County councillors discuss collaboration on services

By Chad Ingram

Haliburton County councillors discussed inter-municipal collaboration on roads work, landfills, bylaw enforcement and other services during a special online meeting May 26.

Councillors, along with the chief administrative officers of the county and its four lower-tier municipalities, discussed recommendations from the service delivery review that was performed last year. That review, completed by Toronto-based firm StrategyCorp, contained a host of recommendations divided into priority areas of roads, bridges and drainage; fire services; waste management; co-ordinated building, septic and bylaw services; planning services; economic development; collaborative procurement; integrated digital strategy; co-ordinated legal services; human resources co-ordination; communications; and overall co-ordination.

“The CAOs believe that all the initiatives that have been identified by StrategyCorp in the roads section should be investigated,” Rutter told councillors. “They believe many of them require support of a centralized procurement function.”

Rutter added this would require standardized budgeting processes. Recommendations included the bundling of capital projects, co-ordinating joint engineering consulting services and formalizing joint planning of road maintenance.

Rutter said public works staff were discussing collective projects that could then be taken to the lower tiers for approval.

Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy wondered if some of those projects would be ready in time for the 2022 budget season.

“That would be our goal, absolutely,” Rutter said.

Each of the municipalities maintains its own volunteer fire department, and recommendations in the review pertaining to fire services included integrating training and staff, as well as exploring a joint training facility.
“[The CAOs] have circled back with the fire chiefs and they’re not sure there was a full understanding with the consultant on some of the suggestions that were made,” Rutter said.

Under waste management, recommendations include creating structures to co-ordinate approaches to large waste policy and operational challenges.

While residents must currently use landfills within the municipalities where they live or own property, Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt wondered if there should be consideration for, say allowing residents of Carnarvon, located in Minden Hills, to use the Maple Lake landfill, located in Algonquin Highlands, since it’s geographically closer.

Kennedy said he’d like to see waste disposal become an upper-tier responsibility.

“I know I’m the minority here, but I would really like to see us take waste management up to the county,” Kennedy said.

Minden Hills Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell said she concurred with Kennedy.

Algonquin Highlands CAO Angie Bird said she thought it was important to have waste management staff involved in the conversation, and Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen said she saw waste management as one of the more complicated issues to come out of the service delivery review.

“I guess we’ll have to see what the appetite for this is,” Danielsen said.

There was some discussion about potential partnering on transporting waste to incinerators as some of the landfills in the county begin to reach the end of their capacity, and Moffatt, pointing to countries in Europe, noted there are more advanced approaches to waste disposal that should be considered.

“There are places that are just so far ahead of us it’s embarrassing,” Moffatt said. “I really think there’s opportunity to be innovative on this.”

Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said he wanted to see uniform building, bylaw and planning policies across the county, with a number of councillors agreeing this made sense.

One recommendation from the service delivery review that is being implemented this year is the creation of an economic development officer position at the county level.