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‘Real’ download numbers delayed

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The deadline for the release of "real" download numbers has been pushed back a week as the Ministry of Finance and municipal treasurers, including Dryden’s Paul Heayn, continue to compare figures in Toronto.

While municipalities were slated to get the figures this past Monday, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon explained their meeting last Friday didn’t give them enough time to crunch accurate numbers.

"There was just too much to do," he noted.

But Mayor Witherspoon didn’t think the "real" numbers would be much different from the preliminary figures released by the province last month. While the Civic Centre is reviewing those numbers, CAO Bill Naturkach insisted calculations were not done.

"The numbers that they gave down district-wide were not all inclusive," he said yesterday, noting some areas were missing. But he refused to say which areas the town didn’t have.

"That’s being worked on. [But] it’s not a pressing priority because council has not requested it," he added. And until council requests it, administration can’t release any figures.

"We have the numbers that we calculated back in March that council does not wish to receive," Naturkach said.

Naturkach was hopeful more answers would come out at the 15th-annual Northwestern Ontario regional conference in Thunder Bay tomorrow and Friday.

Restructuring, the "Who Does What" panel, the new Municipal Act, and district services boards are all on the agenda, with municipal leaders able to question provincial policy advisors on these issues.

"We’re expecting current positions in terms of where the government is at on these issues," noted Naturkach, who will attend the conference with Mayor Witherspoon.

Because of that agenda, the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association meeting slated for Friday was changed to the executive holding an open meeting there that afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Rainy River District Municipal Association will meet in Rainy River next Thursday, with the concept of an area services board on the agenda.

The working group is meeting two hours earlier.

But with the downloading still slated to take effect in January, Fort Frances Coun. Deane Cunningham noted there still was no legislation in place for area service boards.

"We are not ready for 1998. We’re going to be scrambling to get our budgets in place," he told council Monday night.

One big issue is whether there will be weighted votes on area service boards based on population. Mayor Witherspoon told council that Northern Development and Mines minister Chris Hodgson has agreed to include weighted votes into the legislation.

But that’s only if he gets the blessing of "Team North," a group of northern reps including Mayor Witherspoon, Thunder Bay Mayor David Hamilton, Joe Mavernac, four northern CAOs, as well as reps from NOMA and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities.

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