Letter to the editor – parks and recreation

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Dear Editor,

I am responding to Mr. Wright’s letter from the October 2 issue of the NG Times. In his first paragraph, he summarizes my letter of September 18 with the following phrase: “don’t spend money on anything, especially if it’s for the common good, unless it specifically benefits me.” I would like to respond, first, with a direct quote from my letter, as follows: “I think it’s good for a community to have some parks and recreation facilities, as long as they are well used, cost effective, don’t compete with private sector providers, and don’t place an excessive burden on property taxpayers.” Did Mr. Wright miss that line?

I also find it interesting that his letter makes no attempt to address how to fund all the improvements that he seeks for this community, that includes a splash pad (about $430,000), groomed trails for skiing (I have no estimate of this, but maybe he could talk to the ski doo club), an indoor pool ($10-12,000,000), and a decent tarmac road (tar and chip costs about $50,000 per km, plus the cost of upgrading the base and ditching).

If Mr. Wright would like to “guide council”, maybe he should attend some Committee of the Whole budget meetings and make some comments on how to address funding for the things he wants in the community, balanced against the limits to funding, taxation, and the tax burden on his community, many of whom are struggling with their property tax bills, especially young families with children, older workers, and retirees who do not have a generous government or other defined benefit pension.

Yes, I made some comparisons to the parks and recreation facilities in Ottawa to show that this community is not so deprived. Here’s some more comparisons of amounts spent on parks and recreation by various municipalities as a percentage of their respective operating budgets:

  1. Merrickville spends 3%;
  2. Ottawa spends 7%;
  3. North Dundas spends 17% (which is 50% of the amount spent on public works);
  4. North Grenville spends 22% (which is 80% of the amount spent on public works).

One of the reasons we pay high property taxes, and still have 130km of unsurfaced gravel roads in this municipality that Mr. Wright would like to cover in tarmac, is that too much money ($millions) is going to parks and recreation. There are also huge new costs to pay for an expanding bureaucracy at the Municipal Centre, as a result of downloads from the province, with virtually no push back on this from our council and administration. Provincial downloads are a stealthy, sneaky, and disingenuous way to put provincial responsibilities onto the shoulders of property taxpayers.

Stephen Hammond

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