Warden: ‘What are we afraid of’ in city-county shared services deal?

Warden Jim Bancroft, seen here in an April 2015 file photo, says the county can't understand why the City of Cornwall is so 'uncomfortable' with putting an arbitration clause in their shared services agreement. The mayor of Cornwall has accused the county of wanting the clause in order to micro-manage city-delivered services. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL/SD&G – United Counties Warden Jim Bancroft says the county will be responding this week to the latest back-and-forth with the city over inking a new shared services agreement.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Bancroft said he doesn’t agree with everything Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy said in his March 14, 2017 letter.

“I’m not in agreement with some of the thoughts in his letter. It’s certainly not the way we understand it. We do have an agreement with them now regarding POA (Provincial Offences Act) which has an arbitration agreement in it…so we are uncomfortable as to why they seem so uncomfortable with having an arbitration clause in the agreement because it’s normal practice,” Bancroft said.

In a three page letter, Mayor O’Shaughnessy has accused the county of wanting the clause in order to “micro-manage” the city-delivered services, such as land ambulance and social housing. There is also a disagreement as to when and if the city ever received a copy of the agreement, which was approved in principle by the county in December.

An arbitration clause allows two members in a deal to settle disputes through a neutral third party and the decision is binding on both parties.

Warden Bancroft says the micro-managing accusation is “unfounded” and he understands there may be deviations with the agreement in order for the city to meet its obligations to the Province of Ontario.

He also quickly dismissed the argument over whether the agreement was shared with the city.

“In all due respect, they received it. They are quite aware of the document. They don’t need a certified true copy. They know what was in it because it was sent to them for their review. We’ve asked them to look at that. If they want to adjust it, get back to us. We’re still waiting.”

The warden hinted that the county was looking at “alternatives” such as “reaching out to other jurisdictions to see how they operate.”

“Next steps are, reaching out and hopefully we can come to some kind of agreement. Otherwise, we will have to look at other alternatives. Right now, those alternatives are being looked at, not necessarily approved by council,” he said.

“What are we afraid of? It’s not about us ruling over them or they ruling over us. We have a partnership that should meet on a regular basis. That doesn’t happen.”