Debate continues to surround NEMI call for Planning Board reserves

GORE BAY—The Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) has deferred making a final decision on a request from the town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) for a portion of funds from the board’s reserves until a full board can be part of the decision. However, the issue was discussed at length at a meeting last week.

“I got the feeling at our last meeting that the board wanted to do something as a matter of goodwill,  but I don’t think we should provide 33 percent of our (MPB) reserves that they (NEMI) are looking for. I don’t think this is justified,” stated MPB member Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens, at a meeting last week.

“I had hoped that they (NEMI) would be more reasonable,” stated Lyle Addison. “But they haven’t been reasonable and in the last statement in a letter we received from Dave Williamson of NEMI, he said ‘you (MPB) claim that you need an operating reserve of one-sixth of your annual budget ($28,692); you could easily refund 33 percent of the current reserve to NEMI and still retain sufficient funds to meet this obligation.’ I don’t think they are entitled to this.”

Previously, the MPB had indicated to the Town of NEMI that in the past the Town has provided 17 percent of the MPB budget.

“Nothing changes in my mind, they do not deserve 33 percent of the reserves,” said Mr. Addison. “And I can tell you I’m kind of worried that Richard Stephens and his municipality (Central Manitoulin) will be the next to drop out of the planning board after reading about NEMI indicating they have saved $20,000 or more in their budget by opting out of the planning board. Because of their dropping out it has cost the rest of us more. If we end up with more municipalities dropping out it means the rest of us have to pay more.” However, he also noted that NEMI has had to hire at least one part-time employee for their own planning operations and that they have not included the costs of GIS mapping that needs to be carried out.

“I don’t think there is a lot more to discuss,” said Mayor Stephens. “Should we pass a goodwill motion to provide, say, $5,000, $10,000, $15,000. I don’t like the idea of playing with percentages, because it doesn’t reflect the overall situation. Do we give them a handout to get them started (on their own planning), which would reflect goodwill on behalf of both parties? I’d be prepared to live with that.”

“I am staying with the comments I have made in the past,” said Lee Hayden. “NEMI withdrew from the planning board, and that has caused changes and costs for the rest of us. While the adjustments continue, we should keep all of the reserves within the board.”

“They (NEMI) left the board at their own choosing. This will be an additional financial strain on us. I think we should be keep all of the reserves. We are going to need them,” said Dan Osborne.

“There are only five municipalities represented here tonight,” Mr. Addison pointed out. “I think we should postpone a final vote on the reserves until our next meeting when we have a full board on hand. If we vote tonight they (NEMI) will say the board held a meeting and the 4-5 municipalities on the West End didn’t want to give them anything. We should postpone the final decision until we have a full board complement.”

“I agree,” said Mr. Hayden.

“I can live with that,” said board chair Ken Noland. He added, “this issue has been taking up hours of our time and it is not warranted.”

No motion was passed by the MPB, which will wait until the next meeting to make a final decision on the issue.