Having your cake and eating it too - Denny Scott editorial
North Huron Township Council and its members often find themselves in my crosshairs in this column because of their comments or their seeming inability to get along with their neighbours (which isn’t just the existing council), but the past week has reminded me that, just like with squabbling children, there probably isn’t a completely right and a wrong side.
After watching Morris-Turnberry Council review and entertain not supporting two more neighbours’ recreation centre renovation projects, after cutting funds to North Huron, it’s left me wondering if Morris-Turnberry Council shouldn’t catch a wagging finger more often in this column.
As North Huron Council members will tell anyone who will listen, Morris-Turnberry Council, in the middle of the pandemic, cut the municipality’s contributions to North Huron’s recreation centres. At the time, Morris-Turnberry Council said it was because of the reduced usage of the facilities. It made sense. It was defendable. It was also part and parcel with the contentious cross-border servicing issue that has dragged on for years.
North Huron Council, maybe in response or maybe just because it needed to be done, started implementing non-resident user fees, which resulted in a number of complaints from people outside the community (undoubtedly including some people from Morris-Turnberry). The move also makes sense and is employed elsewhere. Even before North Huron and Morris-Turnberry started an appendage-quantification contest over cross-border servicing, Morris-Turnberry users of North Huron’s water systems were paying a premium for the right to hook into a system they hadn’t paid to create or maintain.
However, as stated, the non-resident fees made some non-resident users unhappy (and, again, some of them are very likely from Morris-Turnberry). So Morris-Turnberry residents don’t like having to pay extra to use facilities in their neighbouring municipalities.
Nothing was done about it, and, at the time, it looked like bickering neighbours continuing an argument that has been going on since long before I started covering either council.
However, after the past week, recent updates have left me wondering if Morris-Turnberry Council wants to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to facilities and infrastructure from other municipalities.
Just in case you’re under the impression that’s a silly cliched saying, it’s not: it refers to wanting to both eat and keep the cake for a later date, not getting and then eating it.
If you listened to the special meeting on Thursday evening between representatives of the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre renovation committee, Huron East Council and staff and Morris-Turnberry Council, Morris-Turnberry Mayor Jamie Heffer said there have been a number of concerns raised by ratepayers regarding the cost of the project.
That means you have Morris-Turnberry ratepayers complaining about North Huron’s non-resident user fees while other ratepayers (or who knows, maybe the same ones) are also complaining about the potential cost of this upgrade (which has been dropped to $5.5 million, not much higher than the original price tag of $4.8 million).
Heffer said, during the meeting, on behalf of his council that Morris-Turnberry Council doesn’t believe in the project: “In the opinion of this council, this project is no longer viable.”
Pair this with a staff report presented during council’s Oct. 5 meeting in which it was suggested that Morris-Turnberry, which is responsible for 33 per cent of the operational and maintenance costs of the Belmore Community Centre, may not be responsible for their share of a $50,000 renovation project due to the wording of an agreement, and you start to wonder if Morris-Turnberry Council members just don’t want to support facilities in neighbouring municipalities that their residents use.
Morris-Turnberry has very little in the terms of facilities and infrastructure, save a water system here and there and kilometres of roads (which other municipalities have). They don’t have arenas or fire departments, instead relying on their neighbours to provide those kinds of amenities. However when it comes time to upgrade those amenities, which help make Morris-Turnberry viable as a community, the purse strings seem to get awfully tight.
Morris-Turnberry Council or its ratepayers can’t have it both ways: either support the operation and renovation of all the neighbouring facilities that benefit them, or get ready to pay those non-resident user fees in every neighbouring municipality.