COLUMN: Share and share alike

“Let’s put everything on the table,” said Cornwall city councillor Denis Carr. “I think there’s opportunity for them and an opportunity for us.” What Carr is talking about is shared services between the city and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. There already are some shared services between the two, Carr believes there could be the opportunity for more sharing. A good idea worth studying.

The county already contracts to the city, services such as managing social housing, welfare and ambulance. There are more places where the two can cooperate.

Policing for example. Either the county O.P.P. services taking over policing in Cornwall, or the city expanding its force to also handle police services in the counties. Both services do their jobs well, so residents would not suffer either way. The financial implications for either change would be worth studying.

Integrating emergency dispatch and fire services is another area to look at. The county and lower-tier municipalities dispatched by their city counterparts would help with mutual aid in larger fire scenes, and have the closest fire station respond. Going one step further, a push to integrate the fire services across the city and county would raise standards of protection in the counties, and reduce administration costs. South Dundas already has a vacancy in their top fire department spot, why fill it? Let Cornwall do the job instead.

Sharing and coordinating winter road clearing would be another good place to look. Erasing the boundaries between the city and county for crews would mean more efficient route clearing.

Merging the county and city library system would benefit both parties. Does it make sense for the counties library administration to be in Cornwall, yet Cornwall have a separate library? Shared services reduces administration costs. Libraries are much more than just books now and both have good programs for outreach. Join forces, save money, do more.

Economic development and planning could be shared as well. The area competes as a region. When a distribution center moves to Cornwall, people do not just locate in Cornwall, they buy homes in the surrounding county areas. The region grows. Same with businesses that relocate or start in the counties. Moving the region together as one unit is far more effective than seven municipalities going it alone and possibly competing against each other.

Further sharing of services, and integration between the counties and the city could ultimately lead to amalgamation. Cornwall and SDG could form a larger city similar in scope to the City of Kingston. In 1998, the City of Kingston amalgamated with adjoining Pittsburgh Township and Kingston Township to form a new, larger city. A new City of Cornwall, or whatever you want to call it, would have a combined population of nearly 160,000. That would make the new city the 15th largest municipality in Ontario. That would give the area some clout when it comes to lobbying the provincial and federal government on issues. It would streamline administration and cut costs benefiting everyone.

Shared services are a good thing. Carr’s idea of looking at more shared services should be taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent, including amalgamation. If the region is to move forward, and do so in a way residents can afford, it is time to do so together.