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In transition

Mayor Vic’s new way of doing business paid a big dividend last week when he found a way to provide free bus passes for a year to veterans of WWII and the Korean War.
Mayor Vic’s new way of doing business paid a big dividend last week when he found a way to provide free bus passes for a year to veterans of WWII and the Korean War. What appeared at the outset to be such a costly proposition – in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – was whittled down to zero dollars for the city taxpayers. The veterans seemed happy with the result and Ontera got some great press.

On closer examination though, one has to wonder what this is really costing the city. If we can discount the passes down from $600 to $60, are we subsidizing the 50 or 60 veterans to the tune of some $27,000? That is, if the real cost of providing a senior bus pass is close to $600. Some staffer at City Hall must have figured out that the number of trips these senior veterans will take is minimal. And it is not as if the buses are crowded and the driver would have to leave other riders at the curb side.

It’s too bad somebody didn’t come up with this reduced price a month ago and saved the vets a lot of anxiety. Nonetheless, it was a great idea and as an Ontera customer, it was good for me because this smaller drain on the profits will not likely affect my rates.

The idea of the GAP officer being able to help groups access funds certainly downloads or uploads costs that might have been the City’s responsibility. It should be made clear to the taxpayers just what the City considers within its mandate. Obviously veteran’s bus passes is not.

To what extent will the City fund recreation? There must be a percentage of the tax levy that goes to support leisure activities – the trick will be to determine who gets it. It appears that the downhill sliders will get $150,000. Those numerous citizens who schlep around the flat trails may not get nearly as much.

Recreational swimmers get some funds to keep them afloat but those who are really serious about speeding from one end of the pool to the other may have to apply to the West Nipissing GAP officer for help. Those athletes who kick and chase little balls around the muddy fields may get some assistance but the aged gaffers whose leisure activity is smacking a golf ball are on their own.

Perhaps the City should apply their Events funding formula to the recreation budget. Take the number of participants, weighted by age, the number of events / days of operation, the cost of the facility less any ‘tourism’ revenue and you would have a budget factor. It would be easy to justify the $150,000 for skiers compared to the amount soccer players get.

The new way of doing business is also paying off for those who hope to bring attractions to the city. These events not only entertain the citizens but put some needed shekels into the pockets of local businesses. Some citizens may not concur with the Mayor when he encourages fishing contests on our lakes. Although those fish are usually returned alive to the lake, they do have a sore mouth from the hooks. I used to rationalize the hook injuries as teaching the fish not to bite things that were attached to lines, but I doubt the fish ever bought that. I know my wife didn’t.

Most of us think that the Heritage Festival is also entering a stage of transition. Mayor Vic’s idea of going out to the business community for more funding for the festival may be met with looks of incredulity. Without the support of Grant Forest Products, an out-of-city company, the Airshow would have crash landed a long time ago. With declining numbers, other sponsors may find more attractive places to place their advertising dollars.

It will be interesting to see the amount that council will have to subsidize for the past festival in comparison to the $150,000 for Jack Pine Hill – a business owned by the Conservation Authority. If we are to believe that the Festival had financial spin-offs of several millions of dollars, as well as providing a summer weekend of fun, how will council measure the financial returns for the ski hill? It will be hard to compare the financial benefit from a few hundred out-to-town skiers with the thousands who come to the festival each year.

But a subtle transition I saw in council last week was Mayor Vic getting a shot at George when he suggested that George should be able to find a sponsor for bus passes for our student interns – perhaps from a local Arts supplier on Main Street. It is, the Mayor reminded him, the new way of doing business at City Hall.

The problem is, and it is not unique to George, is that he already gives to the community. What happens if sponsors divert support from one good cause to another? Is there any net gain in bringing a fishing show to town if sponsor’s money is diverted from, say the Health Centre to a TV show? I suppose that is up to the sponsor, just as it is to me – which charity do I support this year?

Until now, it has been George firing shots across the mayor’s bow by suggesting that the Mayor may have been out of order or not following procedure on some issues, or giving second thought to back-room decisions. Keep your powder dry, George.



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Bill Walton

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