Back home again

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They say that travel broadens the mind, and perhaps it is true that you get a different perspective on things when you’ve been away from a place for a while. John Denver sang that “it’s good to be back home again; sometimes, this old farm feels like a long-lost friend”. I’m not sure if I would go quite that far, and this past weekend has reminded me once more that North Grenville is something of a split personality place. On the one hand, the weekend was full of classic North Grenville volunteerism and community-minded activity.

There was the Youth Centre Breakfast, the Jumpstart BBQ, the Rotary Duck Race, so many individual garage sales, community-wide garage sales, anniversary church services, etc., all examples of how the people of North Grenville like to celebrate together, socialise together and enjoy their community in the summer sunshine.

That is the positive side, the most important and precious side of our community life. But then, there’s the politics and officialdom. You really have to wonder at the way some people take themselves so seriously. For all its attributes, we live in a small community on the edge of a major city. Our politicians, bureaucrats and some other “leading citizens” act as if they were Very Important People, people with authority and great power who should be revered, above criticism, a law unto themselves.

This would be fine if they were particularly gifted, or making a good job of what they were put in place to do. The fact is that the taxpayers and residents of North Grenville are not very well served by their leaders and decision-makers. Economic opportunities are being missed, wrong development decisions are being made, and all the while we are told to shut up and mind out own business when we ask for some information about what is happening to our community. They seem to believe they are more important than the rest of us: and they are very, very wrong.

One on-going controversy is over the Canadian flag. Yes, really. The Municipal Council has agreed to pay for new flagpoles in Oxford Mills and Bishop’s Mills, along with banners in Burritt’s Rapids, as part of the Canada 150 festivities. So far, so good. However, municipal staff have recommended that, once these flags need to replaced, the cost of the new flags should be borne by the hamlets, not the municipality. Cheap? I think so.

Depending on which member of Council you talk to, this downloading of costs to the hamlets is, or is not, going to go ahead. They seem confused about it. One irate resident has offered to pay for the replacement flags in both hamlets out of their own pocket, which is very generous indeed, but they wonder who pays for replacing the flags flying outside the Municipal Centre in Kemptville. The recommendation by staff to Council is quite clear: “Staff are recommending that the Municipality cover the costs of the initial Canadian flags put on the poles. The hamlets would then be responsible for the costs associated with replacing the flags after this…If the hamlet decides to remove the flag(s) during the winter months they should notify the Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture.” The hamlets are graciously allowed to pay for the flags, but must ask permission of Mark Guy, the Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture, if they want to take them down again!

Now, this policy may change in future Council meetings, but the very fact that it took the public to question the decision in order to have it reviewed says a lot about the way staff recommendations are dealt with by Council. Surely someone should have objected to that recommendation as soon as they read it?

Even the cost of replacing the gazebo in Maplewood Park in Oxford Mills is being laid on the shoulders of the Community Association there, even though the property is owned by the municipality. In spite of bearing the expense, the Association has been stonewalled, insulted and taken on a merry dance by municipal staff for a few years now, when all they were trying to do was improve the municipal park. Those who remember the equally contemptuous manner in which the Bishop’s Mills Community Association were treated when they sought tax relief for their Community Hall, for example, know that this attitude towards the hamlets is not new. Many others could cite similar issues.

It is not just in the municipal bubble where you will find those who seem to think they are above the rest of us. Sometimes you get the impression that some people have no interest beyond their status, their titles and their “position” in society. You wonder why they want to be in the position they occupy, if they’re not going to actually do some positive good to the community they are meant to be serving. They should take a look at what volunteers are doing every day in North Grenville, at the selfless and hard-working efforts they put in to make their community a better place to live, work and play. It is an example they would do well to follow.

“You’re so vain; you probably think this song is about you”.

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