Cornwall council size change faces hurdles

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A report to Cornwall city councillors Monday night shows changing the size of council is not as easy as the stroke of a pen.

The report by city clerk Manon Levesque was authored after Coun. Mark MacDonald asked for information in June on reducing the size of council.

Council would have three options – a community open house engagement session, a referendum or hiring a consultant.

The report says open houses “historically” have “limited” participation and would not reflect the broader public sentiment on the issue.

A referendum is not only more expensive but you have to have half the eligible voters (50 per cent) cast a ballot in order for an issue to move forward – a great feat in a city which has seen voter turnout at 39.9 per cent in the last election and averages 35-44 per cent in previous municipal elections.

If those obstacles are overcome, the results of a referendum wouldn’t take effect until the 2022 election.

The final option – hiring a consultant – would take the most time and isn’t budgeted for, the report states.

Cornwall, compared to other single tier municipalities, falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to council size.

Of the six municipalities examined in the report, Brockville, Timmins and Belleville have smaller councillors at nine each, while Stratford, North Bay and Quinte West have more at 11, 11 and 13.

It costs Cornwall taxpayers nearly $23,000 a year for each of the 10 councillors, when you factor in their expense accounts, travel and conferences, laptops and cell phones, on top of their $17,095 salary.

According to the report, the councillors serve in various capacities on 53 city committees, requiring each council member to serve on 10 committees and put in about 275 hours a year or about five hours a week on average.

The council meeting starts at 7 p.m.