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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
Lack of common sense costs
Phillip Blancher
OurHometown.ca

Lack of common sense costs
Do government bureaucrats think before spending tax money? The better question to ask is; WHY don't government bureaucrats think before spending tax money? It is not just Federal or Provincial bureaucrats who don't think, but also Municipal bureaucrats. The absence of common sense from municipal administrations, large or small, cost the tax payer each and every day. Two decisions recently in the Township of South Dundas prove this point.
PHOTO CREDIT - Isabell Blancher

South Dundas - December 14, 2012 - Do government bureaucrats think before spending tax money? The better question to ask is; WHY don't government bureaucrats think before spending tax money? It is not just Federal or Provincial bureaucrats who don't think, but also Municipal bureaucrats. The absence of common sense from municipal administrations, large or small, cost the tax payer each and every day. Two decisions recently in the Township of South Dundas prove this point.

In the middle of November, the Township of South Dundas's Economic Development Office announced it was partnering with a neighbouring township to hire a consultant to help them use their logos on signs that are desperately needed in the region. Each township would pay $5,500 towards the bill and they would receive a plan on how to use their logos and what type of sign they need to get. This would take about six months to complete, and that the Economic Development Office planned on putting new signs up over the next two-to-three years.

This columnist is all for outside consultants being used when the knowledge needed to make a decision is outside of the person's realm. If, for example, there was a dock which was damaged, an engineer with experience in marina design would make sense. Another example would be if a sewer was backing up into a neighbourhood and those in public works couldn't see what the cause may be, then a consultant would be a good use of tax money.

An example of where consultants are overused however is with the sign issue. $5,500 spent to get a plan on how to design a sign. Why did the township bureaucrats not just call a few sign companies and find out what it costs to design signs? Since the township needed several signs, contact a few companies and get quotes. Sign companies design and build signs. This means that sign companies already have staff on their payroll to deal with the issue that the townships hired a consultant for. Instead of spending $5,500 on a consultant to get a report, the township could spend $5,550 and get signs. This sounds like a common sense solution to a problem.

So how many signs can one get with $5,500? With already having a logo to use; picking a standard sign size of three feet high by five feet wide; using the sign company's designer to design the sign; the answer is 20. Twenty signs, constructed out of aluminum with some PVC coatings to make the sign last a minimum of ten years. Twenty signs for $5,500 delivered. As the township has staff in the Public Works department, common sense determined that installation by the sign company was not needed. Furthermore, those twenty signs would take no more than four weeks to arrive, not the 2-3 years it would take for the Economic Development Department to implement the consultant's plan.

It is not just bureaucrats who are devoid of common sense at decision making times, elected officials suffer from common sense amnesia frequently. Towards the end of November, township council in South Dundas voted to loan to the Morrisburg Business Improvement Area (BIA) to help pay for an electronic sign. The sign, which will cost $21,000, is to be placed on the town clock in the plaza to promote businesses in the plaza. Council opted to loan the money despite the BIA being funded already through a tax levy on businesses in the plaza. A levy that cannot be opted out of. There are 48 businesses located in the plaza, and all pay this levy, which funds improvements, marketing and upkeep. Putting a digital sign board certainly qualifies as an improvement; but it is one that should have been paid for by those business owners in the plaza, not by taxpayers. Why could the BIA not go to it's members and ask for money from them to help pay for the sign? Perhaps the membership didn't think it was a good use of money?

Another business, just down the road from the plaza spent nearly $10,000 on a digital sign for his business, but paid for it out of his own pocket. Now thanks to the township loaning the money to the BIA, he has helped pay for their sign too.

Decisions like these set dangerous precedents. Bureaucrats relying on outside consultants to do their job leaves the question why that bureaucrat is needed in the first place. Just hire a consultant to do that entire job since they seem to know better. The precedent of loaning tax money to a business group is a far more dangerous precedent. Before that loan, it was community groups and non-profits that would get help, now the Township of South Dundas has become a bank to private business owners. A slippery slope to travel down, one that should be reversed.


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