While the province’s regional governance review fizzled out, the County of Simcoe is still looking at ways to find savings.
On Tuesday, county council took the next step in the process by voting to hire third-party consultants to look into streamlining fire services, land-use planning (Official Plans and zoning) and library services across the County of Simcoe.
The county will also be using their own staff to investigate possible efficiencies in storm-water management, legal services, transit, water and wastewater.
“The intent of this is to look at every angle and every opportunity and, at the end of the day, several of these items may come forward with a ‘Made in Simcoe County’ solution. We’re looking for solutions,” said Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi, who serves as the chair of the county’s Service Delivery Task Force.
The recommendations came out of the task force, which was formed initially to come up with service efficiency suggestions for the regional governance review through the province, but has continued their work since the province announced in October it would put the decision making back into the hands of the municipalities instead of forcing top-down change.
Members of the task force include Bifolchi, Springwater Deputy Mayor Jennifer Coughlin, Severn Township Deputy Mayor Jane Dunlop, Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc and Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson as well as some county staff.
Costs for the undertaking will come out of the Municipal Modernization and Efficiencies funding offered by the Ontario government.
In March of last year, the province announced the funding amounts to be provided to each municipality in Simcoe County for finding efficiencies, with the county being granted $725,000.
Warden George Cornell said this week about $100,000 of that funding has been used so far with the rest currently earning interest, but earmarked to pay for this endeavour.
The final cost of the third-party consultants will be determined once they have been retained.
The County of Simcoe will also be looking at future provincial grant opportunities to help fund the review.
Part of the motion also included a request to Minister of Environment and Conservation Jeff Yurek, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, to advise the county as to the province's intent, scope and timeline of their review relating to the services delivered by conservation authorities.
Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin took issue with the wording of the conservation authorities item, saying she thought it implied all residents and all council have concerns.
“I don’t know where I would have been without (the conservation authorities) this past weekend,” said Dollin. “They managed to get some great disaster mitigation funding for us that I don’t know we could have got ourselves to deal with these chronic flooding issues.”
“While I respect there are members of this house who have had great concerns with the conservation authorities, I don’t want to pre-determine anything by putting that heading on the motion,” she added.
Bifolchi responded that the motion was intended to look for clarification.
“We want to make sure we’re not missing any piece of it,” she said.
The motion to amend was defeated.
County staff are now tasked with putting a Request for Proposals out to tender for the consultants.
The county's CAO, Mark Aitken, said a goal of having reports back by the end of 2020 would be ambitious.
“There are a lot of consultations that have to take place with all municipalities,” he said. “It might take some time but I think it’s a good goal.”