Two Montague residents presented a petition with 248 signatures to Montague council at the meeting of September 1, asking them to reconsider their decision to engage in a recreation feasibility study for the Municipality.

Over the past few weeks, Bev Toivonen and Norma Ford have been collecting signatures, both online and in person, to get council to reverse their decision to spend $29,100 on the study. They believe that the study should not be a priority for the Municipality and that this money would be better spent on the upkeep of their current municipal facilities. Bev reminded Council during the meeting that during the Municipality’s strategic planning exercise two years ago, residents indicated that they did not have any interest in more recreational facilities. “I respectfully wonder why this council is even suggesting looking into a recreation feasibility study when it is clear from your own survey that recreation is not a priority for the tax-payers of Montague Township,” she said.

Bev outlined their other reasons for asking council to reverse their decision, which included the fact that the Montague Recreation Committee was not consulted or asked for input about the study, that the Municipality only has 2,000 taxpayers and an already high tax rate, that the motion should not have been passed during a pandemic when many people are not aware of council decisions, and that they feel the Township should be spending more on essential items not “frivolous wants and extras.”

“On behalf of these 248 signatures, we respectfully ask that council reverse the decision made at the last committee of the whole meeting and vote nay for the expenditure of obtaining a recreation feasibility study,” Norma said at the end of their presentation.

Bev and Norma’s presentation sparked some conversation around the council table. Councillor Karen Jennings was against the feasibility study, for many of the same reasons outlined in the delegation. She believes that is it not the right time to be spending this money on the study when they already have a lot on their plate when it comes to the upkeep of their current municipal buildings. For example, she said the money might be better spent on putting a new septic system in at Rosedale Hall. “I just think it’s not the right time to be spending the money,” she said.  

Councillor Jeff Carroll believes that it is unfortunate that there is so much negativity around an initiative that will ultimately benefit the community. He says that many residents are looking for what amenities the Municipality can provide for their tax dollars. “It’s a positive thing for us to do for our residents,” he said. “We’re trying to find ways to make this an even better place to live.” Deputy Reeve Klaas Van Der Meer said that the study might also help them attract builders to the Municipality, as it will give them an idea of what kinds of recreational amenities might be available in community in the future. He also mentioned that he was concerned that there had been no verification to ensure that all the people who signed the petition were residents of Montague Township.

Reeve Bill Dobson said that he is in favour of the study because he is looking at the big picture of recreation in the Municipality, not just the option of building a new recreation facility. He says he hopes the study will look at what they can do with the many acres of empty land that the Municipality owns, consult with community stakeholders like school boards and local recreational organizations, consider a broad range of recreational opportunities for seniors, and look at how they can capitalize on Rosedale Hall. “I’m trying to look at this from a broad range of possibilities,” he said.

Councillor Ian Streight asked for a recorded vote when it came down to adopting the minutes of the committee of the whole meeting, ratifying their decision to move ahead with the recreation feasibility study. In the end, the motion was passed with Councillor Streight and Councillor Jennings voting against moving forward with the study, and Reeve Dobson, Deputy Reeve Van Der Meer and Councillor Carroll voting to move ahead with it. “We are very disappointed that three councillors chose to ignore 248 residents and taxpayers of Montague Township and go ahead and spend $29,100 on a frivolous study,” Bev wrote in an email. “We feel disrespected by those three Councillors and will be watching, documenting, and questioning every wasteful expenditure to be ready for the next election!”

Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times