"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Tuesday 31 March 2009

This Space Will Stay Empty

So, Richard Illingworth is gone and his space will not be filled. He was a remnant of a generation that no longer exists. He was what his life created.

He spoke often of his mother, a staunch, passionate, Toronto, Ontario, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. During elections, she worked hard for what she believed and passed on her Conservative values to her son.

When the Depression came and his father lost his job, fourteen year old Richard became the principal family provider. His wage from five-and-a-half ten hour days work in a mill, was the family's sole income.

Young folk did not dwell much on what they wanted to do with their lives then. They took whatever work was available and considered themselves fortunate to be employed.

War came and broader experience presented itself. It ended and the need to work hard continued the same as before. It was a natural progression for him to become involved in local politics.

I first met him in a second floor meeting room on Yonge Street, Aurora. The late and former Clerk-Treasurer of the Town, Bill Johnstone was conducting a series of information workshop on the ins-and-outs of town business. We were both candidates that year.

Later, when we were members of Council, Richard was attending York University taking night classes in a business course...on Thursday evenings. He strenuously opposed council meetings on Thursday night. He was fifty-two years old when he joined the Ontario Civil Service. He didn't have long to build a pension.

He had no complaints. He was a man completely comfortable within his own skin. People who return from war tend to have a robust view of life. They know too well how different fate might have been.

He took each day as it came- continued his life-long habit of work and responsibility while enjoying gleeful opportunity wherever he found it. For ninety-two years he fully exercised his right to make his presence felt and impact his community.

Pretty much how his mother taught him. Right on until the end.

Tumultuous Tuesday

I've written half a dozen Blogs since and assigned them to the draft file. They will not see the light of day until I deal with this particular issue.

Last Tuesday, a scheduled workshop meeting did not take place but a late item was added to a closed door agenda. Council was informed of a decision made by the Chief Administrative Officer. It was not, as required by the rules, reported out to the public meeting.

I do not believe the matter belonged behind closed doors . Neither do I believe it was a decision within the authority of the C.A.O. Although I have no doubt the Mayor and one Councillor were privy to the decision beforehand, I believe the rest of council was not.

John Gutteridge, Chief Financial Officer submitted his resignation to the Town on January 5th.
It was no surprise.I had been anticipating it since the departure of CAO, John Rogers. Mr Gutteridge indicated he would leave on April 15th.after the budget was completed.

By mid-March, there were no signs of recruitment. The process is administrative. On Tuesday, March 24th, I planned to inquire about progress. Instead, Council was informed behind closed doors the decision had been made to hire an Interim Financial Officer, a candidate had been chosen and would be in place on April 1st.

A Municipal Treasurer is a Statutory Officer.He/She is responsible for upholding Provincial Regulations governing Municipal Finance Procedures as well Municipal Bylaws on Policies and Procedures.His name is on every Town cheque issued. For legal accountablity such an officer must be appointed by Bylaw. Only Council votes on Bylaws. The decision therefore is beyond the scope of the Chief Administrative Officer.

I needed to confirm my conclusions. A phone call to the office of Director of Corporate Service, also a Statutory Officer, came up blank. Alternately,I called the Office of the Town Solicitor. I posed my questions He advised he would get back to me..

.He did. He said "protocol" indicates he can only answer questions on a resolution of Council. I asked him to cite "the protocol" and where I might find it. . He was unable to do that either.

My conviction grows that the town's affairs are not being properly administered. Things do not improve.

Thursday 26 March 2009

That's a Wrap.

Oftentimes I know if I linger longer I will cease to be civil. I usually manage to stay until the hour of adjournment. If town business is being accomplished I'm there till it's done. Having to fight to exercise my authority as a councillor is tedious. It takes all my resources to maintain equilibrium. When I arrive at the point of saying something sufficiently cutting that it can never be forgotten or forgiven, that's when I pack up my papers and remove myself from the area of risk.

Tuesday was Budget night. The most important night of the year. From hence all things stem. Mine was the solitary vote in opposition. I regret that. There was no shortage of work and effort on the part of Councillors and staff to get the job done.

My reason was simple. I do not share the Mayor's priorities. In my book, the Corporation is not a Philanthropic Society or a Charitable Foundation. I believe people should be free to determine which charities they will or wont support. I don't appreciate someone else's hand in my pocket, filching my resources for charity and do good projects. Nor do I want it done to anyone else who has trusted me to represent their interest.

Tuesday's agenda exemplifies my concerns.

Notice had been served of a second workshop with the Integrity Commissioner. The meeting did not take place. No notice of cancellation was served. It simply was not mentioned again.

The first workshop was attended by all but three. The Mayor and Councillors MacEachern and Gallo were absent. Councillor Collins-Mrakas had served notice for an educational session prior to the Commissioner's request. At that time, Councillor MacEachern declared her opposition and stated she would not attend.

When the second session was called, the Councillor declared she would not attend because it was closed to the public. The meeting was nevertheless scheduled and then ...didn't happen. No reason given.

The budget provides for an Integrity Commissioner. Even with all members signed on save one, having it happen under these circumstances seems unlikely. An annual retainer of $12 thousand and $3 thousand to deal with complaints is itemized. Now that's weird. I understand the level of compensation for an Integrity Commissioner reflects legal fees and or a Judge's compensation as the norm.

It seems, either the program will not go forward or cost is vastly under-estimated. Either way the budget does not appear to be realistic.

My position on restoration of the Petch House is known. The budget figure was increased from $100 K to $108K. $8 thousand has apparently come from another source.$100k comes from the tax levy. No offset from development charge revenues. Privately, the word is, if the building survives the move, restoration will cost $200K and the building will be reduced from 450 to 200 sq.ft. That's about the size of a three-hole privy and a wood shed combined. How authentic is that?

Neil Garbe ,CAO, says if we do not undertake the project, we will simply pop the money into a reserve account. The sum swallows town taxes from approximately a hundred and thirty homes. Mr. Garbe comes to us from York Region.

$100K is more than Mr. Tree asked for part-time workers and casual full time employees for six months,to do work that needs to be done, at a time when some residents may badly need employment. We refused his request.

On Tuesday, the July 1st parade became a burden to taxpayers for the first time in its history. Heretofore, revenues have met its cost. But that took an Almighty volunteer effort to accomplish. It happened annually for almost forty years. But people get tired. A year of preparation over-laps from one to another. The Parade gradually diminished and was a pale shadow of its former glory.

One year I rode in a car with former Mayor George Timpson. George hid in the corner and I hung out the window waving. I'm not sure how much it contributed to the fun of the moment. But I was asked and I did it out of sympathy for the volunteer who was desperately trying to build a parade.

Staff eventually advised volunteer interest in continuing the responsibility had finally evaporated.
On the other hand, celebrations at the Lambert Willson Park had grown proportionately. More families came to the park to participate in fun events and competitions starting earlier in the day, than watched the parade on Yonge Street. Change is hard. But sometimes it happens when you're not even trying.I thought that was a good time to rest the parade.

Then along came self-proclaimed Wonder Woman, Sher St. Kitts of Snowball Corners who declared she could give Aurora the finest parade ever seen. Now it seems the effort requires too much from Ms. St. Kitts. Taxpayers, at her demand, are to pay for the parade and town staff to carry the work load. It's happening in the 2009 budget.

On Tuesday night, still another outfit received $2700 worth of free time in a town facility . They run a Masters Lacrosse Tournament and make a charitable donation to another organization They sought free use of the facility to increase their donation. Last year,they raised $47,000. They were able to plump it up with free time at the facility..

$2700 revenue to the community centre would improve the bottom line of the facility's operation and help keep fees down for regular users.

We calculate operating costs and revenue to establish user fees for minor sports organizations. Who are also volunteers providing opportunities for young residents of our town. But for outsiders, we are giving it away. It's not my idea of good or fair fiscal management.

The budget recommended painting the ceiling of Community Centre #2. The item was deleted. Following direction from the Mayor, Neil Garbe our new CAO, accompanied by three other top officials inspected the ceiling and wrote a Memo for the record advising the recommendation was for the work to be done within three years. That was not the recommendation.

Hard times were frequently referenced by the Mayor during budget deliberations. Yet our town's economy is booming. Building continues and assessment revenues increase proportionately.

The national economic downturn may well mean residents become unemployed. We have work that needs to be done and the means to pay for it without increasing taxes. Senior levels of government are pumping money to the lower levels to help mitigate precisely these problems.

That is precisely not what we are doing with this budget.

It's why it does not have my support.

Monday 23 March 2009

Another School Closing...Another Committee

The Mayor proclaimed "most of Council" present. The missing one? C'etais moi. I chose not to be there. I was elected to Council. School closings are not my business. I am a Separate School Board supporter. I have no right to involve myself in public school board decisions?

I understand parents do not want change. I have been in the position of having to tell parents what they do not want to hear. It is not nice. Nobody should do that if they don't have to.

I've heard stuff about that hundred year old building ... like mould growing throughout and students eating lunch on a grungy concrete floor in the basement. I remember how the hundred year old lavatory sewers smelled in Church Street School when the town took it over.I know people whose children are middle-aged who went to that school and they tell me the school was in bad shape then.

I don't have time to ask how many children are currently being bussed to Wells Street School from other parts of town. It's not my business

I do not understand why council had representation on a review committee of parents and trustee.Even less do I understand why it was Councillor John Gallo.

The building has been designated Heritage. Councillor Bob McRoberts is on the Heritage Committee as is Councillor Collins Mrakas. Both indicated an interest in participating on the committee. But the Mayor appointed a Councillor without connection except that he owes her his place at the council table.

Be that as it may. The Committee recommends that Wells Street School be demolished and a new one built.on the site
Now I am compelled to comment.

It is an entirely nonsensical idea.

When Wells St school was built, Aurora had its own school board. It was O.K. to use the park for a playground and close a street . It saved the taxpayers money ...lots of it.

It blows my mind that this committee had council representation yet the difficulties of re-building on that site were not foreseen. The Mayor was there. As was "most" of council . Yet none among them foresaw the obvious obstacles .The Mayor apparently received tumultuous applause when she gave wholehearted support to parents in their battle to save the school.

So now what happens? A commitment has been made to the Board of town support to re-build the school. Without any council debate. Do we now declare the street and park surplus to the Town's needs and sell them to the REGIONAL Board of Education to create an adequate site ? Do we bypass the rights of the community at large to have a say in the surrender of a street and a historic park in order to have a completely modern school built in their place?

We have agreed without apparent discussion to demolish a recently designated Heritage Building? Is it that easy?

The demolition and re-building of a school means interruption of an elementary program in that location of at least three years.

Some students will have progressed to high school. Young ones will start their school experience elsewhere. Populations shift. Passions fade. Elections will have been held.

What kind of logic went into the recommendation ? None at all that I can see. But there. there , why should that surprise anyone?

Saturday 14 March 2009

I don't think so

The computer age will make a huge difference. Politicians will no longer be able to mislead people with inaccurate statements. Fact-checking will be readily available. Eric Schmidt, C.E.O. of Google, was talking to Charlie Rose in the second week of March when he made the comment.

Charlie had been in the Silicone Valley all week interviewing personalities in the World Wide Web industry. Mr. Schmidt spoke of his his three year old grandson. He said by the time he is eighteen, there will be so much information available on the web, it would take him until he is eighty-five to read all of it.

I thought, just how much and what kind of information will interest his grandson when he is eighteen, or any age. Will he be any different to to-day's eighteen year old?

Communities comprise a vast and wonderful variety of individuals. Some are interested in public affairs. They want to think about what they hear and read and decide for themselves what's relevant and what's not. They enjoy a good argument about thoughts and ideas. It stimulates their minds. .

Others don't. They want to believe everything is the way it ought to be. They have no wish to be disturbed. They want to mind their own business and get on with their lives. They don't think they can make a difference so they don't want the cage bars rattled and they especially dislike the rattlers..

Still others become furious when their own ideas are challenged. They respond with name-calling and hurling abuse at the offenders. They don't much care about facts. They are not inclined to check them out. They likely will not choose to accept facts if placed before them, let alone seek them out for themselves.

Mr. Schmidt, CEO of Google, undoubtedly knows a great deal about how the World Wide Web will evolve in fifteen years. It will disseminate information. It's been doing that for a while.

But people won’t change. They will still be an endless variety. Who knows the future impact of the web? I suspect things will continue as they always have. The pendulum will swing this way and that. The horrible determination of an insane leader like Adolf Hitler, or the instinct of a British Bulldog like Winston Churchill will be there when needed to pull us back from the brink.

An invention capable of instantly destroying the planet will continue to give us pause but Leaders will continue to send our sons, smooth-cheeked boys, barely out of childhood, to harsh lands and cultures we know little about, to kill and be killed.

Broken-hearted parents will continue to choke out through their tears. "That's what he always wanted to do" and find sense and solace in those words. The ones who survive will be haunted for the rest of their lives by experiences too terrible to talk about.

Leaders will continue to wax on eloquently about Courage and Glory and Commend their Sacrifice. The rest of us will simply hang our heads in hopeless submission and silent grief.

The World Wide Web will make a difference. .. but not so much maybe.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Agenda Item Number 7

There were thirty on the Agenda of Tuesday's General Committee Meeting of Council. Item 7 was in response to a request from Councillor McEachern, stemming from a line item on the Parks Division of the Leisure Services Budget. On one evening, four hours were spent on that budget and still it was not completed. .

Item 7 on Tuesday, was a report that went from Page 108 to 124, complete with pictures.

The capital budget item in contention was $60k for benches, picnic tables and garbage receptacles. Councillor Wilson was convinced the cost was excessive.

We were advised the items were built in house by parks staff. The Councillor was certain the same items could be purchased at far less expense.

It was explained parks furniture was not something that could be purchased in a hardware store. Neither could they be be acquired from a supplier at a price competitive with the cost of building them to the standard needed to meet requirements in the town's own workshop. They need to be sturdy and not easy to shift.

No matter. The yammering rambled round and round and back and forth and finally Councillor MacEachern directed staff to provide Council with a detailed report outlining comparative prices.

Item 7 on Tuesday's Agenda was the result of that direction.

Three suppliers of items most similar to those required had been contacted.

Prices were listed and photographs of the product were provided as follows: $79,975. $90,650. $88,200. Taxes and shipping costs were not included and would be added later.

Town cost, with material and labour was $52,920. No taxes or shipping costs needed to be added .

On Tuesday, as is the norm, the chair asked for items to be called for discussion. Item 7, the report responding to the request for comparative costs was NOT called by Councillor MacEachern who initially directed it be provided.

It was sixteen pages long. Staff expended time obtaining submissions from suppliers and compiling them, with pictures, to explain to Councillors, how parks furniture can be constructed by town labour in a town workshop at less cost than the same product can be purchased from manufacturers, who are in business to make a profit and must charge sales and service tax and shipping costs to complete the deal.

The report slipped through without comment or question. As if it wasn't there. Like it had never been requested. Like staff advice had never been challenged. Like there had not been endless, tortuous, tedious, uninformed and erroneous argument about how it was not possible for that amount of parks furniture to cost that much money and how Councillors were so confident the same objective could be achieved at far less expense that the Parks Manager was required to do the research and submit to them in writing that he knew whereof he spoke or that they did not.

With ignorance matched only by arrogance, further town resources were expended in yet another useless exercise of compiling and writing still another report to take up space in the archives and be forever and a day conveniently forgotten and ignored.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Penny Wise Pound Foolish

A letter appeared taking the Town of Newmarket to task for having no evening recreation programs for children. The Town of Aurora on the other hand was commended by the Newmarket mother for the variety of programs offered here..

During Leisure Services budget discussions staff are cross-examined like culprits on the practice of hiring of part-time staff and incurring overtime costs. Explanations keep being repeated but the same questions are asked year after year.

When the above referenced letter was brought to Council's attention, I thought it would be an opportunity to establish the advantages of using part-time staff in preference to full-time for leisure programs. .

Children's programs historically have a high registration, especially pre-school. Additional program times have to be created to take care of the wait listed applicants.They are run by part-time staff and the high return rate of registrants attest to their hard work and popularity of the programs.

They are offered in many different locations; town facilities, schools and community businesses.
Space is increasingly becoming an issue with increased demand for more and new initiatives. But the part-time staff make it work.

When programs are planned, analysis forms are used to determine what the fees must be to
break even . No programs are run unless they break even or make a profit for the department.
Leisure Services 2008 came in at $340 thousand under budget.

In 2009, increased part-time and seasonal staff for parks are being dis-allowed.

There are increased parks and sports fields. They take care of boulevards and round abouts. Street trees and woodlots. The War memorial is their responsibility. They help out the Regional Food Network, The Arboretum. They shoulder the whole burden for Sheppard's Bush and many other places too numerous to list

Seasonal employees come with a variety of skills. Beautification projects are completed at minimal cost because of employee versatility. Full-time employees cost the town an additional thirty-per-cent over salary for benefits.Seasonal employees have no benefits.

Parks Manager, Jim Tree has been with the Town of Aurora since he and Norm Weller were the parks department. Street trees ( urban forest) maintenance and planting are his responsibility. During winter, his staff build park benches picnic tables and garbage holders.They operate a paint shop. They build nothing without checking out first what a comparable item would cost to buy.

We keep adding wood lots to our inventory. We haven't done wood lot management since we have had them but we keep hoping to get the staff to allow that to happen. Trails are also Parks' department responsibility.

Jim Tree hires students during school vacations and six month seasonal employees. He has requested several extra this year . He did an organisational study to precisely determine the man hours needed to perform the work required. Even with his budget request , he would still be undermanned. His recommendations were rejected.

We have a $712 thousand budget for Church Street School. We have an " environmental initiatives" engineer in the town works department. We will grant $10.thousand "patronage" to vendors in the Farmer's Market, We will give the Historical Society $50.thousand to hire a curator for a house that's only open by appointment in the tourist season.

We have increased revenue from growth in assessment , revenue from user fees of sport fields and other park facilities.

There will be an increase in taxes but we will not be investing what's needed to maintain our parks and public spaces to a proper standard during the months when Aurora families enjoy them the most. And they do use them

The Scrupulosity of an Amateur

I heard that phrase years ago from the altar at a Sunday Mass. The sermon is a blank. It was undoubtedly a warning about the dangers of thinking. It's a fabulous put-down. I was never deterred. In the public's business however, I form conclusions only after every question I can think of has been answered.

In the matter of preventive maintenance of the roof supports at the Community Centre, we know the Mayor ordered the CAO and other staff to advance upon the centre, establish conditions of the girders and place a written memo on the agenda of the next council meeting.

The CAO has done that. His memo states "there is absolutely no indication that the rust presents a critical life safety issue with this ceiling structure".

No-one suggested it did.

Management Team recommended $30.thousand in the budget to paint the girders as preventive maintenance.The item was subsequently deleted by council. I moved it be restored. The Mayor went berserk at this blatant challenge to her authority. The outcome was a memo from the Chief Administrative Officer which supported the Mayor's false contention that my contention that the community centre roof was in danger of collapse was not accurate.

Quite the process. Ethics come to mind; misuse of town resources is a phrase from the Code. The merits of dragging staff into a political debate is hardly worth noting but there it is. Leaving that to the side........for the moment...let us take up the merits of painting the girders to keep them in good condition.

The Leisure Services Budget was ready for presentation on September 16th 2008. Rust must have been visible prior to that date for the recommendation to have been made. It is now March 2009. At least half a year of rusting has gone by. According to current recommendations of staff the project can be deferred until the 2010 budget. By then two years or more will have passed since rust first became visible and before a contract can be awarded.

The CAO's memo states the situation will be monitored. Presumably, if conditions call for painting, $30.thousand will be found. It will not have been a figure in the budget. Why not? Will the estimate still hold in 2010? Or will the condition call for something more than painting?

When senior staff (four)went to the Community Centre at the Mayor's command, to determine if the roof was falling in, how exactly did they accomplish their task.? The memo doesn't say .Did they stand on the ice and gaze at girders? Did they climb on the railing behind the seats to get a closer look? Did they know what they were seeing? Unless I am mistaken,the Chief Administrative Officer of Aurora knows no more than I would, if "surface" rust had advanced to be a sufficient cause for concern. Why was he ordered to be there? Why did he go? Why was the advice of the Manager of Buildings not sufficient ? What's the game ?

Here's what we know; $30.thousand for preventive maintenance for an arena roof has been deleted from the budget by council. $108.thousand has been included to fix up a rotting structure that nobody needs and few care about.

I guess if enough clamour is made about a roof that's not falling in, taxpayers might not notice $108.thousand being allocated to a useless structure with a roof that caved- in years ago.All that's needed to keep the natives from thinking is to baffle them with bull shit.

I don't think so!

Thursday 5 March 2009

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble

Tuesday would have been a good night for the Integrity Commissioner to attend a council meeting. At the end of our education workshop in the previous week, Mr. Fitkin asked for comments in response to his presentation.

I thought perhaps he had not understood that Councillors have authority to exercise independent judgement. He responded with one word "collegiality". I assured him no such thing exists in Aurora Council.

On Tuesday after almost four hours of tortuous talk, I left the budget meeting when the Mayor had one of her episodes. She spontaneously erupts and rewrites the script to suit lines she has written for herself. From that point on, she is a one-woman production.

An earlier edition of the budget had included a figure of $30,000 to paint the ceiling of the Community Centre. Councillor Gaertner commented the rust was only on the surface - could painting not wait until next year?

Buildings Manager, Aaron Karmazyn answered yes it could but surface rust becomes penetrating rust. I understood from his answer, it's better to paint before rust penetrates.

On Tuesday night, we were looking at figures that eliminated a number of items, including painting the community centre ceiling. Given the opportunity, I moved the item be restored to the budget. I had some comments to bolster my arguments. It's what you do as a councillor. Councillor Wilson was highly amused. and laughed aloud.

The Mayor promptly took off on a trajectory of her own.She is the presiding member. There's no-one to call her to order. She ordered the Chief Building Official to advise on the condition of the ceiling. Ms. Van Leeuwen said she did not know and would defer to the Director of Leisure Services. He wasn't there. Nor was Mr. Karmazyn.

The Mayor contended I had claimed the Community Centre roof was in danger of collapsing and conditions were hazardous. At that point I concluded no rational discussion was possible. I left.

On Wednesday, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Building Official and Buildings Manager received orders from the Mayor to advance upon the community centre, inspect the ceiling forthwith and report back immediately to herself.

They did. Guess what? They found surface rust on the girders and the sprinkler pipes. Painting could wait until next year but they would continue to monitor the situation throughout the year.

The Mayor further ordered a Memo to that effect be included in next week's council agenda so that the public would be assured, there is absolutely no danger of the community centre's roof falling in.

The Mayor's communication to staff, cited my last Blog. It was reasonable to expect my argument to provide $30.thousand to contain rust on steel girders supporting the roof of the community centre would draw a reference to $108,000 dollars provided to restore a rotting, mouldering, crumbling old shack with no historical significance which has been sitting at the side of Leslie Street, steadily deteriorating, for five years because no one has a use for it.

I conclude the Mayor has a vested interest in not allowing the comparison be drawn in a public meeting.

I've been reading bits and pieces of Toronto's Code of Ethics. Compliance with the Procedure Bylaw and the Conflict of Interest Act are central to their Code.

Toronto and Vaughan and Aurora are the only municipalities with adopted Codes. Mr. Fitkin informed us one of them is a total failure. I don't have great hopes for ours either.

Mayor Morris and Councillor MacEachern didn't attend the educational workshop.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Go Figure

The Community Centre has a roof span equal to the ice surface plus a bank of seven rows of seats on all sides. The roof is arched. Under the foil- baffle-like material, there's a beautiful redwood ceiling. It had to be covered in a retrofit some years ago.

An arena environment is heavy with condensation. Ice is resurfaced with hot water several times during a game. Players sweat profusely. It drips off the ends of their noses and strands of their hair. It runs down the sides of their faces to drip off their chins. They shower in the arena. Gear is saturated when they finish a game. At home, it has to be spread everywhere to be dry enough for the next game. And Boy does it stink.

Spectators contribute moisture. There are seats for eight hundred. They wrap up warm against the cold and breathe into the atmosphere. Sometimes they get boisterous and shout and yell and pound the air with their fists.

In summer, there is no more moist air than inside an arena. Doors open do nothing to relieve the humidity.

At the ceiling, the steel girders supporting the roof of the Aurora Community Centre are showing signs of rust. Staff have recommended painting . They agree painting could be put off for a year. But surface rust becomes penetrating rust and then girders have to be replaced.

Arena roof collapses are not unusual in Ontario. The problem is common enough for there to be a government inspection program.

In the budget, thirty thousand dollars has been recommended to paint the girders holding up the roof of the Community Centre. At this point, it has been deleted.

Also in the budget, we have one hundred and eight thousand dollars to restore a rotting, mouldering. crumbling old shack of no historical significance, with a caved- in roof, which has been sitting at the side of a road for five years because nobody has a use for it.

But we cannot afford thirty thousand dollars to keep the steel girders supporting the roof of the Community Centre in good repair.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Fences in Fields

A few issues have jumped out at people during the budget deliberations. One was the proposed new baseball field, another an additional librarian and third, the matter of a fence in a park. Once it was established the high cost of the baseball field was the result of specific direction, on a resolution by Councillors MacEachern and Granger, the scramble was on to calm public indignation and garner support for a new field at less cost

Council received a letter from Ron Weese, beneficiary of the Soccer Bubble, the artificial turf and head of the Sport Council formed immediately before and for the purpose of the election. The Sports Council supports the new baseball facility.Two years late,I'd say.

The librarian needed to provide and maintain current level of service to a larger population has been hung out in cold, like a Victorian orphan and child of an unmarried mother. Two thirds of Aurorans use the library. They are obviously not organized to make themselves heard In a Town study a couple of years ago. it was determined the library was the most appreciated Town service.

The third item that caught public attention is relatively minor and likely to go by the board.

Fences in parks are not unusual. The Town Park has a fence around the baseball field.At one time a white picket fence surrounded the park. It was removed for the Horse Show and replaced after. One year we decided the park was nicer without it. The fence was left off and later, after the Horse Show transferred ,a chain link fence enclosed the ball diamond.

Lambert Wilson Park has a fence around sports field. Sheppard's Bush also has one around the artificial turf. In Confederation Park a soccer field, half on school property and half in the park is enclosed by a fence. The Separate School Board spent $110.thousand to construct the soccer field. They requested the fence to protect their investment. Council agreed.

During consideration the parks budget, fences in the park suddenly became a horrible idea to this council. Without further ado or explanation, the item was moved below the line. It's a monopoly-like game we play when we pore over budget figures.

In the eighties, the province crunched down on school board spending. In turn, Boards reduced outside facilities. They bought less land than they needed. Why not when they had easy access to town parks. Confederation, in my own neighborhood, is a shameful example of how a park has been whittled away to provide teachers' parking, school bus turn-arounds and sports fields with fences.

Generally school boards spend minimally on playgrounds and sports fields, none at all on maintenance and the result is a complete waste of money. Within a year, the fields are totally degraded

Day after day, pounding by students and teachers alike, who take over town sports fields without permits and without regard for weather and the abuse renders a town field representing a substantial town investment in construction and maintenance , as useless as the board's own.

Fences are a means of control, a solution to the problem and needed to protect the quality of the field and the financial investment of the municipality.

On August 12th, 2008 ,Council approved construction of a soccer field in Norm Weller Park which included perimeter fencing. Construction of the soccer field is underway. Cost of that fence grabbed council's attention during budget discussion. Mayor Morris has referred to “fences to save parks from the public ” thereby confirming the public erroneous impression the plan is to fence off the parks so the public can't use them. How ridiculous is that? The item has been deleted or “moved below the line”. At this point in the game, I am no longer sure which.