Some thoughts on “We are the ones we’re waiting for”- Part 1

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by Stephen Hammond

A recent article in the Times by the Kemptville Business Improvement Area [BIA] talks about some of the ideas that the BIA would like to implement in the downtown of Kemptville. They include;

  1. “walkable, bicycle friendly downtown with adequate parking”;
  2. “an outdoor rink and splashpad in Riverside Park”;
  3. “a trail running along the South Branch connecting Ferguson Forest to the downtown parks (Curry, Rotary, Post office, and Riverside)”;
  4. “Does it want to preserve and celebrate its unique history and its built heritage?”;
  5. “Do we want to retain and increase the number of unique businesses downtown?”.

Let’s talk about each of the above five BIA ideas.

  1. Good idea. I personally have noticed some improvement in street parking spaces, and the downtown is quite walkable and bicycle friendly.
  2. Bad idea. Don’t we already have too many skating rinks? We have two indoor arenas at the Municipal Centre that are costing the township a fortune in tax money. The Municipal Centre, which consists basically of two indoor arenas (which comprise the majority of the building footprint), a meeting room, auditorium, and some office space costs the taxpayers of North Grenville approximately $2 million net per year. If some group of people want to have yet another rink, they can raise the money on a voluntary basis. The same goes for a splashpad. There is already a splashpad in Equinelle. A splashpad would cost approximately $375,000. This number comprised municipal funding of $100,000. and provincial grants of $275,000. Last time I checked, the provincial finances were not the greatest. Add in maintenance and supervision meaning more work and expenditure for the municipality. Yikes!
  3. Bad idea. Doesn’t this township have enough trails? It seems like there’s more interest in trails than in fixing the existing township roads. At township meetings that I have attended, John Barclay has pushed hard for a continuous trail along the South Branch. The problem with this proposal is that it would require the expropriation of private waterfront property. Anybody who wants to have their private property rights taken away from them, please raise your hand. I have a better idea. If the BIA want a trail in the downtown, raise the money privately on a voluntary basis and purchase the waterfront properties in question – that is, if the current owners agree to sell. For the record and to his credit, Jim Bertram was the only council member at last year’s budget meetings who specifically opposed property expropriation and supported private property rights in this instance.
  4. Good idea with a big “BUT”. I’m all for preserving and celebrating our heritage. If you want to preserve old buildings, buy them with private money and fix them up with private money. Don’t take away private property rights in the name of heritage, and don’t take money by force (taxation) from taxpayers to pay for heritage.
  5. Good idea. We all want a thriving business community. Businesses live and die based on their ability to provide value in goods and/or services to their customers within the context of voluntary economic transactions. Government must learn some lessons from the business community on how to be efficient, less complex, and less financially costly to all of us if our society wants to avoid economic and social bankruptcy.

The sixth paragraph is a call to action to bring about the above initiatives and possibly others. Sounds great with a big “BUT”. We can improve our community. However, let’s do so without adding to the already overly burdensome property tax levy in North Grenville.

The last paragraph ends with the statement, “There are things money can’t buy, and one of them is community. Community has to be built by participation”. I totally agree. However, many of the things the BIA wants and has asked for require the expenditure of significant sums of taxpayer money. I’m a little wary of people who claim to want to improve the community with voluntary community participation, but then clamour for government funding. Government funding is not some magic, infinite money tree that can fund every want from the public. Government funding is your money and your neighbour’s money. It’s that dental work you needed last year; or the septic field that needed repairing 10 years ago; or the car repairs you need to get to work; or that furnace that needs to be replaced yesterday so you don’t freeze. Money is important. Let’s use it wisely.

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