Much Ado About Talking

Community Consultation

Councillor Ruttan and I held a community town hall in Perth Road village. The discussion among the 30 residents who attended was lively, respectful and wide ranging. I want to thank those who attended. Your input is necessary to make governments and community’s work. Click here to read the meeting notes.

We have taken action on a couple of issues raised and will report to all participants, and anyone else who is interested, in a couple of months. We also plan to hold similar town halls in other parts of Loughborough district later this year.

Disappearing Meetings

Two years ago, Council decreased the number of Committee of the Whole meetings in favour of smaller committee meetings. This change raised concerns that there would be less input and oversight on Township issues from the whole Council, the public and the media.

In February the Committee of the Whole meeting was cancelled; as were the Development Services and, the Recreation and Leisure Committee, and the Corporate Services Committee did not meet. The Council meetings were both under an hour. While some of these cancellations were due to on-off events, most were due to lack of agenda items and continue a trend to shorter and fewer meetings. When the sub-committees do meet, they often discuss issues which would benefit from input from all Councillor’s but are only three Councillors can talk. The sub-committee meetings are almost never attended by members of the public or the media.

It is time to have an evaluation of the new committee structure: the community is not well served by less debate and scrutiny.

High Speed Internet Plans

Currently, only 46% of rural Eastern Ontario meets the Canadian Radio and Televisions Commission’s standard for internet access with South Frontenac having its fair share of these areas. the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) recently updated Frontenac County Council on the next steps to improve internet access. Click to see the slide show: EORN Presentation

The next step is a $213 million investment over the next five years to achieve the goas of 99% cell coverage (10% currently have no cell coverage), 95% with standard definition internet access and 85% high definition access. Of that $213 million dollars, 71% or $152 million is public money.

These coverage targets do not consider that if you live in area served by a Bell tower you may not be able to get Telus or Rogers reception. Similarly, access in areas served by other companies’ towers may be limited. Effectively an individual resident will have less access to internet services, and any benefits of competition, than coverage targets identified by EORN.

Considering that these projects are largely paid from public money it is reasonable that all towers be required to carry all providers. So far, this is not a requirement.

The next step, to increase service to the standard of 50:10 (speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload) would cost a further 500 to $700 million. Many new provincial and Federal programs are being applied for.

It is a slow and frustrating process.

Regional Services

Over the last few years South Frontenac has been cooperating more with the other Townships in areas like landfill monitoring and road maintenance. The four Frontenac County Townships have received a 150-thousand-dollar provincial grant to study other opportunities for regional cooperation. The benefits of cooperation are significant, though our biggest potential partner is the City of Kingston and they are not involved in the study.

A goal in all the Townships should also be to also maintain good local public input and oversight of any coordinated regional service delivery. Increased regionalization might require a review of governance.

Wilmer Road Boat Ramp

One of the concerns raised was the safety of the Wilmer Road boat ramp into Sydenham Lake. It was reported that part of the steel mesh had broken. We have written to the Cataraqui Conservation Authority (CRCA), who owns that ramp, and asked them to investigate.

A bigger concern is that with the increasing number of closures of the Sydenham Boat Ramp to facilitate community events (Canada Day, Lakes and Trails Festival, the Sydenham Canoe Club regatta) the Wilmer Road ramp is the only public access to the lake and it needs an up grade. We have also asked the CRCA to re-evaluate the maintenance and re-development plans. The Township may also need to include some extra resources to make this ramp a suitable access to Sydenham Lake.

About Ross Sutherland

nurse, researcher, public health care activist, councillor South Frontenac Township
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