Specifically, the United Counties are expressing frustration over the City's refusal to ratify a new shared services agreement. The reason for this they claim is the City's objection to an clause in the draft agreement which allows for third party arbitration in case of disagreements.
"We understand the reason that the City has not ratified the agreement is because it is not in agreement with the inclusion of a dispute resolution clause which includes the right of either party to arbitrate if necessary," the letter reads. "This is frustrating and disappointing to the County, as the right of parties to arbitrate is a universally accepted concept designed to protect the interests of each party in the event that a dispute cannot be settled directly or through mediation. The City’s position is contrary to many other shared services arrangements in place between Ontario Counties and the separated cities with whom they share services."
The letter goes into the history of shared services between the municipalities and how they were forced into this situation by the province in the late 1990s.
According to the letter, as it stands now, the City provides ambulance services, social services and child care services to residents of SD&G and the Counties in turn provide provincial offenses administration. The Counties say that in 2016 they transferred $7 million to the city to cover their share.
The Counties claim that they are surprised to hear the City Council recently directed its senior staff to draft a report on further co-operation.
"The County would only consider participating in such discussions in the event that a new agreement is reached regarding the services currently shared," the letter reads. "We believe that a modernized shared services agreement will allow the City and County, via the Shared Services or Joint Liaison Committee, to more actively and transparently work together as true partners in the delivery of essential services to residents of our region. We believe there is currently an imbalance which must be addressed."
The letter was signed by 11 Councillors and the United Counties Warden Jim Bancroft.
Cornwall city Councillor Andre Rivette who sits on the Liaison Committee said that he did not see the Counties reasoning behind wanting arbitration.
"We are willing to sit down with them and listen to them any time they have issues," he said. "I've been sitting on that committee for almost ten years and the only time there's been an issue was with the land ambulance services and when that came up we worked with them. We told them at the committee level that we are not prepared to give them that (arbitration). If they gave us a solid reasoning for it, but I just don't see it."
The City Council of Cornwall will be drafting a letter of its own which will serve as the official response to the Counties' concerns.