Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts made a call to order amidst “tension” at the council table over cuts proposed by Coun. John Smith Feb. 14.

The call came during a discussion over the Haliburton Village town dock at a special budget meeting, with the budget including $30,000 to replace it.

Smith questioned the need for the dock, noting how much the township spends on the village compared to other parts of the municipality. He then raised issue with the amount the municipality spends on the Haliburton Highlands Museum, which is projected to have a net cost of approximately $149,348 in 2019. Smith has repeatedly proposed cuts to the museum budget, a call that has not received support from the rest of council.

“Cottagers, we tell them we can’t afford to fix the roads, that’s the discouraging part of it,” Smith said. “The museum in recent years has consumed $1 million.”

“I am going to call you out of order,” Roberts interjected. “Not speaking to it again. I want some decorum again. John, you’re creating a lot of tension in the room … your opinions are valuable, you are duly elected, but let’s try to have a little bit more respect here.”

“I haven’t been disrespectful to one person in this room,” Smith replied. “If you can’t disagree with people, then what’s the sense of being here?”

The discussion moved past the disagreement. But Smith again found himself at odds with the rest of council when he suggested cutting into the $50,000 operating grant the municipality provides for the Rails End Gallery.

“Past councils have taken the approach, we have a whole bunch of little things,” Smith said. “What would make Halliburton an attractive place to be? Nobody talks about the Rails End Gallery, nobody talks to the museum.”

“They do talk about it,” Coun. Larry Clarke responded. “We got one of the largest artist communities in the country.”

“Recreation, culture, vibrancy in our community is highly regarded here,” Roberts said. “Without the $50,000 operating grant, they (the gallery) wouldn’t survive and I think they’re a very valued, historic asset.”

No other councillor raised their hand to support the idea of cutting the art gallery grant.

Smith said the municipality spends too much on things that are not needed and said there needs to be metrics for return-on-investment of tax dollars.

“We’re spending $16 million this year in terms of money for our community and a lot of it, from my point of view obviously, too much goes into things, ‘it’s nice to have,’” Smith said.

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