| Apr 17, 2008

Feature Article - April 17, 2008

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Feature Article -April 17, 2008 Central Frontenac Budget to include marginal rate increaseBy Jeff Green

Central Frontenac Council had two objectives in budgeting this year: keeping tax increases to the rate of inflation and improving the safety of roads in the township.

With help from a $1.5 million road and bridges grant from the province, and some pruning of the budget by staff, they have succeeded.

The tax rate for services delivered by the township will rise by 2.1% in 2008, and when the education and county rates are factored, the increase that Central Frontenac ratepayers will see is a mere 0.5%.

Central Frontenac ratepayers remain the highest taxed in Frontenac County, however. Taxes on a home with an assessed value of $150,000 will be $2,100 in Central Frontenac this year, up from $2089 in 2007.

“I’m glad that staff managed to bring the increase down to the rate of inflation,” said Councilor Gary Smith when the amended budget was presented to council on April 9. Smith was one of the councilors who had been pushing for low taxes.

New road work was included in the budget, mainly because of the one-time provincial funding that came out of the Ontario budget in late March, and with the budgeting work out of the way, council began to focus on how to best to proceed with road work.

In the absence of a public works manager, a position that interim Chief Administrative Officer John Duchene said would be filled within a week or two, the township leaned on advice from the team of consultants Bryon Dawn and Steve Reynolds when considering which projects to undertake.

There was broad agreement that a paving program for Road 509 and the Ardoch Road, at a total estimated cost of $311,000 should be undertaken.

Health and safety improvements to take out curves and flatten hills on Shibley Road ($325,000), Fall River Road ($100,000), Zealand Road ($109,000), Tryon Road ($128,000), and Elm Tree Road ($96,500) were also accepted, but a plan to pave the Shibley, Zealand and Fall River roads, at a total estimated cost of $750,000, was not as well received.

Councilor Philip Smith said “You are talking about spending $1.5 million in one small area of the of the township. I think we should cut down on the paving”.

The $750,000 cost of paving three roads in Oso district made even Oso Councilor Frances Smith take pause.

“I feel pretty greedy to see all this money go to three jobs,” she said, “If we can fix these roads and do some ditching, that would be enough.”

“We should hear more from staff,” said Mayor Janet Gutowski, “A study from 1987 says that if surface treatment [paving] lasts three years, you are ahead of the game because you don’t need to grade or gravel surface treated roads.”

“I’m with the other two councilors as far as safety issues, absolutely,” said Norm Guntensperger, “but the surface treatment, that’s a little extreme. We are getting a new road boss and we should let the new boss set his or her priorities. I’m personally more concerned about the basic upkeep of roads, like the Bell Line Road, for example”.

“I think we are talking about reallocating the surface treatment money,” said Mayor Gutowski.

“So we go ahead with the five safety projects and the pavement preservation plan on 509 and Ardoch Road,” said CAO John Duchene.

$750,000 will be left in a roads and bridges reserve fund for future projects.

Central Frontenac to fund Rural Routes

Council will provide $15,000 in one-time funding to the Rural Routes Transportation Service in 2008.

A three-member team from Rural Routes, including Jane Drew, Rural Routes Manager; Scott Black, Director of Adult Serices for Northern Frontenac Community Services (NFCS), which is Rural Routes’ parent agency; and Jim Scott, NFCS board chair, appeared before council this week to make the request.

“We're in a position that if we get the funding we are asking for we are able to continue until the end of this year,” said Scott Black.

Rural Routes provides dispatch service for rides that are provided by volunteer drivers. The drivers receive mileage payments and are paid either by the person getting the ride, or by provincial or federal agencies that support them to get to a host of medically necessary appointments, children's services, and other locations. While Rural Routes charges a premium over mileage costs for administration, it does not cover the entire cost of dispatch.

For two years, Rural Routes has sought funding from Frontenac County, and received $36,000 in 2007, and $20,000 in 2008. A broader-based transportation initiative is being looked at by the county, and Rural Routes is participating in that ongoing process.

“Most of you know how I feel about this,” said Mayor Janet Gutowski. “I feel it is a county-wide issue and it is on that table. The county has facilitated a number of meetings. I'm comfortable that the county is moving forward, but what form it is going to take we don't know yet.”

“My thoughts are that we've got something that's working well, why not use it as model? I just think it is a matter of dollars and the county should be there,” said Councilor Frances Smith.

A request by Rural Routes to North Frontenac Township for $7,000 was rejected last month.

“We don't want to take the county off the hook,” said North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire at the time. “They should be supporting this.”

“Central Frontenac is the core of our service; 60% of our rides originate here,” Scott Black told Central Frontenac Council this week, “I'd like to think that in spite of what other councils do you guys can think for yourselves. I ask you to really consider this. Don't turn us into a poltical football. Because you are promoting this with other jurisductions, don't turn your backs on this well-run program.”

“I tend to agree,” said Councilor Norman Guntensperger. “Often times you hear about the end of the rural lifestyle. I suggest the peple you are serving are the neediest in our community. It would be a shame to lose this; the needy in our community would suffer.”

“If Central Frontenac does not take the lead, no one else will look at this,” said Councilor Bill Snyder. “I support a one-time grant of $15,000”.

There was one dissenting voice on council, that of Councilor Bob Harvey.

“I don't see that a municipal dollar should be paying for this. It is another matter of downloading as far as I'm concerned.”

A resolution granting $15,000 was approved.

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