SD&G to boycott future ROMA conferences

SD&G Warden Jamie MacDonald listens to council during a meeting on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. MacDonald thinks it's 'ridiculous' ROMA and OGRA won't hold a joint conference like they did in the past. The county plans to boycott ROMA next year, seen as the main blocker to reunification. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Citing the time for municipal officials and the cost to taxpayers, the United Counties of SD&G plans to boycott next year’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference.

ROMA and the Ontario Good Roads Association used to have a combined conference since the late 1990s but then the two factions split up in 2016. The two now hold separate conferences a month apart in Toronto.

The meetings are a chance for municipal officials to get time with decision makers at the provincial level and also hear from speakers on topics affecting Ontario municipalities.

“I’m a little peeved about this,” Warden Jamie MacDonald remarked during Tuesday’s county council meeting after explaining that “almost every person” at this year’s OGRA convention wanted the two associations back together.

“I sometimes think they forget that these people work for us. This costs us money to send people to two conferences or having to choose which conference to go to. It makes no sense,” MacDonald said.

The county sees ROMA as the instigator as it “won’t even meet” with OGRA.

In a letter from the ROMA chairman Allan Thompson to the president of OGRA, Thompson says being apart has allowed it to strengthen its “influence and ability to advocate on behalf of the municipalities it serves.”

SD&G Coun. Frank Landry agreed with the resolution and added that the six lower-tier municipalities should also pass similar ones.

Coun. Allan Armstrong says it will send a strong message if SD&G doesn’t attend. He believes stuff can get done at the municipal level that is done at the conference. “Perhaps the loudest voice may be to steadfastly refuse to attend. Let them hold an empty conference and let them incur the cost.”

The county is expected to spend around $52,000 on council meetings and conferences this year and another $15,000 on corporate memberships.

The conferences have already happened this year – ROMA in January and OGRA in February.

The county still plans to send more letters to both groups encouraging them to get back together.

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