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Title - The View from Dundas
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Follow Me on TwitterPhillip Blancher is a writer, web geek and communications professional by trade. He has written for a number of publications in Eastern Ontario and Northern New York State and also was a weekly morning show contributor for two area radio stations. As a resident of South Dundas for the last seven years, this long-time political buff has taken on an appreciation of small-town/rural life while also being a father of four and a soccer coach. Blancher's columns on OurHometown.ca will cover a range of his interests from politics, parenthood, local history and on his favourite NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres. If you have questions or wish to contact Phillip, you can email him at pblancher@ourhometown.ca
Is there a need for county level government?
Phillip Blancher
OurHometown.ca

Is there a need for county level government?
Is it time to get rid of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry? Do the residents of the municipalities that make up SDG need that fourth tier of government? It is this columnist's opinion that it's time for county government to be removed.
PHOTO CREDIT - OurHometown.ca

South Dundas - October 2, 2012 - Is it time to get rid of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry? Do the residents of the municipalities that make up SDG need that fourth tier of government? It is this columnist's opinion that it's time for county government to be removed.

According to the SDG website (www.sdgcounties.ca), the county looks after the following items: Roads, Planning, Tourism, Land Ambulance, Police Service, Libraries, Social Housing, Economic Development, Child Care and Home for the Aged (Nursing Home). This sounds like a big plate of things the county does, doesn’t it? But how much of this does the county actually administer or run?

Child Care, Social Housing, Land Ambulance and Home for the Aged is contracted out to the City of Cornwall. Tourism is contracted out to Cornwall and Seaway Valley Tourism, a non-profit agency. Economic Development was contracted out to the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Community Futures Development Corporation (SDGCFDC), another non-profit agency, but the county has decided to cancel that contract and take it “in-house”. Policing is contracted out to the Ontario Provincial Police; there is no municipally-operated force. This leaves just Roads, Planning, Libraries, and soon Economic Development.

For all of those services, residents in South Dundas pay 57% of their municipal tax levy to the county. For all of the things that South Dundas does, Roads, Planning, Fire Service (including Dispatch), Parks, Recreation, Tourism Promotion, and Economic Development, the municipality gets 43% of the levy. The Municipal Levy does not include the Education Levy on the tax bill.

There is a great deal of duplication between what the municipalities do and what the counties do. Both look after roads, which mean paving, upkeep, and clearing snow off them in the winter. The county look after their roads, the municipalities look after theirs and never the twain shall meet. This has lead to much inefficiency. When a municipal snowplow gets to the end of the municipal road it’s clearing and reaches a county road, it is not allowed to continue plowing the county road. Even if the road needs to be cleared, or the plow needs to use the county road to get to the next municipal road it needs to clear. Why? Why can’t a snowplow just clear the roads in a section of the municipal, county-owned or municipal-owned? Yes, there may be different standards to how county and municipal roads are handled, however the money paid is the same. In any municipality, there are different levels or types of roads meeting different standards, so municipal road departments can handle this.

Planning is another unneeded duplication. The county has a planning department, works with South Nation Conservation Authority over water issues, sets planning goals for the county as a whole. However those planning goals don’t always mesh what is needed at the local municipality. However the way hierarchy is set up, the municipality really is the “lower-tier” or bottom-rung of governance. If the county administration decides to update their plans, the municipalities have to update theirs. Why?

Economic Development is something that is already done by each of the six municipalities. With the contract to the SDGCFDC being cancelled, why does the county need to hire new people and create a new department? Why can't the municipalities just handle their own affairs?

Why can’t the municipalities handle all of their own affairs? If Policing, Land Ambulance, Tourism, Social Housing, Child Care, Old Aged Homes, and the like are just contracted out to the City of Cornwall, can’t a municipality cut a cheque and outsource too?

The library system could be turned into a non-profit agency similar to Cornwall and Seaway Valley Tourism, still funded by the six municipalities and still with members from each council on the board.

Police contracts could be negotiated as a group of six municipalities, working together; similar to how South Dundas and two other municipalities teamed up and contracted out Fire Dispatch services. There was no need for the county to be involved there.

Municipalities could negotiate, separately or as a group or partial group, contracts for any of the services required. This may lead to lower costs, or costs in proportion to need. If for example, there are more people in South Stormont requiring the use of an Old Aged Home than there is in South Dundas, then cost should reflect that need.

South Dundas coordinates Tourism promotion themselves to the tune of $20,000/year. The municipality also spent almost $13,000 with two tourism information offices, one in Morrisburg and one in Iroquois. How much more could they do if they decided not to fund Cornwall and Seaway Valley Tourism but do it themselves and had their portion of the money from the county that went to the non-profit agency? Or putting the shoe on the other foot, how much more tourism promotion would they get if they took the $33,000 they spent, plus their portion of what they gave to the county, and put towards funding Cornwall and Seaway Valley Tourism? The problem is that municipal council doesn’t get to make that choice.

In the end there isn’t one service provided by the county that could not be handled by each of the six municipalities that make up SD&G. Those municipalities could look at how to make the county efficient, and reduce duplication. However I believe this would just be delaying the inevitable. The residents here do not need the duplication of the fourth-tier government, and it’s time for it to be removed.


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