The County of Haliburton has decided to wait and hope rather than do anything substantial on transportation.
After the end of the transportation task force and the hiatus of the volunteer Rural Transportation Options, the county’s anticipated decision on transportation April 24 was to not make a decision. To keep its $50,000 in budgeted funding parked, perhaps to build a transportation reserve. To keep monitoring options. To discuss the issue later, for the next budget. To hope a unicorn, perhaps carrying a cartload of money, comes by.
After years of consultations, meetings, efforts by volunteers and spending more than $46,000 on an implementation plan, this decision is lacklustre.
The county awaits better options, possibly with funding raining down from upper governments. But people have been waiting for the county to arrive on transportation for years.
Volunteers have put in countless hours trying to make it happen. After all of that, we are still left waiting, with no clear direction forward. N
o councillor wanted to come out and outright say the initiative should be killed, even if that was what was already happening. Such a quote would be unpopular but it would probably be more honest. No will to act, no will not to act. Council sees a fork in the road and keeps trying to go between it.
Council might think at least now there is money set aside. That is good, but it begs the question of why such a thing did not start years ago, so money could be on hand when an implementation plan was completed.
Meanwhile, the implementation plan made by a consultant was not worth what it cost. Council does not seem to care for going forward with it. This roadmap toward a transportation system this year is shelved, where it will collect dust.
Nobody on council questioned how this money got spent on a plan which appears doomed to go unused. Coun. Andrea Roberts said a transportation system needs to be door-to-door for the county, which this proposed system was not. But if that was the necessity, why was that not a mandate for the RFP? Hindsight is 20/20 but something went wrong here and likely wasted money.
There is some irony in the council professing to need upper-level funding when they have not pursued what funding is available. The county spurned a chance to get $500,000 over five years for transportation, afraid of the five=year commitment it would take. A last-ditch proposal from the transportation task force to suggest applying for a grant through the Ontario Labour Market Partnerships program did not garner a word from councillors.
What, exactly, does this unicorn grant look like? Is it going to be more than $500,000? Does council think after upper government have spent years, if not decades, neglecting this issue, they will suddenly swoop in? When will the right time come?
In fairness, there are no easy solutions to rural transportation. It is costly and it is not fair to lay it all on the municipal level. Finding a viable system that would completely work for the whole county is difficult.
But the county is playing a tired song pretending there will be better opportunities later. They should learn from history or they will be forever