SD council threw away $100K by rejecting John Ross’s campground building proposal

The Editor:

We read recently that South Dundas Council has directed staff to go back to their original plan to replace the 50-year-old washroom structure at the Iroquois Campground.

My brother-in-law George Jackson designed and built that structure 50 years ago as the Airport Building, for the use of the pilots and passengers of the planes that fly in and also for the annual Fly-in Breakfast, a large, very successful yearly event that is shared with the community.

Shortly thereafter, Bill and Gloria Murdock started the campground around the Airport building. With very hard work and a vision to build a community of shared interests, Bill and Gloria made what the campground is today. They used the profits of the Campground and paid for the upgrades and improved it every year. They are the ones that put in the electricity and water and were planning to put in the sewage for each camp space when suddenly Council dismissed them and took over the “running” of the Campground. Without Bill and Gloria’s vision and hard work, the campground would not be the success story it is today.

Unfortunately, in the years under Council control, they took all the profits and put very little back into upgrades. If they had kept track of this money, they would have had enough good reasons and money today to build a new building — as should be done with any good business plan.

It was time to replace the 50-year-old building. Ben Macpherson, Director of Recreation, called a meeting to determine what the new building should consist of; however, he did not invite any representatives from the campers, the main users, nor has he ever met with them. He then prepared a list of requirements to be sent to a consultant to design the building. He said that it was agreed that the building was to have accessible washrooms, a covered patio for use of the lawn bowlers and the fly-in breakfast, storage space for airport and bowling use, a campground office that will also be the Tourism office and possibly a small kitchen for use of the bowling and airport groups because there is already a stove and fridge in the current facility. (This according to the letter sent to Mayor and Council from Ben Macpherson, dated June 5, 2018. re: Iroquois Campground Building).

John Ross, after discussing with the campers and all other users, stepped in and brought a proposal to Council. He offered to pay personally for all design work for a building all to Ben’s specifications and more and he also would make a major donation to the building construction. This is just as John Ross has done in other years for the very successful Iroquois Beach and parking lot as well as walking paths and the municipal airport. His building plans were very thoroughly researched, a durable building that would have been in a very good condition and would have served the community for many decades to come. It was a brilliant plan that saved money by having two small family washrooms with showers for families or persons with disabilities. This allowed the regular men and women’s washrooms to be much smaller and cheaper because they did not have to be accessible for people with disabilities. It also had the right quantity of toilets and showers normally required for a campground of the present size. He also had looked ahead as how to accommodate future campsite expansion.

Unfortunately, the reality was that the building which Ben asked for and that met provincial standards — at about $410,000 — was too much for Council at this time. Here is the most surprising part: If Council had requested from John Ross a new plan to first build the washrooms this year and then next year the covered meeting space and the other parts, the washrooms would have been beautiful, under budget and finished this year and the consultant fee would not be needed. However, Council did not ask for a meeting to discuss alternatives; they just threw away all of Ben’s rules as well as the normal standards for a modern campground building and in doing so threw away up to $100,000  that was to be donated by John Ross.

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This is yet another example of Council acting suddenly and alone without proper consultations. This is not in the best interest of the Campers nor the community! In doing so, they took away the airport facility the building was designed for and have slammed the door on the Lawn Bowlers, both valuable community groups. Now the campers and lawn bowlers will not have their meeting space, nor their important social centre. The lawn bowlers have lost the Forward House and Council’s invitation to use the new campground facilities is gone too. Is this the kind of Council with such poor vision and extremely bad management skills that we still want to have?  You “saved” $60,000 and threw away over $100,000 in money and services and still did not deliver a Campground building on time?!?

In addition, why was the Iroquois Waterfront Committee that Council established to coordinate the planning for Park facilities not at all involved in this important decision that falls squarely under their mandate? Why? It is very disheartening to the hard-working committee members when time after time their need for involvement and their requests for assistance are completely ignored. Not only does Council not listen to their citizens, it apparently does not want to work together with its own committees. This does not follow the rule that Council should works for the community.

John Ross has proven to the community over and over again and many times that he can be trusted to deliver. Council should have continued to work with him on possible alternate plans and let the community benefit from his knowledge and generosity.

In conclusion, the big remaining question now is to hear from Council just when will we get the missing covered social centre and the things the lawn bowling groups must have? It would cost very little design effort and taxpayers money if a nearby but separate building for these missing functions was designed at the same time as the washrooms, even if it was built a year later. Perhaps someone should pick up the phone and ask John Ross if he would partially fund this plan so we get the total design right and know what the future Campground building would be. If this does not get done, then the small mindedness of Council will show clearly. Not having an eye for the wellbeing of the Campers will result in yet another project that will under deliver and not help the community now or in the long run. Instead of “saving” money it will cost the taxpayers more than $100,000 that was wasted by being not good stewards for our community.

Hans Bosman

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