By Chad Ingram
During a special meeting on Sept. 6 Haliburton County councillors instructed the county’s chief administrative officer along with the CAOs of the county’s four lower-tier townships to draft a request for proposals for a service delivery and governance review of the local governments.
Councillors have been discussing the possibility of such a review throughout 2019. The study will look at both the delivery of services – at which tier each service is best delivered if there are opportunities to consolidate services etc. – and will also examine government structure providing recommendations.
During the meeting Sept. 6 county CAO Mike Rutter told councillors it was his recommendation that an RFP be drafted by himself along with the CAOs of the county’s four townships and that once proposals are received they be evaluated by the CAOs along with some elected officials.
Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen wondered if once the field was narrowed down to a few consultants if it would be appropriate to have those consultants visit council to outline their process.
“What does council think about having them come and present?” Danielsen said. “This is really important it affects everything we do.”
There seemed to be agreement that seemed like a fine idea.
Rutter and Danielsen will also visit each of the lower-tier councils outlining the plan and seeking support.
“If one municipality lags behind in this . . . it could affect the entire process” Rutter said. He said that the CAOs would meet periodically with the consultants and that councils may be consulted from time to time throughout the process.
“There may be times when county council or even the four local councils may need to be drawn in” Rutter said explaining this may be for reasons of setting service levels for example. “We would come back to you we would not make those decisions arbitrarily.”
At the end of the process council will be left with a series of recommendations from the consultant.
“It would be no different than any other study” Rutter said. “You may or may not choose to follow those recommendations.”
“I’m very comfortable with the process and I’m sure everybody will participate and do their best” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin adding it was an exciting day.
Devolin has been the most outwardly supportive of moving toward a single-tier-style government of any member of council and has said in the past that if the county does not do some reorganizing on its own he fears that reorganizing may be done for it by the province.
“It’s exciting but it’s also a bit curious because we don’t know where we’ll land” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt.
Devolin suggested that when it came time to review the proposals that including councillors with “divergent views” might be a good idea.
“We all agreed we were going into this with an open mind” said Danielsen “but I hear what you’re saying.”
The county is budgeting $150000 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.