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
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.