Kilbride services one of the troubling issues

By Pepper Parr
BURLINGTON, ON  February 16, 2011  –  Kilbride is one of those small rural communities that has a combination of “quaint” feeling and “rural run down” to it.  The hub would seem to be the community centre with the local United Church coming in a close second.  The most northerly community of Burlington, Kilbride is there, but doesn’t get a lot of attention.  That’s about to change.
Not everything in Kilbride is picturesque but it was all threatened.
Not everything in Kilbride is picturesque but it was all threatened.

The countryside is splendid and many of the homes are lovely.  It is certainly quiet, which is probably the way most people up there like it.  But the community is threatened in the short term by possible budget cuts that may impact on the community centre and a fire department that is seriously undermanned. Those problems aside, it is a sleep little community and they don’t need much time to tell you that that is the way they want it to stay, peaceful, quiet and no major roads running through this part of town if you don’t mind.

This community was on the front line of the fight against a highway ripping past the community and was ready to protest loudly. Turns out the other side faded away.
This community was on the front line of the fight against a highway ripping past the community and was ready to protest loudly. Turns out the other side faded away.

A road the province wanted to ram through that part of the city – in about 20 years –   galvanized the community and when the plans for the highway were stopped they thought they could be quiet again.  Changes in the next Burlington budget may have them marching down Cedar Springs Road and heading for City Hall with hay forks and battle axes over there shoulders.

The community is served by a rather large school, a fire station with a community police station that you reach at night by picking up a telephone outside the building.  This is a very low crime community – maybe a house break in from time to time and perhaps some road accidents. The equipment at the fire station is well maintained – it just isn’t very well manned.

Equipped but not fully manned.
Equipped but not fully manned.

The requirement is for 40 people to staff the place but there are just 19 and they are all volunteers.  Those parts of Burlington south of Dundas get what the fire department officials call 4×4, which is their code for four fireman at a location in four minutes – but  that doesn’t happen in Kilbride.  Poor fire service, and that doesn’t mean the fireman do a poor job – there just aren’t enough firemen to cover all the shifts.  is just one of their problems – the community centre is at about as much risk as any house that might catch fire.

Quaintly rural – with a canon to ward off the road surveyors?
Quaintly rural – with a canon to ward off the road surveyors?

As Burlington gets into the nitty gritty of its budget making for the next fiscal year it has to decide where it wants to cut, where it has to cut.   The city went through a four year period where the tax increases amounted to 28% during that four year period and the taxpayers got fed up.  Newly elected Mayor Rick Goldring told his constituents in his inaugural address that he would strive to keep the increase to 10% during his four year term but Ward 5 Council member Paul Sharman stunned both Council and city hall staff when he said tax increases could and would be held to 0%.  He said at the time that the political will was represented by council and that he wanted staff to come back with budget that had a 0% increase.

Picturesque and threatened.
Picturesque and threatened.

And that is what council will struggle with in the weeks ahead.  It will get noisy as city staff lays out the options and council members either stand up to their constituents or fold the way Rick Goldring did when he was council member for Ward 5 and his residents almost ran him out of the ward when he voted for having a soccer pitch for the Pan Am games in Sherwood Forest Park

Sharman is something new to this city council.  He is bold, a bit on the gruff side but can be amazingly gracious when he chooses.  But you never doubt where he is coming from.  He wants better value for the money we pay city hall staff  and he doesn’t want to pay them as much either.  He is proposing that there be no COLA – Cost of Living Allowance, which gives city hall staff an automatic pay increase – annually, based on the CPI, Consumer Price Index.

He is prepared to see merit pay given out but he doesn’t want to have council involved in that process. “We would just determine what the gross amount of the merit pay allocation would be and leave it to the city manager to determine who gets what – based on their performance.”  That didn’t appear to go down all that well with senior city hall staff and that policy isn’t a done deal yet.

What will Kilbride lose in terms of services?  That won’t be known until the budget is finalized – but it could be a noisy council chamber in the weeks ahead.

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