Local residents would save “some tax dollars” if the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury left Simcoe County to become a separated city like Barrie and Orillia, said BWG Mayor Rob Keffer.
Along with Coun. Gary Lamb, Keffer met with other county councillors Tuesday to come up with ideas to suggest to the province during its regional governance review.
Keffer said he suggested “the possibility about a separated city status” in order to “reduce duplication” and “save our residents what I felt would be some tax dollars.”
“It is probably telling that the County of Simcoe is added to this review, as well as other regional governments,” he said during a BWG council meeting Tuesday evening. “The County of Simcoe has fast-growing areas that are maybe not seeing the infrastructure being spent in (those) areas because of the dynamics of the upper-tier government.”
Keffer said one advantage of a separated city status would be the municipality would not have to wait for permission from the county to do some projects, such as potentially a Bond Head bypass.
BWG residents would also see “more accountability at the service level” if the town was separated, he said.
Amalgamation of some areas within the county was also suggested during discussions with county councillors, Keffer added, but he would like to see a business plan showing if there are any cost savings to that.
“Stay tuned. We’ll be asking our residents to think deeply about this,” he said.
The Town of BWG’s CAO Geoff McKnight is expected to bring a report to council on the topic.
“It’s not as frightening as you might think” to become a separated city, said Lamb, adding Barrie and Orillia simply buy the services they need from the county. “Orillia is a separate city and it’s smaller than Bradford.”
Last spring, the Town of BWG got the results of a structural and financial review of its place within the county.
The report did not officially recommend for or against joining York Region, but it called such a move “politically improbable” and noted it would be a “long, expensive and contentious process.”
The provincial government, the report added, is “not eager to see municipal governance and funding approaches disrupted.”
However, this was before the current regional review began under the Doug Ford government, with Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark taking the lead.
“The word today is Minister Clark will listen,” Keffer said.