| Jan 27, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - January 29, 2009 Frontenac County Council -Jan 21/09By Jeff Green

Frontenac Council is “a bit unique” says governance consultant.

Doug Armstrong, whose company is being paid $35,000 to make proposals for how Frontenac County should be governed in the future, appeared before County Council last week in advance of his final report, which is due later this winter.

He said he will be laying out several options for County Council to consider.

“Frontenac County is one of few who have taken the initiative to look at governance since municipal amalgamation took place over ten years ago, and you should be commended for your initiative,” he said.

“The County is a bit unique,” he added, “when I drive passed Sharbot Lake as I go from my home in Peterborough to Ottawa, I don't think about Wolfe Island. Mayor Maguire from North Frontenac probably left home at the same time I did this morning from Peterborough to get to this meeting.”

(Frontenac County Council's offices are located in Glenburnie, which is in the jurisdiction of the City of Kingston)

Armstrong also said that after amalgamation Frontenac County was basically dismantled and became known as the Frontenac Management Board, only to re-attain County status five years later.

“It was originally going to be only an agency to distribute shared funds, but the province being what it is, they still went ahead and transferred services down to the County, so as something that was headed in one direction and got pushed into another you've done quite well.”

Armstrong has met with councillors and the mayor's from each of the four townships that make up the County as background for his report, and has looked at governance in other Ontario Counties.

“The size of the council, with only four members, and its configuration, ere the major issues that the people I talked to were concerned about,” he said.

Among the ideas that were presented to him by township councillors was adding the Deputy Mayor’s from each township to the council, which would double the size of the body.

“But one of the things that happens is townships change their Deputy Mayor every year and that would not do much for continuity on the County Council,” he said.

Another popular proposal, which came from many parts of the County, Armstrong said, “was giving some extra membership on council to South Frontenac.”

For his part, South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison made it clear he does not seek or support extra members or extra authority for his township at the County level, even though South Frontenac ratepayers pay 58% of the County levy each year.

“Frontenac County is a vast piece of geography. It's been that way for 100 years. I think the ability to govern it is here, right around this table. We all have our niches, but you win some and you lose some. I think all we need to do is try and make it work. I'm not looking for any extra authority for South Frontenac. I don’t think there should be a weighted vote. I think we need to make good decisions,” he said.

Doug Armstrong also noted that some of the people he has interviewed were highly critical of the County, talking particularly about the great distance and separation between the north and the south

“Many of them thought the County is redundant, however, redundant or not it is a two tiered format in Ontario and it will stay that way,” said Armstrong.

Armstrong’s report will be brought back to a steering committee within the next month and will come to full Council in March or April.

Any changes that the County makes to its governing structure must be in place by the end of 2009 in order to be in effect for the next municipal election, which takes place in November of 2010.

County of Frontenac: Fresh with Opportunity Growing vibrant, innovative, natural, sustainable placesNo it’s not a new store in Harrowsmith, but it is selling something

It’s the proposed vision statement that the people working on the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan for Frontenac have come up with thus far.

Anne Marie Young, the Manager for Economic Development for Frontenac County, and Graham Halsall, the County sustainability co-ordinator, introduced the statement to a meeting of County Council last week.

The statement will be further considered as the sustainability plan is finalised over the next few months.

Five steering committees, each one looking at a different aspects of County life, will hold meetings this week, and will continue meeting over the next months.

The final plan is due in June.

The County will be mailing out information about the process within the next month.

Budget debate this week

Frontenac County Council is having its major budget meeting this week, but in receiving the draft budget for information from treasurer Marian VanBruinessen last week, County Couuncil saw that they are facing an increase of as much as $380,000, or 4.6% in the amount of money it will be asking from ratepayers, unless major cuts are made.

Of that increase, $180,000 comes from a projected decrease in interest payments that the County will receive in 2009, an impact from the global economic downturn.

The increase had originally been slated at almost $1 million, or 11%, but County Treasurer Marian VanBruinessen has recommended that reserve funds be used to bring the number down by almost $530,000.

One of the reserve funds being used was set up a couple of years ago to put money aside for the impacts of an economic downturn, and VanBruinessen says it can be used this year because more money for social transfers is slated to come from the province next year, so the reserve will be replenished.

One member of County Council would like the County to look at a new expenditure.

North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire asked that funding for upgrades to the Pine Meadow Nursing home, be put on the agenda at this weeks budget meeting for consideration. Pine Meadow is located in Lennox and Addington County, but half of its residents come from Frontenac County. Last year, County Council refused a request for a grant of $25,000 per year for ten years for the Pine Meadow project.

A similar request to Lennox and Addington County was successful.

Both Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Counties own and run their own long - term care facilities

Observatory sparks interest

Frank Roy and Peter Mackinnon from the Elektra Observatory project, a proposed high tech observatory for Mallory hill near Vennachar, at the far northeast end of Frontenac County, were seeking an endorsement for their project to help them raise the $2 million they will need to complete it.

The proposed instrument, nicknamed the one metre initiative, “would be the most advanced telescope in Canada,” said Frank Roy.

Even though the scope would be devoted to scientific use and would be remotely controlled, Roy pointed out that a similar project in Quebec, at Mont Megantic, has been the catalyst for a major tourism initiative .

The major attraction of the site for the Elektra Observatory people are the dark skies. Frank Roy presented a map which showed that the location is the darkest in southern Ontario.

“I think this complements perfectly what we are hearing from the public,” said County Warden Janet Gutowski. “We would certainly do everything we can do for it. Let’s hit Nike mode. Let’s do it.”

County Council endorsed the initiative.

There is a website: www.elektraobservatories.org with extensive information about the project.

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