County donates $25K to assist students with internet costs

By Chad Ingram

The County of Haliburton will contribute $25,000 to Point in Time’s campaign to assist students in the county with internet costs in the online learning environment created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During a Jan. 13 online meeting, county councillors received a presentation from the social services agency, explaining that some 150 students in the county were unable to attend school virtually. They heard how the data requirements of Google Meet,the platform by which online takes place, can quickly consume a family’s data package for the month.

The cost to provide one family with sufficient internet for a month is about $100, so with 150 families, that cost is $15,000 per month, or about $180,000 a year, Point in Time executive director Marg Cox told council. As part of its presentation, the agency asked the county to consider making a contribution.

While it’s unusual for the county to make donations, during a Jan. 27 council meeting, councillors decided the county would contribute $25,000 for the cause.

“This is definitely outside of our normal scope of considerations, but it’s obviously a big enough concern that most of us felt we should do something,” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen.

“I think it’s very important that whatever direction we choose, that we include in the resolution a bit of a position statement,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt, “because that is outside of our normal scope of business, that the resolution include a comment or statement that we believe that education for youth in our community is a top priority during the pandemic. We have already, last year, been asked by various groups, including local businesses who were struggling look for financial incentives or opportunities. And we didn’t want to weigh into that, because you open the floodgates, and as much as you’d like to give everything to everyone, we can’t. That the donation was outside the scope of the county’s usual business was included in the resolution.

Dysart et al Mayor Pat Kennedy suggested a contribution of $25,000.
“It would be five months, based on their hybrid model, and that would take it through the school year,” Kennedy said.

Other members of council agreed with that figure.

“This is symbolic and a show of support and something that’s not normal and clearly not our responsibility,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin, “but we’re in this as a community.”

“If we’re stewards of Haliburton County, which I believe we are, then the stewardship of our future is in our youth,” said Highlands East Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall.

The motion was passed unanimously.

Assisted by the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations in promotion, as of Jan. 31, the campaign had raised more than $86,000.
Along with $25,000 from the county, Kinark Child and Family Services had contributed $30,000, the City of Kawartha Lakes (the social services provider for the county) $15,000, the Haliburton County Development Corporation $1,000, along with contributions from the Lions Club and private donations through a GoFundMe campaign.