Jeff Green | Mar 26, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - March 26, 2009 Frontenac County CouncilBy Jeff Green
Frontenac County Council to consider its own makeup
If the current members of County Council accept the recommendations of consultant Doug Armstrong, there will be seven people sitting around the table after the 2010 municipal election.
Currently there are four members of Frontenac County Council: the mayors of the four townships that make up the county. In addition to those, Armstrong recommends creating three new positions, to be directly elected during municipal elections.
“To reflect the breakdown in population, I recommend two of these be elected from the South and one from the North”, Armstrong told a special meeting of county and township council members last week.
The southern ward that would be created under Armstrong's recommended option would include the townships of Frontenac Islands and South Frontenac as well as the Hinchinbrooke District of Central Frontenac. The northern ward would include the rest of Central Frontenac as well as North Frontenac Township.
Roughly twice as many ratepayers live in the proposed southern ward as in the proposed northern ward.
Armstrong also recommends that the county warden serve for the entire four-year term of council. The current practice is for the warden's job to rotate on an annual basis.
The other two options that Armstrong considered were the status quo mayors-only council, and an eight-member council comprised of the mayors and deputy mayors from each township.
He preferred an odd-numbered council, which eliminates the possibility of tie votes, and favoured an increase in the size of council in order to bring more information and opinions to decision-making.
Doug Armstrong surveyed 13 other counties and found that none of them had less than eight members on their council, with some having more than 20 members. However, most of the other counties are made up of seven to nine townships, as compared to Frontenac County’s four. Perth County was the only one surveyed that is made up of four townships, and it has a 10-member council.
Armstrong's survey did not include Lennox and Addington County, which is made up of three rural townships and the City of Napanee. It has an eight-member council, with the heads of each council and their deputies making up the membership.
Frontenac County Council accepted the Armstrong report for information.
Any change to the makeup of County Council would need to be completed by the end of 2009 in order to come into effect in time for the next municipal election in 2010.
County to hire sustainability planner
Frontenac County will be hiring a sustainability planner, at a cost of $90,000 per year, to be funded by the county share of federal gas tax funding.
The position was approved at county council last week in spite of a firm rejection of the position by North Frontenac mayor, Ron Maguire, who saw the position as a threat the independence of his own township.
“We have a contract planner, and a staff position half dedicated to planning,” he said. “We can't afford to pay for a county planner. We would lose, it seems to me, total control of our Official Plan. We haven’t been well served by the county since amalgamation; the county is located within the City of Kingston. We have not had help in identifying homelessness; we are not well served by ambulance, by long-term care. We don’t want to see further centralization. I'm sceptical about this and that's my position on it.”
At first, both Mayor Davison of South Frontenac and Mayor Vanden Hoek of the Frontenac Islands favoured delaying any decision until they had a chance to consider the need.
“I'm not sure I understand it yet,” said Mayor Vanden Hoek, “so I'm sitting on the fence.”
“As I say we have a planner in South Frontenac,” said Mayor Davison. “I guess I would like to see some numbers as regards to cost. I think deferral would be prudent”.
Warden Janet Gutowksi (mayor of Central Frontenac) argued that there are opportunities that all of the townships are missing out on, such as changes to housing uses, brownfields development, and the establishment of Community Improvement Plans, that would benefit from a county sustainability planner being in place.
“I think it is only through stepping up our collective efforts that we are going to achieve anything,” she said.
Ron Maguire replied that, “At a minimum this has to go to joint county council. I can tell you that my council does not support this.”
“When we sit here at county council, Mayor Maguire, we don't represent only our township councils. Sometimes we have to represent the people as well,” said Gutowski. “We are not creating opportunities as it stands now. It's up to us to take a step forward.”
Jim Vanden Hoek asked for a break to be called. After meeting privately with Mayor Davison in the hallway, the two came back and supported the creation and filling of the new position.
The vote was 3-1.
The Sustainability Group
In addition to the Armstrong Group on governance and the IBI group on ambulance service, county council heard from the Sustainability Group on plastic bags.
There was something different about the Sustainability Group. They weren't paid, although they are consultants of a kind. They also weren't middle-aged men. No, the firm of Alex Green, Sarah McFadden and Kayla Gibson are grade 7 students from Loughborough Public School and they came to council to promote an idea: banning plastic bags from Frontenac County.
After making a power point presentation outlining the dangers of plastic bags and the measures that have been taken in other places, one of the girls asked council, “So are you going to ban plastic bags, then?”
“You girls rock,” said County Warden Janet Gutowski.
“Are you going to ban plastic bags?” the girl repeated.
Frontenac and the Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek then asked that the matter be put on the agenda for the next county meeting in April.
As for the Sustainability Group, they will take part in a major sustainable school event next Monday and Tuesday.