Last week, the guest editorial pointed out the way in which the Municipality of North Grenville has failed the downtown businesses in Kemptville. Spending millions of dollars to turn Prescott Street into a good-looking dead zone is hardly the most visionary move municipal staff have made. But I wonder has anyone at the Municipal centre noticed that there are people living outside Kemptville? Well, they must have: some of them live outside Kemptville themselves. Some of them even live outside North Grenville – but that’s another story altogether. The reason I ask about this is because I am gradually coming to believe that those taxpayers who don’t have the overwhelming privilege of living with the Urban Area, as it is fondly known, are simply expected to be grateful that their hard-earned tax dollars are being used to benefit other parts of their community.
Mayor Gordon likes to promote a further round of municipal amalgamations, seeking to have a more economic and efficient municipal structure. I have a sneaking suspicion that this really means making Kemptville the capital of a much wider area of Eastern Ontario, one where the residents can enjoy subsidising the GKA [Greater Kemptville Area]. But those outside the Pale, the barbarians at the gates, may wonder whether the first round of amalgamation was such a good idea.
I have no grievance against the GKA and its happy residents. I’m sure they’ve really enjoyed watching their water go from brown to a slightly lighter shade of brown. And at least we outsiders don’t have to pay for that too. But, really, what are we getting, aside from ignored? Council had a plan to spend $25,000 on upgrading the Canada Post park. That, for those of you not au fait with the GKA, is the little patch of green on the corner of Prescott and Rueben, beside the Post office. There would have been interlinked brick walkways and park benches!
In the meantime, the Oxford Mills Community Association [OMCA] are still trying to get permission from the municipality to rebuild the gazebo in Maplewood Park. Now, this is a story worthy of our municipal staff’s dreams. The old gazebo had to be demolished due to old age, etc., and the park lost a focal point. Not just in terms of scenery, either. The gazebo was the site of many weddings (which brought revenue to the municipality), and was at the centre of Canada Day festivities for generations. OMCA wanted to get it replaced, and are now at the stage of trying to get Mark Guy and his staff in Parks, Recreation and Culture (Culture?!) To approve plans for the new edifice. Council have already decided that there’s no money in the nwe budget to cover the expense, and applications for Community Grants were rejected. So, the men and women of OMCA plough ahead, trying to do the right thing, at their own expense.
But here’s the really crazy thing: Maplewood Park, as municipal staff are very fond of telling OMCA, is municipal property. The old gazebo was municipal property. The municipality coffers benefited from that gazebo. So, why is the job of the residents to beg municipal staff and Council to allow them, pretty please, to replace it at OMCA’s expense?
There seems to be a majority on Council ready to allow them to do so (very generous of them), but, as I warned one member, those plans will never get to you: they’ll meet so many objections from Mark Guy and Barb Tobin that the thing will never get built. Just what is their problem? They (Guy and Tobin) took Maplewood Hall away from the community, and now they want the community to do their job for them and build a facility that will bring money into the municipal budget.
Oxford Mills has lost a lot over the past few years, the churches are closing, the general store and post office are gone, and the municipality took away the local library. Now there’s a major threat that the village could lose its school too. There are certain people on staff and on Council who refer ina very negative way to “the Oxford Mills crowd”, as if they were so kind of radical cell operating out in the wilderness, and not tax-paying citizens who wonder what they’re getting in return for their taxes.
Nor is Oxford Mills alone in this. This is a rural municipality, with a minority of the population living in the Urban Area. But it seems to be governed as if it were an Urban Area with a small hinterland of fields around it. The municipal Agriculture Committee was allowed to die, because the Councillor who chaired it, Tim Sutton, decided agriculture could be run on a part-time basis through the Economic Development Committee, the sole mandate of which seems to be developing the Urban Area.
Here’s a wild and crazy idea: why not have the municipality build a nice new gazebo in Maplewood Park (and anywhere else they’d serve a purpose) as a legacy project for Canada’s 150th? Let’s take a small percentage of what they spent making Prescott Street beautified and empty, and spend it on the other part fo North Grenville – you know, the part where they get most of their tax revenues from.