Bowing our heads

Dear sir:
The article “Council tables new sewer, water rates” (Daily Bulletin, Tuesday, June 28, 2005) brought the beginning of additional issues that will erode the relationship of commercial and residential users in our community by turning them on each other.
It’s a great tactic to keeping taxpayers from asking the real questions and getting the answers.
It has been reported the provincial legislation to make municipalities solely responsible for sewer and water upgrades hasn’t been voted on yet. The senior government would like nothing better than all municipalities to do what it appears we are doing—bowing our heads and doing exactly what they want.
“Walkerton” has been used as the excuse for the move. It also is the reason it cannot happen. The province cannot detach itself from its financial responsibility while still making all the rules.
All municipalities—large and small—must ban together to lobby for modification or, ideally, elimination of this legislation. Somewhere along the line, municipalities have been steered away from responsibilities they can deal with and led to believe this is what they should be doing.
Fort Frances is not the only community wrestling with the problem. If town council chooses to continue on the path of being totally financially responsible, that is what will happen.
What’s next?
The legal advisers likely have advised the provincial government of its liability and have supported the suggestion that the province dump the responsibility onto the municipalities.
Among other issues the province tried to get us to sign off on was the disposal of nuisance bears within town limits—a move we have resisted in the past because it puts the town in the sole position of liability.
This was initiated on “legal” advice to the province on liability issues.
Finally, what is being said is mayor and council want us to have the cash in hand to totally pay the bill when we need to do so. We then will have to start all over for the next upgrade.
How much are they asking us to raise in dollar amounts to meet the amount we need? And what happens to our other infrastructure? What about roads? What about curbs and sidewalks? Building upgrade and maintenance? The list is virtually endless.
Can we afford the increases it will require to provide full community services if we accept the scenario of paying for everything ourselves?
We have the capability to partner with the province. We can’t upgrade 80 years of sewer and water infrastructure in 10 years. It is an ongoing process.
How will these increases affect economic development? Commercial expansion? When will “common sense and reason” kick in?
Where does our MPP stand on the issue? Has anyone tried to connect with the party in power?
How will the additional funds be earmarked? In the sewer and water account, or held in the general coffers? What adjustment to the long-term care capital projects budget have been considered? Are they in place?
And how does that decision affect other capital projects on the books?
By no means are those all the questions that need to be asked or dealt with before a council should even consider bringing the item to the table. Do we know if the homework was done? How much effort was made to put the results before the public?
The results from the consulting firm left more questions than answers. We have the right to hear the answers from our elected representatives. Not looking the public in the face at a council meeting and shuffling paper just doesn’t cut it.
I have been told that there are only two people who are passionate about what happens in this community. You have just heard from one of them.
Sharon Tibbs
Fort Frances, Ont.