Shared services idea disrupts Dufferin

March 2, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Todd Taylor

It is fascinating to see the latest interest in exploring a shared costing agreement for essential services in Dufferin County.

Mayor Jeremy Williams went public last week with his vision for Dufferin that would see services such as policing become a county-wide entity.

There is no doubt that all of us in Dufferin would like to find tax savings. The truth is that the County has a higher probability of seeing Ed Crewson without his bow tie or Super Burger becoming a seafood restaurant. To be clear, under the current political environment, our area is not capable of implementing a shared service agreement.

I followed up with many of the key County councillors to gain their insight on how they felt about the proposal by Mayor Williams to share resources.

In short, the overwhelming response was that any alliance cannot simply be about saving money for Orangeville. There has to be compelling reasons that the other jurisdictions would want to participate.

Darren White, the brutally honest and very articulate Mayor of Melancthon, shared that his township currently pays $350 per household for policing costs, while Orangeville pays $850. The Melancthon Mayor asked a very sensible question: “Why would I want another police force, and pay double for it?”

In today’s environment of high taxes and an aggressive electorate at their financial wits’ end, no politician with the goal of getting re-elected would sign up for such a lopsided financial plan.

Whoever was to lead shared service discussions would need a high level of political capital. Mayor White says Mayor Williams “blind-sided people with the way in which he came forward with his plan. The approach was not the way to get a team to come up with a new plan. The way it was done was not appropriate.”

Amaranth Mayor Don MacIver also thought the timing of such a prognostication was inappropriate. He shared that the issue was “not formally in front of county council this term. If it was, we would hire a consulting firm to do a proper review. The idea should not be put on the table before an election.”

The main focus of the recent amalgamation discussions have been on the 2nd fastest growing small town in Canada – Shelburne. Shelburne Mayor Ken Bennington is proud of what his town has been able to accomplish. The change has certainly been unprecedented, but many positive things have occurred as a result of that growth and Mayor Bennington’s commitment to his constituents.

Shelburne is enjoying new commercial development and an influx of new homes. My conversation with him proved him to be a very passionate fighter for what he believed was best for his expanding town.

Mayor Bennington admitted he had discussions with Mayor Williams at county council regarding ways to find efficiencies. However, there has never been a formal meeting between the two towns.

Mayor Bennington was disappointed that Mayor Williams decided on his own to make such a press release. He shared that the posting by Mr. Williams “put me in an awkward spot. The political climate in Orangeville is not what we want to partner with. Relationships with certain people make me want to back away.”

The Shelburne Mayor made it quite clear that he was happy with his police force and has great respect for Chief Kent Moore, explaining: “The Town of Shelburne does not have a police service problem; we have a police building problem” (The cost of a new building will be over $6 million).

At this point, Shelburne is keeping its options open by pursuing a costing analysis by the OPP. Until this process is complete, there will be no other avenues explored. In addition, given the fact that it is an election year, no further conversations will take place until a new council is elected.

The act of opening discussions on the future of essential services in Dufferin County is in direct conflict with Orangeville council’s rules regarding negotiating. No one individual can start a negotiation without the agreement of the majority of Orangeville council.

Councillor Gail Campbell shared the following: “Council did not approve these activities. To my knowledge Orangeville Police Board has not given permission either.”

Councillor Sylvia Bradley also weighed in. “Council voted against pursuing shared services at this time, yet the Mayor is going about doing just that. I am perplexed by his actions and I will challenge this at the March 19th council meeting. He is a rogue Mayor doing whatever he wants and pushing the limits to see if someone challenges him”.

To sum up, the idea of increased cooperation in Dufferin sounds wonderful, yet any agreement will need to have tangible benefits for everyone. Currently, the financial benefits of working together are not clear to all areas of the region.

Secondly, Shelburne is not active in pursuing a relationship with Orangeville at this time. And, finally, the current political climate in the county is not conducive to creating long-term trusting partnerships.

There is no doubt this will be a hard fought county-wide election issue in 2018.

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