(File photo/Francis Tessier-Burns).

Here’s what each of the UCPR committees wants to get done in 2018 (Part 1)

As the United Counties of Prescott and Russell elect a new warden every year, the heads of its various committees also change. The UCPR counts six Standing Committees including: Economic Development, the Prescott-Russell Residence, Emergency Services, Social Services, Public Works, and Planning and Forestry.

The Review spoke with the heads of three of those committees to outline their priorities in the coming year.

Emergency Services

East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby needed few words to say what he wanted to get done this year.

“Settling the ambulance issue with Ottawa.” He continued, “And you can quote me: I’m not going to pussyfoot.”

Of course, he’s referring to the ongoing butting of heads between Prescott-Russell emergency services and its Ottawa counterpart. At the heart of the issue is who’s responsible for paying the bill if Prescott-Russell responds to a call in Ottawa.

“I’m going to propose to the committee that we give them a deadline to pay,” said Kirby. And Ottawa doesn’t? “Apparently it’s illegal to refuse the service but I’m proposing to refuse the service,” he said, adding that he’s speaking before being updated on the matter.

“This is my proposal if this isn’t settled in the near future… But the taxpayer as far as I’m concerned of Prescott and Russell will not be footing the bill for Ottawa.”

Prescott-Russell Residence

The two issues at the top of Champlain Mayor Gary Barton’s list are acquiring land for the new residence and the external review into the current residence’s operations.

He said the UCPR has selected a location for the new residence and is currently negotiating with the owner on the price but wouldn’t give any more details. Those negotiations will be coming up in a closed session at this week’s Committee of the Whole. 

The UCPR is also working to get more funding from the province to recoup some of the costs of the new residence.

Barton said the operations review at the current location in Hawkesbury will begin in March. 

“Hopefully it’ll say there’s some efficiencies we can do or things are fine,” he said.

The review was initially called by Mayor Guy Desjardins of Clarence-Rockland after comparisons with the Centre d’Accueil Roger-Séguin consistently showed higher costs.

The Review wrote about Desjardins suggesting cutting the number of beds. After the story, Barton said he met with a man whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s and is currently at the residence who told him the residence needed more staff, not cuts. 

Barton also said he’s thankful there haven’t been any stories of mistreatment at the residence.

“I don’t receive a ton of complaints, that’s the kind of metrics you can take from the political side.”

Economic Development

While the above two committees are mostly committed to dealing with ongoing issues, Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux is looking to bring in new ideas when it comes to economic development. Or rather, repackage an old idea as a new one.

Two years ago, Leroux introduced the Prescott-Russell Area Partnership (PRAP) program. Under the program, when one of the eight municipalities would invest in infrastructure specifically for economic development (for example, in an industrial park), the UCPR share of the taxes generated by the new businesses using that infrastructure would go back to the municipalities to recoup the costs.

“By helping the municipalities, we’re investing in ourselves,” said Leroux.

He added that being realistic about the kind of economic development is important.

“We’re not going to go attract Amazon to come here,” he said. “But if we can make sure we’re investment-ready and we have all the infrastructures in place then we’re putting a foothold ahead of everybody else.”

See below for the full list of the chairs of each committee.

Committee 2017 Chair 2018 Chair
Economic Development Fernand Dicaire Pierre Leroux
Prescott-Russell Residence Jeanne Charlebois Gary Barton
Emergency Services Guy Desjardins Robert Kirby
Social Services François St. Amour Jeanne Charlebois
Public Works Pierre Leroux Guy Desjardins
Planning and Forestry Robert Kirby Fernand Dicaire