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N.E.W. plan for restructuring council

The Citizen’s Assembly on Council size and the N.E.W. Plan for restructuring Council

Council has responded to voters who answered ‘Yes’ to the 2010 municipal referendum question regarding interest in a review of council size.

Saturday, July 27 was the first all-day session of the Citizens Assembly (CA), commissioned by council to consider the question:  “How many municipal councillors should represent the citizens of Prince Edward County?”

Twenty-four people, diverse as to demographics and background, make up the CA.  They were selected from 350 people who applied, out of 5000 County residents who were invited.  Dr. Jonathan Rose and two colleagues, all from Queen’s, are the organizers and facilitators.

I attended Saturday’s morning session as an observer, and was impressed with the process and the people.  There are two more all-day sessions, open to the public, to be held at the Picton Town Hall on August 10 and August 24, starting at 9am each day.

If the CA recommends fewer councillors than the current 15, and if council agrees, the challenge will be: How to adjust to a smaller number, given the current structure  of 10 Wards, with 1, 2 or 3 Councillors per Ward?  What happens if it is decided to reduce to (say) nine councillors in total?

I believe that most County residents don’t want ANY changes to the County’s 10 historic wards – an important part of the County’s heritage.  I have developed a proposal, refined over several months, called The N.E.W. Plan for restructuring PEC Council.  The Plan can accommodate as few as six Councillors in total or as many as 15, while preserving the County’s 10 historic wards unchanged, and  improving councillor representation.  It sounds like magic, but it’s actually simple – just a matter of thinking outside the box Ward boundaries.

The N.E.W. Plan is complementary to the work of the CA, because it offers a simple and inexpensive means of implementing whatever is recommended by the CA and agreed by council.  I plan on proposing it to council after the CA makes its recommendations.

For an explanation of the N.E.W. Plan (including map), see the CA’s Size of Council Discussion Forum at  http://tinyurl.com/n4fotgp . You may post comments here, there, or contact me directly at gary.mooney@actel.ca .

Gary Mooney
Hillier Historic Ward
(and West Electoral Ward?)

 

NEW plan

The N.E.W. plan creates three electoral wards which overlay the County’s 10 wards. The North Electoral Ward covers Ameliasburgh and Sophiasburgh, (total 9108 electors). The East Electoral Ward covers Picton, North Marysburgh, South Marysburgh and Athol (9070 electors) and the West Electoral Ward (9272 electors) covers Hallowell, Bloomfield, Wellington and Hillier. Gary Mooney explains the three wards, with almost equal numbers of electors, are allocated equal numbers of councillors. Under the N.E.W. plan there can be as many as five councillors for each ward, or as few as two. He explains the plan and its objectives at http://pecca.freeforums.net/board/3/size-council

 

 

 

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    Gary, thanks for taking the time to discuss this matter – but the facts are that our council historically has run in the opposite direction from the issue of council size and have avoided public participation and input at all cost. To appoint a Citizens Assemby as a means to gather public input is neither democratic nor is it a meaningful way to do the job that you claim it is suppose to do. So in reality, our council is just playing the game – still!

    So rather than you and I carry on with this discussion, perhaps it is best to recognize that we don’t agree on this one and leave it there. But I am a little disappointted in seeing that the basic questions I asked in my previous message have not stirred your imagination more. But then again I don’t support this process our council has invented like you do.

  2. Gary Mooney says:

    Dennis, two points:

    The CA is one way for Council to obtain public input. Deputations are another. Council may decide to hold a public meeting as well.

    I’m presenting the N.E.W. Plan to Council this Thursday in order to give Councillors ample time to consider its merits.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    This exchange of comments by the very few is exactly what I’m concerned about. This small exchange of opinions should not replace public participation at the community level – organized by the council. Why hasn’t this happened? Why has this council decided to wait until the last minute during the summer months to deal with this all important question of how this community will be governed? As you point out Gary – it is now or never.

    I disagree with you Gary, this Citizens Assembly (CA) does not represent this community nor can it pretend to be (as you claim) “reasonably representative.” They in fact do not represent anyone!

    The fact that you are giving a deputation doesn’t mean that this community is engaged in this process – they are not! You state that the CA is a good way to obtain public input. To date, I have not witnessed any attempt by them (CA) to engage the public for input. Why not?

    Quite frankly this issue of council size is being carried out with only a few voices being heard and at council’s convenience. I hope that during your time at the council meeting, you might point out to them that they have not made any attempt to engage the public in this issue – and wait for their answer.

    This process is truly an “Old Boys/Old Girls” way of excluding the public. The fact that you feel the need to introduce your plan now (despite many of it’s unfounded assumptions)due to the lack of opportunity later on for input proves to me that my concerns unfortuanately have merrit. Do you remember when our Council was going to ask two of our local citzens to reimburse them for the cost of taking this exact same matter to the OMB just a few years ago? Don’t get sucked in by this false show of democracy in action.

  4. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, you may be giving the impression (which I’m sure that you don’t intend) that Picton residents’ concerns are more important than those of the neighbouring rural areas, which depend on Picton for services.

    Part of my thinking in devising the N.E.W. Plan was to mix urban and rural so that it’s not like the present, where there are 4 urban Councillors and 11 rural.

    Each Electoral Ward — North, East and West — has an urban connection or component. In the case of North, it’s a natural connection to Trenton and Belleville due to proximity. East includes Picton, and West includes Wellington and Bloomfield.

    It’s important to keep in mind that the County is 75% rural, so it’s rural issues that concern most County citizens.

  5. Mark says:

    By passes can work effectively. All I am suggesting is that it deserves discussion and planning. You cannot continue to drive thousands through a very small town and expect those residents not to be concerned. If tourists want the town services they will come on their own for that interest and do not need to be herded through like cattle taking time and fuel to reach a destination. For those that just want to reach the Sandbanks with no shopping or locals just wanting to get home it is a discussion worth having. Yes growth needs to be promoted in Picton and Wellington but let’s plan for it and get it done correctly.

    As for the N.E.W. plan why was Picton shoveled off to unconnecting rural bordering wards like an isolated island other than reaching comparable electorate numbers? Is there any common interest? Was Bloomfield, Wellington etc. considered to be the odd man out and sent out there? Hillier has more in common with these rural wards than Picton.

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    Picton and Wellington, being serviced with water and sewer, are designated as the growth areas in the County. Issues such as water and sewer rates, and development charges, can hold back development.

    It should be pointed out that these issues are the responsibility of all of Council, not just the representatives elected for Picton.

    Regarding a bypass around Picton Main Street, this would be disastrous for business. This happened to Consecon many years ago, and it’s still struggling to rebuild some business activity. Bypasses don’t work (and neither do pedestrian malls).

  7. Mark says:

    Well with respect Gary you have repeated yourself on occasion. I repeat because Picton being plunked with rural wards that do not even connect to it is less than desirable. Picton’s natural growth expansion (which is necessary and to be promoted)is with Hallowell which surrounds it. This is where housing will need to develop and services expanded as with western Loyalist Parkway currently. Water & sewer is not to be sluffed off as a yes we are aware,but issue. Everyone wants a service area to come to and do business. But with such a low population the town ratepayers are burdened.Picton requires growth to support affordable services. It requires low income housing and it most certainly is in need of seniors accomodation. With expanded tourism the Town is experiencing significant traffic flow issues. A traffic bypass to the north from Hwy 49 and reconnecting to Loyalist PKWY needs review and discussion. These are Picton issues that have little attention time for Athol and South and North Marysburgh.

  8. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, you’re repeating yourself. But, beyond unaffordable water and sewer charges, what do you see as the “critical urban issues” that are unique to Picton and of concern only to Picton residents?

    As far as the tax burden is concerned, all areas are charged the same tax rate, so what’s the additional burden on Picton residents?

  9. Mark says:

    The plan has merit with finding three areas of near equal electorate numbers. But it cries out “what do we do with Picton”? So it plugs the largest urban area in the County with 3 small south eastern rural wards. Picton has critical urban issues that are unrelated to the rural wards they would be tied to and perhaps represented by. Picton has more natural ties with Hallowell which it is surrounded by. The Town of Picton needs strong representation at the table and cannot survive by just being the service center for the rest of the County.

  10. Gary Mooney says:

    Dennis, re your points. By proposing a separation of Electoral Wards and Historic Ward, the N.E.W. Plan allows for a small or large Council, improves Councillor representation and respects our municipal heritage of one town, two villages and seven townships.

    If the CA decided to recommend a reduced Council size, and Council agrees, the N.E.W. Plan provides a simple and inexpensive means of doing so.

    I’m putting this Plan forward now because any changes have to be finally approved by Council by November 15, or they can’t be implemented after the municipal election in 2014 (will have to wait until 2018).

    I don’t view the Citizen’s Assembly as a joke — quite the contrary. I think that it’s a good way of obtaining public opinion that is informed and reasonably representative.

    I’ll be making a deputation on the N.E.W. Plan to the Committee of the Whole on Thursday, August 15, 9:30 am.

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    Gary, while I respect your efforts, I do believe what you are proposing will easily morph into a 3 ward system – which I beleive is not what your stated intentions have indicated you want. Until we see what (if anything)our counci is really prepared to do, why nor just lay low with this New Plan? I think it only confuses the matter -plus I don’t believe this Citizens Assembly reflects at all what the community had in mind for public participation, when supporting the referendum for review. Frankly this CA looks like a bit of a joke and smoke screen.

  12. Doris Lane says:

    Beth we have to pay sewer charge on water we use to water the flowers etd–that does not go into the sewer system. Since we are told that the water and sewer system in Picton is the responsibility of the town of Picton water and sewer users and we have to except the whole cost of it, then if someone uses our water they should pay the sewer charge as well. It is only fair tat outsiders have to pay the same as Picton users.

  13. Argyle says:

    Beth, if we use your logic then the residents of Wellington should pay for the deficit in the operating expenses for the white elephant Duke Dome as it is located in your new center of the universe.

  14. Beth says:

    1. My point regarding objections to services being located outside of Picton has been proven.

    2. When I had to have water delivered at my old place, I was paying over $80 every 10 days or so because of the shear volume of water required by a household of 5. SO my water bill for the summer was often $500 (2 months). Only a portion of that was the cost of delivery to my cistern. If you are having water hauled you are disposing of your sewage / waste water in a system you own and are responsible for maintaining.

    3. My Rural taxes, help pay for the services provided to me, along with the taxes paid by Urban Dwellers (Picton, Bloomfield, Wellington, Consecon……..). The County has a responsibility to service all residents, that means that some services need to be located away from the apparent Centre of the Universe.

  15. Doris Lane says:

    It is the cost of water and sewer in Picton that is killing us. it costs more to flush our toliet than it does to heat our house,
    as mark said when the big trucks take water from the town do they pay sewer charge on it too–when we water our lawn we pay sewer charge on that water
    I would like to know if the people from the country taking water from town just pay water charge?? If they do ut is not right

  16. Mark says:

    It is ok Gary I do not want to belabour the point. I know those days are long gone.

    My point is that as Picton is the centre for so much including alot of rurals it places great additional strain on those infrastrucure pieces (water & sewer)that are the responsibility of the Town ratepayers. If the Town was not the hub of activity I would assume that system upgrades would not be so mammoth and costly to service under 4000 residents.For example I know that rural residents truck water from Picton in large capacity. I am not certain if the fee for this is adequate to cover the additional costs on the system including maintenance and upgrades. That is one example.

  17. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, I’m not sure that I get your point. Are you thinking back to the pre-amalgamation days (pre-1998) when Picton was on its own? If so, those days are long gone.

  18. Mark says:

    That would be the infrastructure that I am referring to. The additional strain, demand, maintenance and capacity due to services accessed by rural resdients.

  19. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, the County’s infrastructure, including that in Picton, is paid for by ALL County taxpayers at the same residential property tax rate. So, using the Picton Community Centre as an example, its cost is spread over all County households.

    There are two main fee-based services, which are paid by the users of those services only, and not by all taxpayers. These are water treatment, paid by all households on town water, and wastewater treatment, paid by all households on sewers (Picton and Wellington only).

    So, everyone in the County helps to pay for everything in Picton, Wellington and Bloomfield (except water and wastewater) and everyone in the County helps to pay for everything in the rural areas (e.g. roads).

  20. Mark says:

    Gary, this may be swaying slightly off topic from your proposal however it is connected by appropriate Picton representation at Council.

    Of course services are not provided by the Town of Picton as we all know that Picton’s municipal government ended with amalgamation. My reference was in a physical sense.

    Having cleared that up, most rural residents excepting a good portion of Ameliasburgh expect, depend upon and or enjoy government, retail, financial, water collection, healthcare and recreational services within Picton. The use of these core services all located within Picton places demand, strain and capacity issues on infrastructure. My understanding is that the costs for this is bore only by the ratepayers of the Town. The population of the Town is not large enough to continue to meet those demands or the costs associated.

  21. Marnie says:

    Watch for these positions to be reversed Doris if Wellington continues to receive all of the plum benefits.

  22. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, several comments.

    1. The Town of Picton does not provide services to rural residents; rather, the County does.
    2. The services that are causing economic hardship for Picton residents are water and sewer, which are paid for by Picton and Wellington residents only. There is no short-term fix for this problem.
    3. Re the population of Picton, I don’t believe that its population has declined in recent years. (If so, where are the empty houses?) Population figures in past years have not been reliable / consistent.
    4. Regarding this plan for restructuring, while you may not like one element, there are many elements in total. It’s not possible to fix one perceived problem without affecting everything else, so it’s necessary to specify a whole different plan.

  23. Doris Lane says:

    Picton is the County Town of the County. Wellington is a village.

  24. Mark says:

    Well I do not disagree with expanded services in Wellington. I do however have great concern for the Town of Picton and where it is headed. Picton requires strong representation at the Council table not linked to south eastern rural wards that have separate and distinct issues. Under this formula Picton could be represented by rural councillors who have legitimate concerns for agriculture,industrial wind turbines, cottage developments etc. But who will carry the ball for the ratepayers from Picton who are over stretched for the cost of services. The rural residents want and enjoy the services that the the Town provides but the great burden of paying for that infrastructure rests with the Picton residents. The Town used to have a population of 5,000 and now is 4,000 or a little lower. This trend is concerning and the costs placed on this few ratepayers is unsustainable.

  25. Gary Mooney says:

    To me, it doesn’t make sense to have all services / facilities centred in Picton. Wellington is the natural place to expand services to accommodate residents who live in the western part of the County, and this is happening. If there was to be a third centre, the logical place would be Rossmore.

  26. Beth says:

    Argyle:

    What is wrong with encouraging development in Wellington? It is a vibrant town with a great school and a lovely downtown. The Mayor and the Councillors are right not to restrict growth to Picton and to place additional services and amenities in the outlying communities.

    It has been my observation that most (but not all) of the people who object to Wellington receiving items like the area and the archives are people who live in Picton and have almost no intention of expanding their horizons.

  27. Argyle says:

    You can blame the mayor, the county managers, and council for their Wellington-centric focus. There is no doubt that it is their desire to focus and re-direct development to the west.

  28. Gary Mooney says:

    Mark, it’s true that Picton, and Wellington, have problems with the cost of water and sewer. But the Official Plan requires that most new residential development be confined to these serviced areas, so there will be growth in both of these towns.

    The N.E.W. Plan takes account of the natural connection of rural wards to a nearby urban area and purposely combines both where possible to reduce the rural/urban divide. For East and West Electoral Wards, it’s Picton and Bloomfield/Wellington respectively. For North, it’s recognition of the proximity of Belleville/Trenton.

    When looking at any configuration plan, it’s advisable to list the positives and the negatives and compare with other possible configurations. Having done this with many possible combinations, the N.E.W. Plan is the best that I’ve found.

  29. Mark says:

    It is an option like several others. Have a problem with Picton being isolated,surrounded by Hallowell where their natural growth expands into. So my initial thought is that it does not serve Picton well. Picton provides services to alot more than the small south eastern wards they have been allocated to without natural connection. If Picton continues to be the kicking boy with taxes and water,sewer charges while expected to provide overall services I believe it’s population will continue to decline.

  30. Argyle says:

    Why not! Anything would be more efficient and less cumbersome than the current council.

  31. Gary Mooney says:

    Sam: Yes, Picton would be combined with North Marysburgh, South Marysburgh and Athol for Councillor representation. Could be as few as 2 Councillors for this East Electoral Ward, or as many as 5 (as at present).

    The three rural Wards depend on Picton for services, so combining them for Councillor representation makes sense.

  32. Sam says:

    Gary, I think that I understand your proposal and if there is to be a reduction in the size of council then something like your map may make sense. Just one question; why is Picton outlined and coloured the same as Athol and Marysburgh? Is it your intent to include Picton in that voting region?

  33. Gary Mooney says:

    My major motivation in developing the N.E.W. Plan was to find a way to ensure that the County’s 10 Historic Wards will be preserved unchanged, regardless of the number of Councillors. The N.E.W. Plan achieves this objective, plus other benefits as well.

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