The councils of United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and Cornwall have aired frustration over stalled negotiations in open letters.
A letter signed by SD&G Warden Jim Bancroft and other counties councillors was sent on March 6. It addressed shared services between Cornwall and SD&G: it said in the 1990s, when Cornwall and the counties were “forced” into sharing services including ambulances, child care, and provincial offences administration by the provincial government, “interim agreements” regarding cost sharing were put into place. “Those interim agreements are now largely obsolete,” it said. The letter said currently, Cornwall is responsible for ambulance, social services, and child care administration, and SD&G pays $7 million annually for the services. The counties are responsible for provincial offences administration, which generates revenue for both municipalities.
The letter says in 2014/2015, a joint committee began working on a “consolidated and modern shared services agreement,” which would include cost sharing formulas were “fair and reflective of current conditions.” The city, it says, hired an outside firm which completed a review of shared services. Then, county and city officials developed a draft of a new agreement, “of which there have been several iterations.”
The problem, according to the letter from SD&G council members, is that Cornwall’s council will not ratify a new agreement for shared services. The letter suggests it is because Cornwall’s council disagrees with a clause in the new agreement “which includes the right of either party to arbitrate if necessary.”
However, on March 14, Cornwall responded with a letter of its own, which disputes SD&G’s version of events. The letter says Cornwall’s council agrees a dispute arbitration clause is at the root of the problem, but says the clause is not reasonable, but “nothing less than the counties wanting to micro-manage by an arbitration clause the services that the City provides under an agreement with the province of Ontario.”
The letter goes on to say while Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry may have approved a draft version of a Consolidated Municipal Service Management Agreement in December, 2016, Cornwall never got an official copy of the resolution.
“Over the past week, we have searched email accounts and our regular mail registry and to this day, we have not recieved a true copy of the motion or the document that was passed by you. Yet the suggestion that the city is stilling. I think not,” it says.
It goes on to say that if the document was misplaced or deleted, “I would be more than happy to apologize on behalf of the city,” but if on the other hand the Counties can’t provide proof it was sent, “I would expect an apology from you for making false allegations against us.”
Reached on Friday, SD&G Warden Jim Bancroft said he would not comment further until council met on Monday.