Seventy municipal officials, including both managerial staff and elected officials from across The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry gathered at the South Nation Conservation Authority, October 25 for the first ever SDG Summit.
The idea of the summit was to bring together officials from SDG and all of the lower tier municipalities for a day long event to discuss common issues, to provide a common learning experience, and to share accomplishments and best practices.
The successful inaugural event drew much praise from those involved.
Sessions on waste management in SD&G, community planning, weed control and human resources, were featured topics.
Each municipality was asked to present a best practice topic relevant to their municipality, or to provide an update on a project underway or recently completed.
The Counties presentation by CAO Tim Simpson, touched on a number of planning and project completions, including departmental review and capacity building. New positions in IT and economic development have been added. Bringing economic development in house has been an important move for the Counties. SDG has added much interoffice communication to their regular protocol, having both formal and informal managerial meetings regularly. They too are working to increase communication and relationships with the lower tier municipalities. Quarterly meetings with the CAOs is part of that ongoing effort.
North Glengarry’s presentation focussed on that township’s changeover to the use of a VOIP phone system, that is conservatively estimated to save that municipality $30,000 a year in phone expenses. “It really made sense for our size of corporation,” said CAO Dan Gagnon.
South Glengarry chose to focus their presentation on waste, garbage and septic. They are proud to report that they have recently completed landfill expansion process at two landfill sites, a long process that has taken about 10 years to complete.
North Stormont Mayor Dennis Fife spoke about the success that municipality has had with a decision to purchase an excavator, thus allowing that municipality to complete a number of bridge projects they would not have been able to afford otherwise.
South Stormont’s public works manager Ross Gellately spoke about the implementation of a simple request for service procedure and form that has not only allowed much more efficient handling of issues, but has allowed for better tracking and record keeping and reporting through this standardized form. South Stormont was also proud to report that they now have a mascot, Hootin’ Annie.
North Dundas’ best practices presentation included the successes of that municipality in communicating with its residents. This is done through an annual report to taxpayers, through publications such a their recreation guide and the use of social media. They have done things like online registrations, online billing and information nights and extended summer hours to allow better access to municipal services for their residents.
South Dundas’ best practices presentation included the South Dundas Municipal Centre project that has preserved an historic building, and enabled the municipality to improve efficiencies by bringing staff all together in one space.
Bringing water and sewer services in house, and the cost savings of doing so, and the amalgamation of three fire departments into one, unified entity, was also highlighted.