Municipalities asked to consider proposal to work together to reduce costs for services

MINDEMOYA – The majority of municipal representatives of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) are in support of at least considering having engineering services, or other operations of a municipality, carried out on an Island-wide basis.

“Working together would be good,” said Kevin Woestenenk, a Gore Bay councillor during the MMA meeting last week. He noted that by working together when hiring for engineering study services “we could bring costs down.” 

“It doesn’t have to be for engineering; we can look at going together on all aspects of running municipalities,” said Mr. Woestenenk. “As we all know, costs for everything are going through the roof. I think we all have to work better. I can see changes coming and we need to change with them.” 

“We could do this collaboratively and look at what we are paying in terms of costs of engineering studies and other operations,” said Richard Stephens, mayor of the Municipality of Central Manitoulin.

“Does any municipality have an engineer on staff?” asked Ian Anderson, mayor of Billings Township. 

Mayor Stephens said in the case of Central Manitoulin, as is the case for all municipalities, they hire an engineer when one is required. 

“We do work collaboratively with other municipalities on certain things, but I don’t think we should be looking at the MMA to do this,” said Al MacNevin, mayor of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands. He wondered how the work would be allocated if each municipality were to put funds towards hiring engineering services and which projects would be carried out first. 

It was pointed out by MMA Chair Ken Noland that the MMA does not have a legal structure in place to take this on.

“If we had an engineer for all the Island municipalities, how would this be paid. By assessment, or would we all pay the same?” asked Mayor MacNevin.  

Mr. Woestenenk noted, “I think if an engineer spent, say, three months working in one municipality, they would pay more.” 

Mr. MacNevin said, “the problem is how would this all be negotiated and who pays for what? The only way savings could be found is by a pay-for-project basis; the MMA is not set up for that and our municipality would not want to designate what we are spending on another entity.” He noted in the case of a chief building official, NEMI works with Assiginack and Tehkummah on this, and they work out the costs to each municipality.

“Even if we could work with certain townships to partner with them on these type of costs it would be a benefit,” said Mr. Woestenenk.

Mayor Anderson said Billings works with three other Western Manitoulin municipalities on a chief building official and uses weighted costs, to determine each municipality’s share.

“Its done by negotiation, but it’s not like a body like the MMA that makes this happen,” said Mayor MacNevin. 

The suggestion by Mr. Woestenenk, “is something that we can all take back to our municipalities. If we all say ‘yes’ then we could put a group together, look at numbers and what this could look like,” added Reeve Noland.