Perth South council not happy about conservation authority budget

By Stephanie Egelton

According to Perth South Council, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA) isn’t exactly conserving funds.

After an hour long delegation and discussion session at the January 10th Perth South council meeting, councillors were left bothered and ignored by the draft budget of the UTRCA, who own several protected pieces of property in the municipality and the Wildwood Conservation Area. In Perth County, the UTRCA owns land in St. Marys, Stratford, West Perth, Perth South, Perth East and neighbouring municipalities in Oxford, Huron and Middlesex counties.

“They (UTRCA) are hearing concerns of the increase in the budget, but not doing anything for it,” explained Mayor Robert Wilhelm.

General Manager of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Ian Wilcox presented the increases to Perth South Council. Through the draft budget, it was noted that out of the 11 municipalities that have UTRCA owned land, 10 are experiencing increases.

Perth South’s draft contribution increase is $4 911 from 2016, with a 13.24% increase to UTRCA’s budget, making this a 0.05% increase in the municipal budget. Wilcox explained to council that the UTRCA had been updating flood information and getting information on phosphorus production.

“Between these two programs, we have approved $2.3 Million in new money (for new work) and most of which will flow through the landowners,” explained Wilcox. He also noted that this window of additional funds has been a work in progress for a decade, and funding opportunities have a 2-3 year window. Also included in the reasons for the increases to the budget was meeting the demand for the need for more staff in planning, along with phasing in new items in the UTRCA Strategic Plan.

After the low review council gave the draft report, Wilcox noted that he “understood their concerns, and felt they didn’t necessarily object to the work being done but understand the difficult financial situation the municipality is in”, and would bring their comments back to the board.

Mayor Wilhelm stated his concerns about issues being bought back to the Board of Directors of UTRCA, due to the speculation of urban bias within the board (4 of the members of the board are from the City of London).

Addressing the Mayor’s comment, Wilcox stated “During regular voting, each member has 1 vote. 4 out of 15 members are from the City of London, so London is definitely outnumbered.”

(UTRCA) continue to spend, but are not concerned with increases to the municipalities.”

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