Call him Warden Jim Bancroft

South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft takes the oath of office on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016 as he is sworn in as warden of the United Counties for 2017. Bancroft is revisiting a post he once held 20 years ago. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft has been formally installed as warden for the United Counties of Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry.

CAO Tim Simpson piped in the county councillors Friday morning before a packed council chambers at the county building on Pitt Street.

Following the oath of office, South Stormont Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart asked nominators Ian McLeod, mayor of South Glengarry, and Frank Prevost, deputy mayor of South Glengarry, to escort the newly-elected warden to his chair.

The ceremony included greetings from various dignitaries, including MPP Jim McDonell and Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy.

Outgoing Warden Jamie MacDonald also lightened the mood.

“Jim, I just want you to know that I’m not bitter at all about you taking my job. Not bitter that you get my nice big red chair, my cute little chain and my damn parking spot outside. Not bitter at all,” MacDonald joked.

MacDonald also made some fun about the history of being warden, suggesting that “this lunatic of a warden” was run out of the counties. “We always wondered what happened to that guy. Oh yeah! He’s the mayor of Cornwall,” as the crowd burst out laughing.

Leslie O’Shaughnessy had left as warden to run as the local candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

Kidding aside, MacDonald had some encouraging words for Bancroft. “This council has complete faith in you to lead us in 2017. Your calm demeanor is exactly what we need to stick-handle and manage the issues that we know will come forth.”

South Stormont Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart attaches the chain of office on Warden Jim Bancroft during a ceremony at the United Counties building on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. This is not the first time Bancroft has been warden after holding the post two decades ago. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)
South Stormont Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart attaches the chain of office on Warden Jim Bancroft during a ceremony at the United Counties building on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. This is not the first time Bancroft has been warden after holding the post two decades ago. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Bancroft addressed the audience and said the county will have “some serious challenges ahead” in the coming year.

He noted the renovation of the county building, amalgamation of the finance and court departments, maintaining the county road network and proposed school closures.

“We have a vested interest. Any school closure in SD&G impacts our local economies. If our economies shrink in any manner…which means less dollars for county projects. Schools are more than just a number. Schools are a backbone of our rural community,” Bancroft said.

Bancroft said he received a letter from Premier Kathleen Wynne that said “schools are the heart of Ontario communities.” Bancroft said the statement “totally flies in the face of everything that is being done today.”

The warden is hoping an updated shared services agreement between the United Counties and the City of Cornwall will be finalized in 2017. “The county looks forward to signing this agreement, sooner rather than later.”

Bancroft is looking forward to working on the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus, which will include some big subjects to tackle like extending the cell network and natural gas to rural communities.

In the final weeks of winding down Cornwall and the Counties Tourism, Bancroft said “tourism is and should be a significant priority as we move forward.” The city and county are running independent tourism programs as of Jan. 1.

With cash-strapped senior governments, the warden noted the increasing financial challenge and “the pressure to meet service demands will not diminish.”

Bancroft also said it’s time for the municipalities and the senior governments to sit down and work out a long-term sustainable infrastructure program. “It is long overdue for the province and their federal partners to sit down and work out a formula representative and respectful of our partnership. Our current funding model will never narrow the gap. Assured stable funding from the federal and provincial government is required to close the infrastructure gap.”

Bancroft added the county’s current asset management plan demonstrates that taxpayer dollars alone can not sustain the services for its residents.

“The county is strong, vibrant regional government. As warden I’m committed to working with everyone that we ensure we continue to make positive progress.”

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