Do not over­load our vol­un­teers

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - AN­GELA BROWN

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.

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