Do not overload our volunteers
Volunteerism isn’t what it used to be. It’s not that North Glengarry doesn’t have a wealth of willing, able volunteers to pitch in.
There are many citizens who go out of their way to devote their own time to work on a project for the greater community good.
But North Glengarry now expects taxpayers to fill a void after the municipality eliminated a post in order to save money. Council’s decision to “download” basically almost all events onto citizens, after letting go of events planner Tish Nicholson, is a misguided and cavalier disregard for the same people the township now expects to pick up the slack.
Granted, the township will continue to organize its annual gala awards night to honour outstanding volunteers and business leaders.
Yes, the township still provides grants to hold various events through the year but it would be helpful to have a township staff person at the helm to plan and organize activities.
Glengarry’s volunteers are often seniors who don’t have an abundance of strength to take on a huge task that could be done better perhaps by a township employee.
Younger people are immersed in their careers, busy trying to pay bills and taking their children to hockey, soccer and bagpipe lessons.
Business owners also have the added pressure of making sure their establishments are well manned and financially secure. These administrative tasks all take time.
The untimely termination of the township’s events planner position and the appointment of a new economic development officer seem abrupt and almost farcical in a way.
If the township is expecting its economic development department to encourage more people, more visitors to settle in this area, how can it expect to make a good impression to someone considering the possibility of relocating here by removing a part-time position that helped oversee large community projects with a degree of skill and, moreover, as in Ms. Nicholson’s case, more than half a dozen years of experience?
Municipalities need to invest in their people and communities by uploading and taking on more responsibility, not by downloading more responsibility onto volunteers.
Granted, council said by eliminating what at least one council member perceives as the “considerable” cost of the part-time events planner position, it finds a savings in the 2015 budget.
Certainly, the new economic development officer can take on the added task of writing grant applications, one of the events planner’s duties. And the annual awards gala ceremony could be done by someone in another department with some extra time.
And there are a number of community volunteer groups to work on events such as the month-long Festival of Lights that takes about six months to organize, the Santa Claus parade, and Canada Day festivities.
But part of the public image campaign for most townships is to show prospective new citizens that the municipality is looking after its people’s needs - not only by providing services such as water and sewer but by working to provide quality of life and increasing amenities and the non-tangibles that make people feel good about where they live and feel good about themselves, by knowing the people in charge of collecting their taxes are also concerned with their happiness. Many townships handle their own Canada Day events, winter carnival and strawberry festival. Many even handle their own winter illuminations displays.
By opening the Tim Hortons Dome and the Glengarry Sports Palace to free activities during Family Day the township is showing some class and a hint that maybe it cares a bit.
The new economic development officer who will be looking at ways to attract new residents and businesses and creating a community improvement plan over the next year will have an even greater challenge with one of the township’s community events strategists no longer there to provide the backbone of the community enhancement system.
It’s super the township has plans to develop a community improvement plan and now has a new economic development officer in place to work on that project. Kudos.
But the township is not without its challenges already, with limited sewage capacity and the long-awaited dream project of the Glengarry Regional Water system far from materializing in the near future.
But cutting a part-time events planner who had already invested so many years of her time in her work for the township, and established relationships of support along the way, not to mention while also contributing her own volunteer efforts, and who showed her vibrant passion to see the township grow, seems to be a wayward decision to say the least. And Ms. Nicholson was only three years away from her retirement. Sad. While she isn’t complaining, it behooves the community to admit the obvious and say: Come on, North Glengarry. What a way to celebrate and respect the efforts of a local Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal recipient for long-serving volunteerism. Taking ownership is a two-way roughly hewn road. The community has already shown it is willing to do its share, but it would be nice to know the township is still holding its weight at the other end.