COLUMN: Keep it simple, follow the rules

MORRISBURG — Municipal governance is grassroots governance. It is the level of government people have the most direct, day-to-day contact with. It should be the easiest form of governance to manage for elected politicians. Just because something should be easy, does not mean those elected will not make it hard for themselves. By extension hard on those they were elected to govern.

South Stormont council deferred a decision on the proposed roundabout for the corners of Moulinette Road, Long Sault Parkway and County Road 2. The County of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry proposed to remove the traffic lights and install a roundabout. The intersection lights are in need of replacement, but council dithers on about the merits of a roundabout. Many residents, both in the township and the greater county area that travel the area oppose the roundabout. The costs are about the same for light replacement or a roundabout, but maintenance costs are lower long-term for a roundabout. The cheapest option is not always the best option. The intersection is a high-traffic area with tourist travel and is a part of the 401 Emergency Detour Route. A roundabout does not make sense. Regardless of the opinions of others, council needs to keep it simple, and decide yea or nay. This way the intersection issue is resolved and council can move on.

The same goes for council in South Dundas. The Iroquois Waterfront Implementation Committee (IWIC) received the offer of a donation towards work at the Iroquois Beach. John Ross, owner and founder of Ross Video offered a donation of $50,000, a generous offer to the community. The issue is the donation comes with strings attached. Ross has a preferred contractor to do the work. Due to the value of the work required, and that the IWIC is an arm of municipal council, the municipality’s procurement policy applies. That policy states that they have to tender anything over $5,000. Council debated at the November 3rd public meeting how to bend the rules as they do not want to see the donation disappear. Procurement rules are there for a reason, to keep the use of public money honest. That is not to say procurement rules have not been bent before. South Dundas sole-sourced a “refreshing” of their web site in 2014 to a company, valued higher than the $5,000 limit for example. There are rules and then there are rules.

The issue here is two-fold. Discussing how to bend the rules in a council meeting, instead of sticking to the rules, has tainted the process unfortunately. By doing so, the councillors have also opened the taxpayers to higher costs. If council decides to proceed without tendering the required work, look for other area contractors to protest or even file a complaint for violating procurement rules. If council does tender the required work and Ross’ preferred contractor does not win, the donation may disappear. The municipality is then responsible for paying for completion of the work. What council should have done was state that the manner of the donation is not kosher with procurement rules. Find another way of doing this. There were and are other ways of doing this, but it cannot involve council committees that are an arm of the government.

By not keeping it simple, and not following the rules, South Dundas council has made a mess of yet another issue.

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