Two Montague residents are spearheading a petition to stop the municipality from moving forward with a recreation feasibility study. At the Committee of the Whole meeting on August 4, Montague Council passed a motion to move ahead with hiring Mehak, Kelly and Associates to undertake a recreation feasibility study for the municipality, at a cost of $29,100. According to the staff report, the study would include identifying market needs through engaging with stakeholders, residents, and surrounding municipalities, and completing a financial analysis for a potential recreational facility to be located on the township’s 22 vacant acres.
The motion was passed through a recorded vote, with Councillor Karen Jennings and Councillor Ian Streight voting against moving ahead with the study. Councillor Jennings feels that, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic, they should be spending money on things like much needed repairs on their municipal buildings. “I just don’t think this is the time to be doing it,” she said.
Councillor Jeff Carroll is vehemently in favour of the project, because he feels like it is an investment in the growth of the community. “I think this is a great opportunity for us,” he said. “It opens up the spectrum to see how we can better the lives of the people in our township and our surrounding area.”
Montague Reeve, Bill Dobson, also voted in favour of completing the study. He hopes it will look at more than just the feasibility of an indoor facility, and help paint a picture of all assets and recreational possibilities available in the municipality and the wider community. According to Reeve Dobson, the study will also help them plan for the future, as Montague continues to grow, and to be prepared to apply for grants that may become available for recreation in the future. “I take this very seriously, and I think we are doing the right thing,” he says. “If they do the things I want them to do, I think we are going to have a lot of great information.”
Montague resident, Bev Toivonen, says she agrees with Councillor Jennings, that this is not the time to be spending almost $30,000 on a recreation feasibility study. She would much rather see the money spent on the upkeep of some of the municipal buildings that are falling into disrepair. “We need to be thinking about what is essential during these times,” she says.
Bev is also concerned that spending this money will cause further pressures on an already stressed tax base. She says there are many seniors in the municipality who are having trouble paying their taxes as it is. “If you are spending money on things that are frivolous, then we’re going to need a tax increase,” she says. “We’ve got to be realistic. We only have 2,000 taxpayers here with residential and commercial.”
Reeve Dobson says he has been in touch with the local seniors association throughout the pandemic, and their president has not noted any particular financial stresses within their group. He also says that their treasurer has reported that tax arrears are not any higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “My personal opinion is that people who are against spending money on a study will always be against it,” he says.
Bev feels that council should not have made this decision during a time where council is meeting over Zoom, making it difficult for residents without internet to access the meeting. “Why would they go ahead and do this when a lot of residents can’t have their say?” she asks. “I don’t want council to get away with it because we are in a pandemic.”
Bev and another resident, Norma Ford, have put together a petition to have council’s decision to move ahead with the study reversed. As of last week, it already had 163 signatures. They hope to present the petition to council at the next meeting on September 1. To sign the petition go to www.change.org and search for Montague Township Council, or contact Bev at 613-269-3386.