SDG wants more say on Shared Services

SDG – While the relationship between the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, and the City of Cornwall has improved during the current term of council, members of Counties Council would like to see even more improvements made to the relationship.

The biggest improvement Counties Councillors have their sights set on is the budget process for shared services.

“SDG has never been part of the budget process for shared services,” Councillor Al Armstrong (North Dundas) told The Leader.

The Counties contracts the City of Cornwall to provide certain services for SDG, the largest of those services being the Cornwall and SDG Paramedic service.

Included in the shared services contract is the operation of Stor-Dun-Glen Lodge, and Social and Housing Services. Based on population, the Counties pays a larger part of the bill for shared services than Cornwall.

In 2019, Counties council passed its strategic priorities document. That document outlines its guiding principals for the balance of this term of office. Service delivery, including shared services with Cornwall, was the top item on the priority list.

Armstrong explained that while the Joint-Liaison committee meets four times per year with the city to discuss shared services, that doesn’t extend to the city’s budget process.

“The hot button is, these are the services that affect the most vulnerable people,” Armstrong said.

Councillor Steven Byvelds (South Dundas) agreed with the need for more input in the budget process.

“It’s not saying the city does a bad job at delivering services, we’re just hoping we can get to a better working relationship,” Byvelds said.

SDG Warden Frank Prevost (South Glengarry) was more direct on the budget process.

“We have no say and no control over the budget,” he said. “They pass the budget and send us a bill!”

All three Counties Councillors would like to see one person from SDG council and one SDG administration person involved with the budget process.

“It would be nice to have, but even just one person from SDG would be a good start,” Prevost said, adding he was optimistic that there could be some changes made.

“This council has a really good relationship with Mayor Clement,” the Warden said.

Armstrong and Byvelds each echoed the Warden’s comments.

“Things between SDG and Cornwall have improved,” Armstrong said.

The relationship between SDG and Cornwall was strained during the last term of council and led to the Counties withdrawing from a separate tourism promotion partnership with the city. Both municipalities have since set up their own tourism department. Counties representatives don’t want to go down that road with shared services though.

“I want to see if we can make shared services work better together,” Byvelds said.

“We’re planning to have the conversation with Cornwall. It’s important to the Counties and its residents to have a say,” Prevost said.

“Maybe we don’t win the day, but why can we not have the conversation,” asked Armstrong.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the council bringing forward its desire for more input to the city. Both municipalities have been working together, along with Prescott-Russell, to deliver municipal services. According to Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement, she is interested in seeing how the two municipalities can work together better.

She said that the city presented its 2020 Shared Services budget at the Joint-Liaison committee’s last quarterly meeting of the year, held November 28th, 2019. Clement added that the city presented the budget to the full SDG council at its December 11th, 2019 meeting.

“At any point in time, the city is responsive to any kind of issue, concern, or request for information,” she said. “Our relationship is open. The CAOs speak, councillors speak, so we try to get feedback in that context.”

Clement said that the city didn’t get much feedback on the most recent budget.

“That being said, if the Counties’ representatives are feeling that they would like to change the process, enrich the process, or add to it, I am absolutely open to that conversation,” the Mayor said adding that part of her platform in the last election included improving connections between Cornwall and SDG.

“That’s not just improving communication, but economically being on the same page, moving in the same direction,” she said. “That means the two municipalities getting along well on shared services so that we can get along well on economic development projects.”

The Joint-Liaison committee will next meet in June but Clement said improving the relationship between Cornwall and SDG should not be a line item in a meeting.

“We should have a separate meeting. We’ve been delivering [shared services] this way for a long time,” Clement said. “I want to hear what changes they would like to propose.”

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