| May 01, 2008

Feature Article - May 1, 2008

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Feature Article - May 1, 2008 North Frontenac Council: Apr 24/08By Jeff Green

Strategic planning offer

Ron Higgins, a consultant who has a company called the Wren Group, is offering his services for economic strategic planning in North Frontenac. Wren has done work for customers as diverse as the Ottawa Senators and Ontario Power Generation,

The normal fee for the sessions he is proposing would be about $3,600, but as the founding president of the Malcolm Lake Association, Higgins is offering to forego his fee if the township will instead provide some support in areas such as septic monitoring, water testing, fish management and liability insurance for the newly-formed association.

In a presentation he made at a North Frontenac Council meeting last Thursday, April 24, Higgins described a process whereby he would actively solicit public comment on the kinds of business and commercial activity that would likely succeed in North Frontenac before conducting a one-day planning session that would include council, staff and key stakeholders.

The ultimate goal would be to try and find a way to address the lack of commercial activity in the township, which has led not only to a dearth of local employment, but also a tax base that is skewed overwhelmingly towards residential assessment.

In response to Higgins’ proposal, Mayor Ron Maguire first pointed to something he championed in his first term of office: bringing seasonal residents into the mainstream of township life.

“There are two things to discuss in this particular instance. The first is the economic development planning proposal itself, and the other is the trade off,” Maguire said. “It almost seems like this has been studied to death. At the same time we haven’t come up with something unique to North Frontenac yet. There are some possible benefits to be achieved by going to the First Nations with this, so we could look at it from a different perspective. I would want to make sure they would be among the principal stakeholders, at least.”

“Things have been studied, but never with broad public input,” Higgins replied.

“I think this might fit in with some of the other planning we are involved with,” said township CAO Cheryl Robson.

“Perhaps the department heads can look at this and bring a report back,” Maguire said, “and we can handle the trade off you are looking for once the report comes back.”

Big Gull Lake Access – David Pattendon, an island cottager on Big Gull Lake, brought a request to council that came about after two years of work by a group of 12 island property owners on the west end of the lake.

When two marinas on the lake closed, the cottagers were left with no place to dock their boats and park their cars, and they have been negotiating with the Ministry of Natural Resources to obtain permission to build 12 docks near a public boat access that MNR owns on the lake. This process is nearly complete, and Pattendon came to council to seek the use of two small pieces of land on the township-owned shoreline so the islanders can pass from their parking lot to the docks they are going to construct.

“We would like to get this in place before the summer season, as you can well understand,” Pattendon said. “We realise that the township is not in the dock business, and we have assumed all costs related to this from the start.”

There is an added urgency to the situation, David Pattendon explained, since one of the people involved is 97 years old and still goes to his cottage, with the help of his 70-year-old son.

“For someone who is that age, this is a pretty important summer,” Pattendon said.

A draft agreement has been prepared, and staff will determine if surveys are needed before bringing the agreement back to council.

Rural Routes Revisited (funding denied again) – the Rural Routes transportation service is nothing if not persistent. Six weeks after North Frontenac Council turned down a request for $7,000 to help the program get through 2008, a new request was sent to North Frontenac Council, along with a copy of the agency’s 2008 budget.

Deputy Mayor Jim Beam urged the township to reconsider its decision to deny funding to Rural Routes.

“We have stated that funding for Rural Routes is something that the county should be doing. I believe the Mayor of Central Frontenac supported that idea, but there they are (Central Frontenac) putting in $15,000. I don't want to be seen as cutting off our nose to spite our face. I would hate to see the program go under because we are making a point to the county,” Beam said.

Councillor Fred Perry proposed that North Frontenac approve the request, and then demand the $7,000 back from the county in September, once the county completes a transportation study they have undertaken. The county has put $20,000 aside to go towards transportation once that study is completed.

“The transportation study is going to be much broader than that,” said Mayor Maguire. “We have no idea what it is going to come up with. I think it's a dangerous precedent for us to be pouring taxpayers’ money into social programming. It's the same reason why I don't think we should fund Pine Meadow. These things are county responsibilities.”

Maguire fought for funding for both Rural Routes and the Pine Meadow Nursing Home during county budget deliberations this past winter, eventually voting against the budget because a request for $25,000 towards renovations at the home had been rejected by the other members of county council.

“Besides, what force do we have with the county by doing this?” Maguire asked.

In the end, Maguire's argument won the day. Even though several councilors voiced support for Rural Routes, Councilors Watkins, Good, and Cole sided with the mayor and the request was defeated in a 4-3 vote.

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