Shared services simmering between city, county

The United Counties building and Provincial Offences Act courthouse at 22 Pitt Street in Cornwall. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

SD&G/CORNWALL – A county member of the city-county joint services committee says the City of Cornwall wants to pin down exactly what the county can push to third party arbitration.

During an update to county council last week, Jamie MacDonald said the city and county met recently with the CAOs from both governments but it “didn’t go very far.” In a later interview with Cornwall Newswatch, MacDonald said the meeting was “respectful.”

“Their idea is to propose exactly what we can arbitrate in those decisions. Our feeling is we don’t know what the future holds. We told them that it’s not something that probably our council will go for,” MacDonald said.

“We’re still waiting,” Warden Jim Bancroft added.

Cornwall Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy has accused the county of wanting an open arbitration clause in order to “micro-manage” the services the city delivers to the county – land ambulance, social housing, child care and Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge.

The county disputes that saying the accusation is unfounded. The county has also highlighted the fact there’s also an open arbitration clause in its agreement to deliver traffic court (POA) services for Cornwall.

The dispute, which has been going on for months, came to a head in March with a back-and-forth open letter exchange between the two governments.

As far as ironing out the dispute, it appears the city is not in a rush.

In an interview Tuesday with CNW, Mayor O’Shaughnessy – a member of the Service Manager Joint Liaison Committee — explained the issue was on the back burner as the city dealt with its budget. He said provincially-binding agreements are in place to deliver those services.

The draft agreement, passed by the United Counties council in December, will be reviewed behind closed-doors, likely sometime in June, the mayor indicated.

“There is no requirement for us to update an agreement. Should the city decide that ‘Hey, we don’t want to.’ there is no…anything in there (to update an agreement),” the mayor said.

“We did not agree on any final agreement with the counties at this point.”

When asked twice if the city and county could get past the dispute, the mayor sidestepped the question both times. “That will be a decision of council…we will be bringing a report to council.”

The Service Manager Joint Liaison Committee hasn’t met since October.