By Chad Ingram
It will likely be next year at this time when a final report regarding the service delivery and governance review being undertaken by the County of Haliburton is complete.
As previously reported, the county will issue a request for proposals for a consultant to conduct the review, which would deliver recommendations to change the way services are delivered in the county, and could include recommendations to change the structure of the local government.
County chief administrative officer Mike Rutter and County Warden and Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen made a presentation to Algonquin Highlands council during its Nov. 7 meeting, seeking support to proceed with the review. Rutter and Danielsen will visit each of the county’s four, lower-tier municipal councils, seeking support resolutions.
“As you know, there’s been a lot of pressure about governance structure in the county,” Danielsen said, adding that many county residents have strong opinions on the matter, including calls for amalgamation. Earlier this year, municipal staff from across the county compiled an inventory of services currently delivered. “We’re ready to go to the next step and drill in a little bit deeper,” Danielsen said.
Rutter said that part of the review would ask the question of which tier is best equipped to deliver which service, with the possible outcome that a certain municipality may become the service provider for the others regarding a particular service.
A draft RFP will come to county council, and those RFP submissions will be evaluated by the county’s five CAOs – Rutter, along with the CAOs from each of the four lower-tier municipalities. A short list of two or three consultants will then be invited to present their process for council’s consideration.
When Rutter was asked when he thought the final report would be complete, he said he anticipated this time next year.
“This is a really important conversation to be having,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt, adding the county was quickly changing, as are directives from the provincial government. After the sudden halving of Toronto city council prior to the October 2018 municipal elections, and following a recent review of the province’s eight regional governments, the Ford government recently announced it would be making no forced municipal amalgamations.
County councillors have repeatedly reiterated they are not married to any particular outcome.
“I really believe there was a room full of councillors with open minds,” Danielsen said, although she did express concern that in a single-tier scenario, some of the county’s smaller communities would become overlooked. “I don’t want to see places like Oxtongue Lake and Tory Hill fall off the map, because that happens.”
“Something tangible will come out, whether it’s amalgamation or not,” said Councillor Jennifer Dailloux.
Moffatt said there also needed to be some public input component to the process at some point.
“The public has to weigh in on something, but we’re not sure what it is yet,” she said.
The county is budgeting $150,000 for the process, although Rutter has indicated that may end up being a conservative estimate. His proposal is that the county cover 50 per cent of the cost, and the four, lower-tier townships each contribute 12.5 per cent. Algonquin Highlands councillors agreed for the township to cover its portion.