The topic du jour was the future of the Seagrave Park. specifically, the now-defunct committee who took care of the property - until a lack of funding and a restriction of their duties forced the volunteers to hang up their hats.
Even though I make the greatest effort to stay unbiased - watching the meeting upset me quite a bit. I can’t imagine how the residents who built the park with their own hands and wallets must feel. Sadly, volunteer and community groups being under-staffed, under-funded, or outright shut down is a story I have heard far too often lately.
I’m gracious that the powers-that-be have granted me this page to be as opinionated as I wish - and my opinion is that people are worth more than pennies.
Since I have been writing for The Standard, I have seen many community groups like the Port Perry Lions Club and sports leagues like the Scugog Hockey League beseech Council for a break on fees. The common denominator is that insurance rates are too high, and that these clubs have to pay most of their profit right back into permits, instead of boosting their communities.
The combined effects of ever-increasing insurance fees for public events, the hundreds of dollars it takes to rent a community hall, and increased taxes makes many residents feel as if they are suffocating in red-tape and bills. A fine thank you for throwing a fundraising dance or free community fun day. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
Fortunately for these community groups, budget season has struck in Scugog - and the new Council seems eager to please. The men and women who speak for their wards have stated that they strongly support community groups, and this reporter hopes it will become tangible.
It’s easy for Scugog’s current Council to shrug and say that these decisions were made by someone else. While that may be, I believe that taking no action is tantamount to approval, and a token of appreciation for Seagrave is a good move towards fixing a decades-long problem.
Some of these groups feel that they cannot count on their Township anymore, and must rely on private donations and revenue from their members. When thinking of a jilted ex-partner, the tale of the Terry Fox Walk springs to mind.
Since 1993, the Terry Fox Walk organization in Port Perry has raised $1,000,000 for cancer research - a goal that would not have been possible without the support of Scugog Township, and their event staging area being provided gratis. What else would a public park be used for, if not the Terry Fox Walk - many thought that was obvious.
Despite the not-for-profit charity receiving no funding, and doing the work on their own dime, the Township of the day decided to charge them a permit fee to gather in the park. Needless to say, this sparked protest, and almost spelled an end to Port Perry’s contributions to the national campaign.
Thankfully, the Port Perry Fair Board recognized the struggle of another community group and offered the Reach Street fairgrounds just in the nick of time. I believe that the current council will see that matter brought up again before their term is out.
I asked Mayor Rowett a few follow-up questions after the meeting in Seagrave. We spoke about lawsuits, permits and licenses becoming an increasingly large factor in many of the Township’s decisions.
Dismayed with the rising tide of bureaucracy, he sarcastically forecasted that putting liability costs on a podium would lead to banning the public from swimming in the lake or crossing the street, without express written permission, and a hired police officer on-scene. A funny joke, but also a sobering sign of the times.
It seems like the new council is joining the ranks of residents who are sick and tired of red-tape - good thing that they’re in the hot seat for cutting through it all.
Fact is, the majority of Ontario’s municipalities are under pressure from the downloading of fees, dwindling funds from the Province of Ontario, and the need to meet higher standards across the board.
Scugog and Uxbridge are not in the same position as the rest of Ontario’s municipalities - the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine legislation places limits on growth and expansion, and makes costly environmental studies necessary for even looking at a development the wrong way. Would this be considered the fault of the province failing their lower-tier governments?
I understand that times are tough all over - but Scugog pushing prices past their tipping point means fewer users, fewer charities, and fewer people to spend money.
The 2015 budget season holds a chance for council to either re-invest in the residents who call Scugog home, or else be left with one-hundred percent of nothing.