by Brian Donlevy
The news from the province is not good for either Blandford Blenheim or any other township in Oxford County. The government has announced that they are reducing their Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding by 15% for the coming year. For Blandford Blenheim that means a loss of approximately $140,000. When combined with the increase that is coming for policing it means Blandford Blenheim needs to come up with an extra 6% on their tax levy just to meet those two costs. Mayor Marion Wearn says that despite claims to the contrary from the provincial government the uploading done by the government never equals the costs that are downloaded on municipalities.
Insurance costs are going up almost 5% in Blandford Blenheim. Although the Township is doing a good job controlling risk, according to their insurer, costs for potential litigation across the board continues to rise. Mayor Marion Wearn says the Township is doing a good job cutting down on their risks by keeping their roads and sidewalks in good condition. Wearn adds one major concern that continues to be voiced is the question of joint and several liability. The current system means that if the municipality is found one percent liable, the courts can order them to pay the entire cost of a claim because it is assumed the township has deeper pockets and more money than an individual who could be found 99% responsible.
Employees, volunteer firefighters and Council will be seeing a modest increase in their pay packages next year. Council has approved the new wage bylaw which for most will take effect the 1st of January. The hike for the volunteer firefighters kicks in on December 1st of this year. Starting wages in Blandford Blenheim range from $12.32 an hour for a general part time casual labourer to $47.30 an hour as the starting rate for the CAO/Clerk position. Firefighters will receive $34.38 an hour when answering a call. The mayor’s salary will be just over $20,000 a year while councilors will receive just under $13,500.
A Blandford Blenheim couple has been given permission to build another single detached dwelling on their property to house their son who has developmental disabilities. Although according to the official plan of Oxford County, secondary living structures on agricultural land should be temporary in nature, including things like mobile homes and granny flats. These structures are approved on a time limited period and are used to house farm help or retired family members. Council was told by the applicant that a temporary solution was not viable because their 27 year old son may need care for fifty years, not ten. Mayor Marion Wearn says it is important for Council to weigh each case on its merit and in this instance, Council heard the pleas of the citizens and decided to overrule the staff report which had recommended against allowing a permanent structure.