Deputy Mayor Scott Greig Shares Top Rural Concerns & Priorities from ROMA Event
Greig shares main themes and hot button issues among municipal peers at annual province-wide conference
Last week, Councilor Jon Farmer shared his experience and takeaways from the recent ROMA conference in Toronto. In this piece, Deputy Mayor Scott Greig shares a different take.
In late January, I was able to attend the Rural Ontario Municipal Conference (ROMA) on behalf of the County of Grey. Owen Sound Current editor Miranda Miller asked if I could share my experience there and help readers understand what goes on there and why we attend, and I’m happy to do so.
While at ROMA, I joined Mayor Boddy and Councillor Farmer in making a delegation to the Honourable Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy. We advocated for funding arrangements to ensure Owen Sound receives the financial support we need from the Province, recognizing the heightened cost of service provision being a regional center.
I was able to attend seminars that included one on meeting future energy demands, which was delivered by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). Attendees expressed considerable concern regarding battery storage operations within municipalities and the process in place soliciting public input and engagement. Hydro One also hosted a session informing attendees of their commitment to delivering energy meeting current and future demand.
Several municipalities across Ontario have concerns about rural drainage programs in place. At this seminar, there was a focus on municipalities impacted by national rail carriers and the lack of adequate financial reimbursement to municipalities for costs associated with ongoing drainage issues stemming from the rail companies. While the focus on railways was not relevant to our county, drainage is an issue across rural landscapes.
It seemed there was a lot more engagement this year than last on themes of energy provision for Ontario and rural hospital emergency department closures (whereas last year, the focus was on family doctors). One subject was a particularly hot topic: infrastructure.
Some of the programming aligned with these themes but I find the themes are generated from speaking with and listening to the attendees. In Owen Sound, we currently benefit from sufficient water servicing capacity, wastewater treatment capacity, and relatively new bridge infrastructure. I can say with confidence that this is not the case across the province.
Governments will have to focus on infrastructure funding to support municipal needs as the age of existing infrastructure requires expensive replacement or refurbishment. And for many municipalities, there exists a limited ability to accommodate growth due to non-existent or limited water and/or wastewater treatment capacities.
The conference maintains a schedule of Sunday pm to Tuesday late morning. It has been delivered as a stand-alone conference for several years after existing alongside the Ontario Good Roads conference since about 2000.
Ideally, these two conferences would again exist in a combined fashion over a late Sunday to Wednesday morning. I think this would make the best use of staffing resources, reduce carbon emission costs, and save the taxpayers money – which, as this year’s ROMA conference made clear, is desperately needed by Ontario rural municipalities.
City of Owen Sound
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