next election.” said Warden Vanden Hoek.

“I support the need for the review,” said North Frontenac Mayor Maguire, “but I want to see the terms of reference before the contract is advertised.”

“I'm quite comfortable with what is here. I'm comfortable with staff. To delay would be putting our head in the sand,” said South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison.

“I'd like to caution our mayors not to wade too aggressively into the terms of reference for this. The potential is to have difficulty if you want everything done at the council table,” said Vanden Hoek. “It can drive the results before you do the work.”

The proposal was approved, and the terms of reference for the review will be brought back to Council in September, before the contract is tendered.

Broadband service gap analysis – Dianna Bratina, the County Manager for Economic Development, proposed to hire Internet Technology consultant Laura Bradley to update information about the availability of broadband internet service in the County. The information is required in order for the County to apply to a $30 million rural broadband program from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs.

The $8,000 study is to be funded out of Bratina's current budget.

“The deadline for the first intake to the $30 million fund is the day after our next meeting, so I hope to bring the study forward then and have a submission in by the next day,” said Bratina.

“We met with Laura Bradley in North Frontenac,” said Ron Maguire. “As you know, none of North Frontenac is served by broadband. Laura Bradley mentioned to us that applications can be made by townships as well.”

“I have no problem with the County application as long as we are the lead agency. We are also interested in making our own application, because we have partnerships that the County does not have. We don't have any confidence with the county making an application on our behalf. We may go both ways. We can make the September 18th deadline, whereas I'm not sure that the County will reach that unless North Frontenac takes the lead on it.”

“If North Frontenac want to makes its own application as well the County, that's not a problem. But taking the lead on the County application, I'm not sure how that works,” said Warden Vanden Hoek. “In any event, for now we are only talking about a study.”

The $8,000 gap study will go ahead.

Senior Management Salary Review – A report from CAO Liz Savill concerning salary levels for the County Treasurer, Director of Emergency Services, and Chief Administrator positions concluded that the current combined average for the three positions in Frontenac County is $86,244 - $102,431, which is significantly lower than the average of 7 other neighbouring counties from which numbers were available ($92-789 - $109,179)

“From a recruitment and retention perspective, it would be prudent of the County to appropriately adjust this band of senior management team wage structure to be in line with those of the municipalities in our region,” Savill's report said.

It recommended increasing the senior management wage structure by 10%.

“Anything beyond the 3% is a non-starter. I'm not in favour of trying to have our industry go the same way as professional sports,” said Ron Maguire.

“I think we need to give them a raise but I don't think we can do it all at once. I do think we need to do our best to retain the people we have,” said Gary Davison.

“Anyone that is watching municipal government knows that a lot of senior people are reaching retirement and there is a lot of demand. I don't think there are lots of Wayne Gretsky's out there. I think before we close the barn door on this one entirely I would suggest having [Central Frontenac Mayor] Janet Gutowski here. It would be a reasonable step.”

The matter was deferred until September.

Financial services – The Township of Frontenac Islands has lost its Treasurer and has worked out a deal to receive financial services from Frontenac County, on a “full cost recovery basis”.

A motion approving the arrangement was brought forward.

“Can your office handle this,” Mayor Davison asked County Treasurer Marian Vanbruinessen,

“Yes”, said Vanbruinessen.

“I question how serious Frontenac Islands is about their role. If you give up financial services, you give up budgeting, you give up everything. You might as well close up the shop and go home,” said Mayor Maguire.

The motion was approved.

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