Editorial – Public use is for everyone

The Municipality of South Dundas has dealt with, or continues to deal with, many issues not addressed in several years – from landfills to municipal infrastructure. But, there remains one area that has not been addressed – municipal buildings.

The fact that South Dundas has too many community buildings for its population to support was identified many years ago, but still they all continue to stand publicly-owned and under-utilized. The fact that they have stood fully unused during the pandemic makes the drain on resources even more obvious.

Many of the buildings and facilities scattered across the municipality are ill-suited for desired activities, or have been built to serve a single or narrow purpose limiting use by residents.

Examples can be seen across South Dundas – Williamsburg lacks public indoor space, but Dixon’s Corners and Brinston do have spaces, as do Dunbar and Riverside Heights all of which are fairly available for public use. Municipally-owned public space in Morrisburg is limited to just a few small areas of the South Dundas Municipal Centre, which for the most part, are not well-suited to general public use. Iroquois has two publicly-owned facilities suitable for recreation and community use, but only one is available for public bookings.

In recent years, the Iroquois Campground received a new three-season building with meeting space and other facilities that cost over $750,000 by the time it was completed. That building was built, in part, by a generous donation from a resident, but still the majority of that project was funded through the municipal government and it is located on municipal property. That should mean it is owned by each and every person who lives in South Dundas. But the building cannot be used by every resident. It is purpose-built for a few specific user groups leaving it off-limits to everyone else.

Aside from the limiting factor of booking or access, many municipally-owned community spaces are ill-suited for the indoor recreation activities people want. Schools in South Dundas can play a role in helping that, but the boards do themselves no favours by making spaces difficult to book or use.

Another limiting factor – the perception of exclusivity or ownership by organizations, groups, and individuals, to certain municipal facilities, is the factor that makes this issue an incredibly difficult issue to deal with politically.

The dilemma is that if residents of South Dundas want spaces that are usable, and fit the types of activities that are of interest, those need to be created. But the prospect of losing some community spaces to which certain groups feel this sense of ownership/exclusivity, often leads to barriers being put up to what should be seen as progress.

Continuing to operate, or even build limited purpose facilities makes no financial sense. South Dundas needs to modernize its approach to indoor recreation and community spaces so that it will offer all residents equal access to quality recreation. Municipal taxation pays for operating these facilities, and those facilities should be open and accessible to all.

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.