South River modernizing municipal services

·2 min read

Residents of South River should notice a big difference in a matter of months in how they're able to carry out business with the village as the municipality moves forward on a modernization program.

The first noticeable difference in the next 30 to 60 days will be the village's ability to accept online payments for things such as tax and water bills.

But residents still like to visit town hall, and clerk-administrator Don McArthur says South River hopes to have debit machine available when the lockdown ends.

“The public does ask about using debit,” McArthur admits. “It's a common request at our front counter.”

The technology residents and businesses in large centres take for granted is becoming a reality in the village of about 1,100 people thanks to a provincial initiative to help small communities modernize.

“The province announced this program last spring, and we were successful with a grant application,” McArthur says.

He says the $80,000 grant allowed South River to hire KPMG to carry out a municipal service delivery review.

However, McArthur says that's only the beginning.

“On a bigger scale, we'll be looking at funding to update our municipal software and possibly our phone system to go from an analog system to a voice-over IP system,” he says.

The cost for the technology is considerable. However, the village won't have to pay the conversion bill entirely on its own.

As a followup to last year's funding for the modernization review, McArthur says the province has developed a “separate program to help implement the modernization projects.” The deadline to apply is March 15.

At this point, McArthur doesn't know exactly how much money the village will apply for since that process is still being worked on. But, he says, the modernization application will be “comprehensive,” based on the services KPMG identified in its review.

The parameters of the provincial implementation program allow communities to apply for $20,000 to $200,000.

Depending on the final look of the application, McArthur says new technology could be in place later this year not only at the town office, but also at the local arena and public works.

None of the new technology will result in lost jobs, he stresses.

“We're not looking to cut services,” he says. “We're looking at things to enhance our services as part of our modernization.”

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget