Jeff Green | Sep 29, 2016
When the K&P trail project was first being floated about 10 years ago, the fact that the section between Tichborne and Sharbot Lake is privately owned was discussed. The logic was to work from south to north, deal with all the complications along the way, and worry about that part when the time came.
Well, the time came last week, and Frontenac County Council had to find some more money.
Those landowners along Road 38 between Tichborne and Sharbot Lake all want to be paid for their land before they will turn it over to the county for the trail, and that is their right.
About $80,000 had been set aside for this, and the county has already made deals to spend a lot more than that, and those deals are set to be finalized in October.
Instead of taking the money from their working funds and financing it by taxation in 2017 (the county keeps a couple of million on hand at all times) county staff offered council a way out: take it from a reserve fund that is not needed, the $400,000 Kingston Frontenac Renovates reserve fund.
On one level that is a good idea. That $400,000 was levied in 2014 because the province had suggested in 2013 that it might stop funding Kingston Frontenac renovates, a popular program that helps low income residents in Frontenac County cover major repairs to their homes.
In the end the Province continued to fund the program and has guaranteed it will continue to fund it until 2019. And in all likelihood it will continue to be funded after then as well.
As Sheldon Laidman from the City of Kingston said, “It is cheaper for the province to put money towards keeping people in their homes than paying for them to live in homeless shelters, so why would they stop funding this?”
And even if the province does pull out, the county politicians of that day can always tax for it again.
So why not put the money into the trail, so ratepayers don't have to be taxed in 2017 because the trail is going over budget again?
Because the money was raised for one purpose and justified to ratepayers on that basis. Now it has been put into a pet project that has less public support.
Years ago money was found in unused reserves to fund the rebuild of the auditorium at Fairmount Home, years after it was collected for ratepayers for another purpose.
We objected to the Fairmount Home auditorium and raise a similar objection here.
Even if it is awkward or embarrassing, as ratepayers we ask that our politicians, and the staff they hire, to spend the money they collect from us on what they tell us they are collecting the money for.
Otherwise why should we trust them with out money at all?
If the $400,000 is not needed for Frontenac Renovates the best thing to at least put it to a similar purpose.
Establishing a fund to cover the pending cost of social housing would be a good start.
One way or another Frontenac County ratepayers are on the hook for paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete the K&P Trail to Sharbot Lake.
The least we can ask for from our politicians is that they be honest about it.