Jeff Green | Aug 20, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - August 20, 2009 Frontenac County CouncilBy Jeff Green
Mayors all want money for roads and bridges, but approve soft county spending
“I spent a lot of time talking with past councilors and past wardens about the federal gas tax, and I think we missed the boat by not talking about infrastructure funding. South Frontenac is spending $2 million this year on construction. We should be looking at spending some of that money on those projects” – South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison.
“In all the consultations we did, how is it that we missed out on roads and bridges? It seems unreasonable that we have gotten so far into this without looking at something that basic.” – Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek
“I took the report to my council in its entirety. Councilors want to ensure that the county continues to perform county duties. Some of the projects were getting into the territory of the townships.” - Central Frontenac Mayor (and 2009 county warden) Janet Gutowksi.
“Gas tax should be going to infrastructure needs. It should be going to roads and bridges, or salt domes, not community centres, not consultants. I’ve been against this from the beginning. I’m voting against everything.” – North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire
With this gloomy start, a debate over a county staff proposal to fund 10 projects that were identified in the recently completed County Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) began at a meeting of Frontenac County Council last week (Wednesday, August 12).
None of the proposed projects were of the “roads and bridges” variety, but a county staff report to council outlined that of the $1.19 million in gas tax transfers received by the county over the past four years, only $120,000 has been spent, and the county is obliged to have spent at least $330,000 by the end of 2009 in order to keep the money.
“Let’s look at the list of projects, and see which ones we can come to consensus on,” said Warden Gutowski.
With North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire already committed to rejecting all 10 proposals, the three other members had to all agree in order for any of them to be approved.
A proposal to complete an inventory of county assets, twinned with a proposal to complete a county GIS mapping initiative that was initiated several years ago, were the most expensive projects to be approved, at a cost of $190,000.
According to a staff report, this mapping will aid in the areas of “land use planning, economic development, land conservancy, natural heritage, lake protection, trails, land ambulance services, fire services, police services, health and social services, transportation, trails, river/floodplain systems, aggregate operations,” and more.
$30,000 will be spent on the “Assessment of Renewable Energy Potential in the Frontenacs”, which is described as a “pre-feasibility assessment of the potential to develop local renewable energy systems” which will be completed this year.
Less expensive projects, such as $5,000 in support of “small scale initiatives such as the Addington Frontenac Area Radio Station (AFAR), $5,000 for a local food summit (yet to be organised), and $9,150 towards a ‘Naturally Rich Frontenacs’ booklet to be produced by the Frontenac Stewardship Council”, round out the list.
The total cost of these projects is about $240,000.
Among projects which were not approved was a “Social Services Development Plan” for $100,000 – which was deferred, a salt management plan ($50,000), a solid waste management plan ($75,000) and a common energy management plan (up to $100,000).
As to how to spend the rest of the money that has already been received, and how to spend about $4 million more, which will be forthcoming by 2014, the situation is less clear.
The thorny question of how to use gas tax funds to deal with infrastructure within the county, which is all owned and funded by the local townships, was left for another day.
“How can we flow money for roads and bridges?” asked Mayor Vanden Hoek.
“I’ll report back in September,” said CAO Elisabeth Savill.
Meanwhile the County Sustainability Planner, Joe Gallivan, and the County Manager for Economic Development, Ann Marie Young, will begin working on bringing the approved projects on stream.
Some movement on county council composition
The year-long debate over county council composition may yield fruit after all.
While he still expressed reservations, South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison has gone along with an idea brought to the table by Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek, that they will let their own councils guide them on changes to the makeup of county council.
“I’m still not convinced we should make a change,” said Davison, “I’m still waiting to be impressed by this. But I will bring back what I see from my council. I will bring that back to the table.”
In order for changes to take effect, they must be approved by the end of 2009.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire and County Warden Janet Gutowski have both expressed their support for adding a second representative to county council from each of the four Frontenac townships, and for a provision to give more weight to South Frontenac Township, which contains 58% of the population.
Questions remain about how that second individual would be selected, whether they should serve a four-year term, and whether the county warden position should also be a four-year appointment. (It is currently rotated on an annual basis).
At the county meeting on August 12, in prefacing the latest attempt to work something out, Warden Janet Gutowski outlined all of these questions.
North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire suggested that a committee be struck, including one member of county council and appointees from the four member councils, to bring back a proposal in October.
The other members of council favoured bringing the matter directly to their own councils for comment.
“That way we will end up being faced with four proposals, and then where will we be?” said Maguire.
“What if we are all considering the exact same questions, as outlined by the warden?” asked Gary Davison.
Janet Gutowski will prepare a list of questions for the next county meeting in September. If approved they will be taken by the mayors to their own councils and will report back at the October meeting.
Any change will need to be ratified by a majority of councils, which must include South Frontenac, because of its size, before the end of 2009.
Sydenham area to be the site of new ambulance base
Council approved, without debate, a report from Paul Charbonneau calling for the new South Frontenac ambulance base to be located “in the vicinity of Sydenham. The report outlined how that location would result in improved response times for the most number of people in South Frontenac and North Kingston.
County trails committee back on track
While the three township representatives who resigned from a committee that was preparing a trails master plan for Frontenac County had not yet formally returned to the fold, two of them appeared before county council last week and talked about how the committee can move forward.
The three members, Gary Smith (Central Frontenac), Jim Beam (North Frontenac) and Dennis Doyle (Frontenac Islands), all resigned in June after a draft master plan was presented directly to county council by county staff without being vetted by the committee
In July, county council rescinded their motion to receive the draft plan, and for their meeting on August 12, Anne Marie Young, manager for Economic Development at the county, prepared a background report on the history of the two-year-old process, which came about when the county received a grant to purchase portions of the old K&P rail line in order to establish a trail.
Dennis Doyle appeared last week before county council, along with Jim Beam and Anne Marie Young. Doyle had sent a letter to the county, which was endorsed by Gary Smith and Jim Beam, outlining a way forward.
Doyle suggested that municipal representatives on the committee, which also includes representatives from conservation authorities and trail advocacy groups, become the voting members, along with a county council appointee.
Warden Janet Gutowski volunteered to fulfill that role.
Other county councilors expressed the concern that public opinion, in particular the opinions of people who oppose trail expansion for various reasons, be reflected in the report.
In response to this concern, the draft plan will be presented to public meetings that will be scheduled in communities along the Road 38 corridor where the K&P trail would be located - that section being the most contentious piece of trail in the county.
“We will not be involved in implementation,” Doyle assured county council, “which is where a lot of these issues will be worked out. We plan to finalize a master plan and disband by the end of this year.”
A formal committee of the county may be formed to implement the master plan once it is approved, Doyle added.