War of words

The Glengarry News - - News - BY STEVENWARBURTON News Staff The News,

Al­though the United Counties of Stor­mont-Dun­dasGlen­garry and the City of Corn­wall are cur­rently at log­ger­heads over shared ser­vices, ratepay­ers shouldn’t be con­cerned that their ser­vices will be af­fected.

“The ser­vices have not been in­ter­rupted by this,” claims Myles Cas­sidy, Gen­eral Man­ager of Shared Ser­vices.

Counties CAO Tim Simp­son says that the city and the counties have been shar­ing ser­vices since the late 1990s, which is when the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment started push­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to share their ser­vices. Right now, the county gov­ern­ment de­liv­ers pro­vin­cial of­fences ad­min­is­tra­tion on be­half of city res­i­dents while the city de­liv­ers such ser­vices as land am­bu­lance, so­cial hous­ing and child care to SDG res­i­dents.

In a re­cent in­ter­view with Mr. Simp­son said that the shared ser­vice agree­ment be­tween the two par­ties is now ob­so­lete and that the counties would like to see an ar­bi­tra­tion clause in the new agree­ment.

“There’s a shared ser­vices com­mit­tee with mem­bers from both coun­cils,” Mr. Simp­son says. “Three years ago, we de­cided to bring for­ward a new agree­ment.”

He claims that the city has not rat­i­fied that agree­ment. On March 6, all 12 mem­bers of counties coun­cil signed a let­ter that was ad­dressed to Corn­wall city coun­cil, as well as its mayor, Les­lie O’Shaugh­nessy, urg­ing them to cor­rect the mat­ter.

“City coun­cil has not rat­i­fied a new agree­ment, and the process is now stalled,” the let­ter says. “We un­der­stand the rea­son that the City has not rat­i­fied the agree­ment is be­cause it is not in agree­ment with the in­clu­sion of a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion clause which in­cludes the right of ei­ther party to ar­bi­trate if nec­es­sary. This is frus­trat­ing and dis­ap­point­ing to the County, as the right of par­ties to ar­bi­trate is a uni­ver­sally ac­cepted con­cept de­signed to pro­tect the in­ter­ests of each party in the event that a dis­pute can­not be set­tled di­rectly or through me­di­a­tion. The City's po­si­tion is con­trary to many other shared ser­vices ar­range­ments in place be­tween On­tario Counties and the sep­a­rated cities with whom they share ser­vices.”

Mr. Simp­son pointed out that the counties trans­ferred more than $7 mil­lion to the city in 2016, adding that the pro­vin­cial of­fences ad­min­is­tra­tion is a rev­enue gen­er­at­ing ser­vice for both par­ties. As such, he says that hav­ing an ar­bi­tra­tion clause will help coun­cil be more ac­count­able to taxpayers.

“We have an obli­ga­tion,” he says. “If some­thing hap­pens in the fu­ture where we don’t think we’re be­ing treated fairly, we want to be able to go to ar­bi­tra­tion. We ex­tend that right to the city and we’re just ask­ing for the same thing.

In a March 14 let­ter ad­dressed to county coun­cil, Mr. O’Shaugh­nessy dis­agreed that “the City of Corn­wall is the sole rea­son for the stalling of ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

“At the com­mit­tee level, the counties have adopted the po­si­tion that a dis­pute res­o­lu­tion clause should cover ev­ery­thing, and ev­ery­thing will be sub­ject to ar­bi­tra­tion if the counties do not agree,” Mr. O’Shaugh­nessy writes. “In my view, that is noth­ing less than the counties want­ing to mi­cro-man­age by an ar­bi­tra­tion clause the ser­vices that the City pro­vides un­der an agree­ment with the Prov­ince of On­tario.”

Mr. O’Shaugh­nessy fur­ther pointed out that at its De­cem­ber, 2016 meet­ing, counties coun­cil ap­proved a draft con­sol­i­dated mu­nic­i­pal ser­vice man­age­ment agree­ment. He claims that the city has never seen that draft agree­ment.

“Over the past week, we have searched email ac­counts and our reg­u­lar mail registry and to this day, we have not re­ceived a true copy of the mo­tion or the doc­u­ment that was passed by you,” Mr. O’Shaugh­nessy writes. “Yet the sug­ges­tion is made that the City is stalling. I think not.” For his part, Mr. Simp­son says that the mayor’s let­ter hasn’t changed the counties’ mind on the im­por­tance of an ar­bi­tra­tion clause. He says that coun­cil has given him di­rec­tion to ex­plore other op­tions of ser­vice de­liv­ery. They in­clude main­tain­ing a part­ner­ship with the city, part­ner­ing with other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, or de­liv­er­ing them all in-house.

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