June 21, 2022 10:42 a.m.
Chatham-Kent residents are expressing concern over a proposed cost-cutting measure that could see service buildings close in several rural communities.
The proposal could see the potential closure of municipal service centers and information offices 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 says more people are using online services and closing some buildings and offices would save taxpayers up to $173,000 a year.
It took more than two hours for city staff to read 105 deputations to council on Monday evening. However, none of the delegations supported the plan to potentially shut down in-person access to these municipal services.
Many pointed to the negative impact this would have on their communities as well as on older people who do not have computers or internet access.
“A small town with an aging population shouldn’t have to drive to Chatham,” one resident wrote. “You rely too much on modern technology to do business, but you have to realize that not many 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 much of the town centre.
‘Wheatley was under a lot of stress from the blast and many were denied access to the library, bank, post office and other city services,’ one resident wrote. “Closing our facilities now would be detrimental to our community and a slap in the face.”
The reading of the deputations ended around 9:45 p.m. and there were about 15 minutes left for councilors to discuss the matter before the meeting ended. The board voted against extending the meeting to 11 p.m.
The board initially decided to hold an additional meeting on June 27 to discuss the matter, but will instead present the report at the next board meeting scheduled for July 11.