| Apr 23, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - April 23, 2009 Frontenac County CouncilBy Jeff Green

Harsh words for gentle care

Members of Frontenac County Council have been waiting since last November for senior staff at the county-owned Fairmount Home for the Aged to respond to a consultant’s report that praised the home’s operations but questioned their cost.

When the response came to council last week, in the form of an outline of the home’s “gentle care” philosophy delivered by the homes’ chief administrator Julie Shillington and director of care Mary Lake, along with a plan to consider costing over the next four months, it was not enough for at least one member of council.

“The level of care at Fairmount is in direct proportion to the number of staff,” said Frontenac Islands Mayor Vanden Hoek. “We’ve been adding positions as we saw the need, as we listened to you, and we’ve kept adding positions since the rebuild of the home. Every time a program has come out we’ve said ‘we are going to do that.’ Meanwhile the levy for Fairmount has gone up and up and up and it can’t continue to do that. I think council has to give directives, whether we do it by giving you a percentage decrease to aim for or some other kind of instruction. But we should say something as council to give you direction in terms of what we expect to happen.”

The Fairmount Home’s operating budget in 2007 was $8.9 million. In 2008 the operating budget was $9.3 million and the 2009 budget is $9.8 million.

County ratepayers, the City of Kingston, and the Province of Ontario all pay into the Fairmount budget. In 2009, Frontenac County ratepayers will pay $824,359, up over 13% from 2008, when the levy was $727,445.

South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison noted that the consultant’s report found that Fairmount was costly to operate compared to other similarly classed homes.

“We are in the top percentile in terms of staffing and costs, and we were compared with 10 other homes. If others can be approved with less staffing, we should be able to do it as well,” he said.

“To be honest,” said Julie Shillington, “that’s why we are looking at the financial piece. How you decide to give us directions will drive what we do.”

Vanden Hoek did not want to leave it at that.

“I have a feeling that gentle care has significant cost implications. I’m reluctant to endorse gentle care until I see a piece of paper from the treasurer. I think we need to have a real strong debate about that, and I need to have that debate before I endorse gentle care,” he said.

A motion to endorse the work plan proposed by Fairmount Senior staff was rejected in a tied vote, with Mayor’s Vanden Hoek and Davison voting against it.

This led County CAO Liz Savill to question how the review of operations could be completed without council’s endorsement of the process, so a motion endorsing a review of costs at the home was proposed, and accepted by council. 

County governance to go public

Although there are 18 months to go before the next municipal election, Frontenac County Council is under the gun over governance.

Last year, when Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek was the warden, he made a commitment that the four-member county council would look seriously at options for increasing the number of members on council in time for the next election.

A consultant was hired, to the tune of $35,000, to consider options, and a report was presented last month. The preferred option it presented was a seven-member council.

Any changes do not need to be approved until the end of 2009 to take effect in time for the election in November of 2010. But five to six months need to be set aside before that to allow for possible appeals to the province by members of the public.

Based on the statements from the four current members at the last week's county meeting, the consultant’s report has not yielded much agreement on what council should look like.

The consultant, Doug Armstrong, proposed a seven-member council, comprised of the four mayors, and three members to be elected at large, two from the southern ward (Frontenac Islands, South Frontenac and Hinchinbrooke District), and one from a northern ward (¾ of Central Frontenac and North Frontenac).

North Frontenac Council proposed a 13-member county council: mayors and one other member from each township, plus three elected members from the southern ward that Doug Armstrong proposed, and two from the northern ward.

Central Frontenac Council did not like the ward system at all. They proposed a council comprised of the mayors and another member from each township, and an extra member from South Frontenac Council. The extra councilor would assure a majority result for each vote, and would recognise the fact that South Frontenac includes 58% of the residents in the county.

At their meeting last week, South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison thought that both North and Central Frontenac had jumped the gun by making proposals before the consultant’s report had been hashed out at the county table.

“I'm seeing reports from two of our districts,” he said. “To me it’s premature to have discussion on the lower level before it is discussed here. South Frontenac’s position is that smaller is better. A large council would probably require another staff member just to deal with everybody”.

Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek thought the Armstrong plan had some merit.

“I happen to be passionate about one or two issues at the county level, but there are many issues that we deal with and I think we need more bodies around the table to bring more insight to our discussions. I'm prepared to go to seven and watch the discussion go forward”.

Central Frontenac Mayor, and current County Warden, Janet Gutowski, said, “There was a comfort level on our council about deputy mayors, but there was concern about the wards, partly because they don't conform to township lines”.

North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire said, “I feel that some change is better than no change. It was unfortunate that there was no time to discuss this when it was brought forward last month, but our council took this seriously and came up with our own proposal”.

In order to move the process forward, county council agreed to present the seven-member council proposal to public meetings throughout the county over the next two weeks.

Frontenac County CAO Elizabeth Savill explained that “a triple majority” would be required for any new governance model to take effect. Once the public meetings are over, county council and a majority of the township councils must approve a model. That majority must also include South Frontenac, however, because a majority of the electorate must be included as well. Because 58% of county residents live in South Frontenac, its council plus two others need to approve any plan before it can go forward.

Public meetings will take place over the next two weeks. The schedule is as follows: Tuesday, April 28 at the Clar-Mil Hall in Plevna (7:00 - 8:00 pm), Thursday April, 30 on Wolfe Island (7:00 - 800 pm), Thursday May 7 at the South Frontenac Township Office in Sydenham (5:30 pm – 6:30 pm) and Thursday May 7 at the Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake (7:30 to 8:30 pm).

Public meetings set for K&P Trail

Debates about the K&P trail have been coming in waves for the past 8 or 9 years, and the latest initiative, which is backed by Frontenac County and its member townships, will be seeking public input next week.

Public meetings leading to the development of a county trails master plan are set for the Verona Lion’s Hall on Tuesday April 28th from 4:30 to 6:30 and Thursday April 30th at the Oso Hall in Sharbot Lake from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. (see ad below).

The plan concerns trails throughout the County, but its major focus is the contentious north south trail between South and Central Frontenac on the old K&P rail line.

Bell Canada has had ownership of the line, but Frontenac County applied for and received a grant to purchase he Bell lands for the purpose of establishing a trail that will eventually join up the Cataraqui Trail north of Kingston with the Trans Canada trail that runs parallel to Highway 7, passing though Sharbot Lake.

But there are some portions of the K&P rail lands. located between the Bradshaw Road and Sharbot Lake, that were sold off by Bell to the adjacent landowners, which could mean the trail will have to find a bypass in that stretch.

Concerns have also been expressed by adjacent landowners all along the trail over a variety of issues, including: noise, privacy, speed, garbage, fencing, late-night use, property damage, trespassing, cost, access to property, liability and continuity.

Meetings have already been held with adjacent landowners from the entire run of the rail line, in an effort to alleviate some of these concerns.

At the public meetings five options for trail uses will be presented. Option 1 is for a non-motorized multi-use trail (walking/hiking, cycling, cross country skiing, and equestrian. Option 2 is for a motorized, multi-use trail, which includes all the uses of option 1 and snowmobiles as well. Option 3 is a transition model. The trail would be non-motorized at the southern end, and would transition to a motorized trail at Harrowsmith or Verona. Finally, option 4 is for a multi use, motorized trail, including snowmobiles and ATV’s, for the entire length of the trail.

Whateverr option is ultimately chosen by the trail committee after public input, it will have to conform to the vision statement that they all have agreed to.

The K&P trail will promote sustainable and healthy communities by encouraging residents and visitors to get active while appreciating the natural beauty and rich heritage of Frontenac County.

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