Municipal service review brings up spectre of single tier government

KENILWORTH – In Wellington North, the current municipal services review in Wellington County has drawn forth the question of shared services versus single tier government.

On Dec. 2 as councillors here discussed the recent KPMG report regarding municipal service efficiencies, councillor Dan Yake asked how these shared services are going to be governed.

“As you read through this, this all leans towards one-tier government at some time in the near future,” he said.

Because of that, Yake anticipated there would be more discussion on governance of shared services within the report.

Mayor Andy Lennox said the issue of governance was specifically excluded from the discussion to this stage.

“I understand what you are saying as to how this report reads, but I am not sure I agree with you wholeheartedly,” Lennox said.

“The county is a very diverse place and the needs of the south end are significantly different than those in the north. As such it would make a single-tier government very challenging.”

Yake said, “when you read about the top 20 opportunities within this document … everything leans towards that discussion.”

Yake agreed with much of the report on the potential opportunities regarding service efficiencies.

“The suggestions are all good, but they do all lead to change,” he said.

Lennox suggested “it may be my personal bias, I don’t see this as neccesarily leading to a single tier government.”

The mayor then asked “do you think (single tier) is a good way to go, Dan?”

Yake said “at one time I was very critical of the county and the way it operated and handled things. I think a lot of that was due a lack of information from our representatives.”

He added, “we get way more information than we ever got before.

“Over the years, I think I’ve softened my approach to this and their government structure and the way they operate.

“I still don’t think (single tier) is the way to go.”

Yake added that overall he believed the municipalities had been on the right track.

Lennox noted one of the items that crops up in the township strategic plan is the need for partnerships to share potential costs.

He agreed Yake’s question regarding governance of shared services was valid.

“Maybe it is not single-tier versus two-tier, but we’d need to have a form of governance with services shared among two municipalities,” Lennox said.

“We just need to be aware of when we get involved in these shared services, we also need to work out how to make them work.”

He noted that in Mount Forest there are shared services with Southgate regarding recreation and fire services.

Yake said, “In the end we always seem to make the right decision, and over time one always needs to make adjustments.”

Lennox said there are a number of opportunities within the report that require further study.

He pointed out following up on those opportunities will require staff time along with township resources.

“What some of these items will look like in terms of collaboration, it is too early to say,” he said.

Yake asked what the next step is in terms of the service review.

CAO Mike Givens noted that the next step is to get support for the report from the member municipalities.

Councillor Lisa Hern agreed the report was a lot to absorb.

She too, on first reading, viewed the report as leaning to single-tier government.

“As I read it the third time, my perception of it completely changed,” she said.

Givens said the intent was more about sharing the best opportunities and sharing best practices among municipalities.