| Feb 28, 2008

Editorial - February 28, 2008

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Editorial - February 28, 2008 Vanden Hoek’s VisionEditorial by Jeff Green

Over the past month, Frontenac County Warden Jim Vanden Hoek has been promoting a new vision for Frontenac County.

In place of a perception among some township politicians that eye other Frontenac townships with suspicion, and see Frontenac County is nothing more than a bureaucratic “empire” that sucks up tax dollars, he would like to see the townships develop an a more generous ‘all for one, one for all” attitude towards each other and he County.

In presenting his vision to the three landlocked townships and to a joint meeting of councilors from throughout the county, he has come up against a fair bit of opposition - examples, no doubt, of the kind of attitude Vanden Hoek would like to change.

His proposal to fix all this?

He wants the county to invest $50,000 each year for 5 years to be used as seed money to go towards a commercial venture that will become a showplace for the county. The idea is that the county needs an identifying feature, a unique commercial enterprise that would increase its pitiful commercial tax base, improve the business prospects in the surrounding region, improve tourism, and be identifiable as a Frontenac County Institution.

Examples of the kind of thing Vanden Hoek is talking about are places like the St. Jacob’s market.

In his presentations, Vanden Hoek said that raising the money would be the easy part. To raise $50,000 would mean a tax increase of about $3 for the average householder. The hard part, by his own admission, would be establishing some sort of process to include township councilors in this new initiative.

Vanden Hoek argues that only South Frontenac has enough of a tax base to survive over the next 10 to 20 years on its own; the other townships are too small to carry the weight of fiscal and service responsibilities that are to come without developing a new source of revenue.

And as the smaller townships begin to fail, South Frontenac will be dragged down with them, and this will translate into increased taxes. So, the argument goes, in the interest of their own ratepayers South Frontenac councilors should invest their money in projects in other townships.

However, what Vanden Hoek is talking about is not new, even to Frontenac County.

About five years ago the idea of hiring an Economic Development Officer for the County was floated by former Warden Phil Leonard.

The position was created, and the first person who held the job proposed a major resort project, the Frontenac Centre, which looked quite a bit like the kinds of projects Jim Vanden Hoek envisions for the fund he is trying to establish.

Although the Frontenac Centre concept went nowhere at the time, for a variety of reasons, it might be coming back up again this year in an altered form.

In the meantime the economic development department of the county has had its problems getting established, partly because of staff turnover.

The current manager, Dianna Bratina, has been in place for three years now, and between her efforts and the impact of the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation, a focus for economic development is finally coming about in the county. The budget for economic development in the 2008 Frontenac County budget is $177,000, which includes $25,000 under the heading “strategic initiatives”.

Given all this, it is surprising that Warden Vanden- Hoek’s proposal was brought directly to township mayors and councilors, with no reference to the economic development department.

Do we really need to pay an additional $50,000 per year, and set up some new body to administer that money, on top of the $177,000 we are already spending, in order to try and foster economic development and a feeling of “all for one or one for all” in Frontenac County?

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