Rift over di­vi­sion

The Glengarry News - - News - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

South Glen­garry’s deputy­mayor is hop­ing to get the at­ten­tion of ROMA of­fi­cials whom he feels need to be sent “a clear mes­sage” re­gard­ing their re­fusal to ne­go­ti­ate the reestab­lish­ment of the an­nual com­bined OGRA/ROMA con­fer­ence.

“I’m very dis­ap­pointed in the ac­tions of ROMA (Rural On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion), com­plete dis­dain, as far as I’m con­cerned, for the will of prob­a­bly 90 per­cent of the elected of­fi­cials in the room at the OGRA (On­tario Good Roads As­so­ci­a­tion) con­fer­ence (Fe­bru­ary 24 to 27) when the res­o­lu­tion was passed,” Lyle War­den said dur­ing the May 21 reg­u­lar town­ship coun­cil meet­ing.

“We passed a res­o­lu­tion today, at Coun­ties coun­cil, to send ROMA a clear mes­sage that we’re not happy and that we would go as far as to boy­cott their con­fer­ence.”

At the up­per-tier meet­ing, coun­cil au­tho­rized War­den Jamie Mac­Don­ald to “for­ward cor­re­spon­dence to both OGRA and ROMA urg­ing them to re­unify their an­nual con­fer­ences, and fur­ther ad­vise ROMA that the Coun­ties shall boy­cott fu­ture con­fer­ences un­til such time as the con­fer­ences are re­uni­fied.”

Dur­ing the South Glen­garry coun­cil ses­sion, Mr. War­den pro­posed that South Glen­garry for­ward a sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tion.

“As far as I’m con­cerned, it’s to­tal dis­re­gard for the tax­pay­ers of this prov­ince be­cause they pay for the cost of th­ese con­fer­ences,” added the deputy-mayor.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across On­tario just can­not af­ford two sep­a­rate con­fer­ences. They (OGRA and ROMA) need to go back to­gether the way it was.”

Up­set with the cur­rent ar­range­ment, Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Mark­stay Warren (east of Sud­bury) Mayor Steve Salonin tabled a res­o­lu­tion dur­ing the OGRA con­fer­ence in Fe­bru­ary call­ing for the OGRA board to “ap­proach the ROMA board to es­tab­lish a work­ing re­la­tion­ship to or­ga­nize an an­nual ROMA/OGRA com­bined con­fer­ence.”

OGRA pres­i­dent Rick Kester sub­se­quently for­warded Mayor Salonin’s res­o­lu­tion, along with a let­ter of his own, to ROMA chair­man Al­lan Thompson.

Mr. Thompson replied that the ROMA board is not “pre­pared to en­ter into dis­cus­sions with OGRA for the pur­pose of com­bin­ing our re­spec­tive con­fer­ences at this time.”

He added that the stand-alone ROMA con­fer­ences of the past three years (2017, 2018 and 2019) have al­lowed the or­ga­ni­za­tion “to bet­ter meet the needs of its con­stituents, and have strength­ened ROMA’s in­flu­ence and abil­ity to ad­vo­cate on be­half of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties it serves.”

Both OGRA and ROMA have long his­to­ries – dur­ing which they have mostly op­er­ated in­de­pen­dently.

Cel­e­brat­ing its sesqui­cen­ten­nial in 2019, OGRA hosted its first con­fer­ence in the year of its found­ing – 1894. ROMA hosted its first rural mu­nic­i­pal con­fer­ence in 1934.

The two or­ga­ni­za­tions de­cided in 1999 to hold a merged ses­sion and that com­bined for­mat ex­isted through 2016, when ROMA uni­lat­er­ally de­cided to re­vert back to hold­ing its own sep­a­rate con­fer­ence, start­ing in 2017.

Soon af­ter ROMA’s de­ci­sion, OGRA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Joe Tier­nay, in a let­ter for­warded to mem­ber mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the prov­ince, stated that his or­ga­ni­za­tion “re­mains open to reestab­lish the com­bined con­fer­ence part­ner­ship with ROMA be­cause that is the best way for both or­ga­ni­za­tions to serve their mu­nic­i­pal mem­bers.” The next OGRA con­fer­ence will take place at the Fair­mont Royal York in Toronto from Feb. 23 to 26, while ROMA will hold its next con­fer­ence in Toronto from Jan. 19 to 21.

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