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COLUMN: Midland seems to be taking the tortoise's approach to stage three

The Penetanguishene library used its months-long closure to develop practices that allowed it to reopen last week

The following is an opinion column by MidlandToday community editor Andrew Philips.

Municipalities are normally considered the most accessible form of government.

That said, they should also be the purest form with less bureaucracy than their provincial and federal brethren that often thrive on the colour red; at least of the tape variety.

And more often than not, this level of government turns out to be the most important in people’s day-to-day lives.

But sometimes, it’s difficult to fathom how they operate and can even feel at times like they’re indifferent to serving those who actually pay their salaries.

These kinds of things usually come to the forefront during unusual circumstances and COVID-19 definitely falls into that category.

While we should generally give them a pass for not accomplishing much during stage one of the provincial shutdown, the other two stages are far different matters.

As an example, the Midland Public Library opened its book drop to the public some time after Penetanguishene’s library. It also followed its neighbour when it came to offering curbside pickup and now, perhaps most glaring, it won’t be reopening to allow a limited number of patrons inside until at least August while Penetanguishene has already reopened, albeit on a smaller scale.

Midland library officials cite the need to establish proper protocols and procedures to ensure staff and public safety before reopening.

While that’s honourable, it’s difficult to understand why the Midland entity didn’t follow Penetanguishene’s lead and establish these protocols and procedures during the earlier stages so it would be ready when given the green light.

As far as one can ascertain, no library staff were laid off during the previous two stages, so why not use those prior months of closure to get prepared.

Surely, not all staff need to be involved in curbside pickup. The three times I have picked up books at the roadside, there have been two to three staff performing a duty that is arguably a one-person job.

‘Establishing proper procedures and protocols’ seems to have become a favourite phrase with a lot of municipal entities that likely weren’t overly occupied with work during the first two stages.

This notion was highlighted last week by Coun. Bill Gordon, who wondered why staff were leaving grass uncut since no one stopped working for the town during the first two stages.

While my headline made light of Gordon’s ask (ie During a global pandemic, uncut grass draws Midland councillor's ire), his point was warranted.

Mowing grass is a pretty solitary pursuit as is garbage cleanup, another area where the town consistently drops the ball, especially in its perceived ‘jewel’ of Little Lake Park.

Why were these things left unchecked for months?

On a personal note, I love playing tennis.

In fact, if there was a job seeking a non-professional tennis player just to rally and play the odd match, I would have my application in post haste (and, in which case, this column would likely end here).

But when I asked the town when it planned to put the other two nets up in Little Lake Park so all four courts could be used, I was told the two courts need to be repaired before that can happen. Which begs the question, why didn’t the town just repair those two courts when it repaired the other two since the sum total of all the reparations only involves filling surface cracks?

Let’s compare the town’s apparent lack of preparedness in getting everything ready for stage three during stage two to going on a trip overseas (something we can now only dream of happening anytime soon).

Do you wait until the day before your flight  to get a passport, order foreign currency and ensure your domestic affairs are in order?

For everyone else, the answer would be a resounding ‘no.’

The town, however, would likely be calling local MP Bruce Stanton’s office to find out when the next passport clinic will be while its flight leaves the boarding gate and begins its slow journey to the runway.

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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