Recently SDG Counties Councillor Allan Armstrong asked at council why the Counties maintains its administration centre in the City of Cornwall. It was a fair question, as Cornwall is not a part of SDG government and instead is a separated municipality.
Cornwall was a part of this county government model from 1850 until 1945. When the Town of Cornwall petitioned to become a city, provincial legislation at that time mandated that a city separate from a county. After that move was approved, County Council opted to remain in the existing facilities attached to the county jail.
Since 1945, SDG and the City of Cornwall have worked together, willingly or not, on some form of shared services. In the past two years, that arrangement has been shored up with a very clear and concise agreement that has resolved many issues that increased acrimony over 20 years. That shared services agreement covers many municipal functions including land ambulance, provincial offences court, and social services.
Having the municipal administration in Cornwall does have benefits. It is easier to recruit in new staff based on the availability of city services, shopping, and other amenities. The building is already there and suits the needs of the County. Cornwall is central to most of the county, making travel times between the different parts of SDG to administration about equal.
There is the argument that having County administration facilities in the city is inappropriate and illogical. The current facilities are in a prime downtown area of that city. Selling the property to relocate to the county proper would pay for itself. But this leads to another issue, where would the “capital of SDG” be relocated to? Which one of the six lower-tier municipalities claims this opportunity to be the administrative centre of the upper-tier?
This county council, like its predecessors, has a difficult time reconciling regional differences. Cooperation within the county has failed on several initiatives because many councillors put lower-tier concerns and self-interest first. If this council cannot agree on a joint communications system or a rural education strategy, how would council decide where the new administration centre would be located? Draw locations from a hat? Cornwall is the County’s own Switzerland, neutral and detached.
A better question councillors should ask is why is the City of Cornwall not part of SDG County government? Given the improved relationship, shared services, historic ties and geographic interests between the city and the county, asking Cornwall to return to the regional government makes far more sense.