By Jenn Watt
Published Feb. 6, 2018
It seems like council’s been considering a transportation system forever. Much like the pool discussion, it returns again and again to the table for debate.
This is for good reason; running a bus in Haliburton County is an expensive endeavour. Highly unlikely to ever pay for itself, even with grant funding, it would be tens of thousands a year from the public coffers.
You need to be careful when deciding to spend that kind of money.
For the first time in recent history, county council seems poised to follow through with the idea.
The rural transportation options group has spent years studying the issue and recently presented two of the more feasible solutions to council, which in turn decided to spend $50,000 to create an implementation plan.
That seemed promising.
However, several local transportation supporters did not think it was enough. They argued the issue has been studied to death. Funding from the Ministry of Transportation could go a long way to creating a system with $500,000 over five years, but council would need to apply by the end of February.
On the face of it, this sounds like an ideal solution. Just as council was ready to pull the switch on transportation, there’s a half a million available to pay part of it.
But there are caveats. The money is only available with a five-year commitment. Should the transit system turn out to be a logistical or financial failure, the county would have to continue on anyway for five years (or potentially return the money). Also, this council, with less than a year left in its term, would be committing the next two councils to the plan.
In the end, they chose to continue with their initial decision and spend $50,000 on an implementation plan.
As frustrating as this is for transit advocates, this plan could end up being a good one. As long as the implementation plan is complete by say, September, it can be used to gauge candidate support for a transit system and no one can say they were roped into the decision.
We’ve seen disasters in the past where one council commits to a costly project only to have the next council elected tear it all down, even when it means additional cost to the taxpayers.
With a completed plan in hand at all-candidates’ meetings, members of the public can ask a simple yes or no question to councillors-to-be. Will you implement this plan?
As with the pool debate in the last election, there is strong public support for transportation, but unlike the pool debate, there would be a plan that candidates could easily give an opinion on.
And when they take their seat on council, the winners will be ready to move forward with whichever option they supported.