CK residents voice opposition to reduced access to municipal services

Ridgetown Municipal Service Centre. (Photo via Google Maps)

Chatham-Kent residents are voicing their concerns over a proposed cost-savings measure that could see service buildings close in several rural communities.

The proposal could see the potential closing of service centres and municipal information desks in Wheatley, Tilbury, Dresden, Thamesville, Bothwell, and Ridgetown.

Municipal service buildings in Chatham, Wallaceburg, and Blenheim would not be affected.

The report presented to council said more people are using services online and that closing some buildings and offices would save taxpayers up to $173,000 a year.

It took more than two hours for municipal staff to read through 105 deputations to council Monday night. However, none of the deputations supported the plan to potentially close in-person access to those municipal services.

Many highlighted¬†the negative impact it would have on their communities as well as on seniors who don’t have computers or access to the Internet.

“A small town with an aging population should not have to drive to Chatham,” one resident wrote. “You’re relying too much on modern-day technology to do business but you have to realize not a lot of people own computers or are comfortable enough to do business online.”

Several deputations also focused on the impact this proposal would have on the community of Wheatley, which is still recovering from a gas explosion last August that destroyed a large section of the downtown area.

“Wheatley has been under a lot of stress because of the explosion and many have not had access to the library, bank, post office, and other municipal services,” one resident wrote. “To close our facilities would now be detrimental to our community and a slap in the face.”

The reading of deputations wrapped up around 9:45 p.m. with about 15 minutes left for councillors to discuss the issue before the meeting was set to end. Council voted against extending the meeting to 11 p.m.

Council initially decided to hold an additional meeting on June 27 to discuss the issue but will instead bring the report back at the next scheduled council meeting on July 11.