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Dear Editor
Citizens in Sydenham in the Municipality of Meaford, will lose access to quality library services within the next thirty days if an agreement is not reached with the Owen Sound North Grey Union Public Library (OSNGUPL). I find it comical that the Municipality of Meaford continues to try and build the perception that the $500 non-resident fee now in place in OSNGUPL, stands as a key barrier to an agreement. In fact, that fee exists solely because of the actions of Meaford.
In 2014 as a result of the 'Review of Contracted Library Services' Meaford publicly admonished the terms of the agreement in writing suggesting that the billing procedures were inappropriate. Effectively, they were trying to change the substantive terms of the agreement. In detail that meant changing the expenditure from one based on an equitable sharing of costs at OSNGUPL for Sydenham cardholders, to one based on a non-resident administrative fee. At the time that fee was $160 per household. As if that initiative was not enough, Meaford opted to request data on every Sydenham cardholder at OSNGUPL including names and addresses. That request is apparently in clear violation of provincial privacy laws. However, if achieved it would further reduce their potential 'non-resident' fee in situations where multiple cardholders lived in the same household.
In response Owen Sound promptly and appropriately raised the non-resident fee from $160 per household to $500 per household. It was an appropriate decision for a couple of reasons. First, it was an attempt to curtail the ongoing actions of Meaford that could best be characterized as those of a petulant sibling in a family of OSNGUPL partners. Second and more importantly, it validates the fact that there is no relationship whatsoever between the non-resident fee and the legitimate expenses Meaford was obligated to pay and originally agreed to, under the terms of the contract. To position it now as a barrier to Library Services for Sydenham is erroneous.
Under the former agreement Meaford's contribution was the smallest portion of any of the partners in the OSNGUPL. The expense represents only about one-sixth of Meaford's total Library Services budget. The costs are apparently calculated by OSNGUPL in accordance with a civic by law and as a result, are accurate, fair and equitably distributed based on the number of cardholders in each community. For Meaford in particular, it is a cost-effective arrangement as the per capita expense for Sydenham cardholders with OSNGUPL is literally within dollars of the per capita costs for Meaford cardholders with the Meaford Public Library.
The termination of the contract for Library services for Sydenham is not about affordability. Also, it is not predicated on a lack of will to pay out tax dollars as they will be re-directed to other Library services. The actions undertaken by the Municipality of Meaford are completely attributable to a lack of will to direct tax dollars to Owen Sound on behalf of Sydenham residents to sustain their public good.
According to the Mayor in a recent quote on the issue; Sydenham residents have "expectations, the entitlement sense of the way it used to be." Quite clearly this statement from the Mayor reflects the long standing bias of 'us-and-them' in the community. It is disheartening that it has permeated the highest levels of public office and it does raise the question of who exactly is stuck in the "the sense of the way it used to be?"

Dan Reid





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