As he embarks on his second term as warden of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Ron Holman is staring at the same challenge faced by governments at all levels, around the world.
“I think cost-control is probably the key issue for the county,” said Holman, reprising a main theme of his recent inaugural address.
“I think it'll be a busy two years. Interesting, but busy,” Holman told The Recorder and Times in a new year interview.
Holman's top priority for 2013 is finding savings in a budget that this year called for total expenditures of more than $88 million.
“I think we have lots of opportunities to look at,” said Holman. “Council's discussion of the budget is going to be far more in-depth this year than it has been in the past.”
There will be no shortage of challenges to the counties' cost-control efforts. Holman is chairman of the counties' social housing regeneration sub-committee, and the job of keeping up the upper-tier government's social housing stock – 667 units, many of them aging – will remain an ongoing concern in 2013.
The cost of ambulance services is also increasing, a budget pressure Holman knows all too well as mayor of a municipality where cottagers are steadily turning into permanent residents.
“It's phenomenal, the growth,” said Holman, recalling some lakes in Rideau Lakes Township where the population was once entirely seasonal but is now 60 per cent permanent.
As the permanent population increases, so does the demand on emergency medical services, he noted. This year, the counties needed help from the province, as well as one of their own reserve funds, to offset an EMS deficit of $432,582.
Meanwhile, Holman and his colleagues are awaiting a new provincewide model for social services delivery, expected to be presented in the new year.
The counties government is also expecting a response this spring from the Ontario Provincial Police about a cost-analysis for a service contract.
And Holman hopes to have a discussion this year about potential savings in the area of economic development.
On the capital side of the budget, the expansion of County Road 43 around Kemptville, a $33-million project to be done in multiple stages, will be part of the 2013 budget discussions.
On a positive note, Holman expects the final phases of the Eastern Ontario Regional Broadband Network (EORN), of which the United Counties are a part, to continue on track this year.
The regional project aims to see improved access to high-speed Internet across Eastern Ontario by 2014, and Holman believes Leeds and Grenville is one of the next to be upgraded.
That is one of many projects and issues undertaken by the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus, on which Holman now sits after succeeding its former chairman, Augusta Reeve Mel Campbell.
Holman reserved comment on his priorities at the EOWC until he attends its first meeting of the year later this month.
The new warden sees Leeds and Grenville's priorities through the focus of its three main transportation corridors: Highways 401, 416 and 15, and the divergent needs of the many communities along those arteries.
Despite the vast differences between many of those local needs, Holman, one of many long-serving counties council members, said the 10 member municipalities work together very well because of their leaders.
Holman added the county council also enjoys a good relationship with the separated municipalities in its geographic area: Brockville, Prescott and Gananoque.
“We have a very workable group of people,” said Holman.
“It's not all 'me.' It's a case of: 'What do we need as a whole?'”
A COUNTIES VETERAN
Ron Holman, 73, the mayor of Rideau Lakes Township, was acclaimed for a two-year term as warden of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville in mid-December.
He previously served a one-year term as counties warden in 2006.Holman has been on Rideau Lakes council since 2000 and has been in politics for almost 30 years. He was a councillor for two years in South Elmsley Township prior to amalgamation, served as deputy reeve there for three years and was reeve for nine years.