Mayors say no to MRC funding hospital parking

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Allyson Beauregard


Allyson Beauregard

MRC PONTIAC – The MRC subsidizing part of the costs of the visitor parking lot at the Pontiac Community Hospital in Shawville to maintain free parking is no longer an option after 14 of the 18 MRC Pontiac mayors voted to “take no action” in regards to the situation at the monthly Council of Mayors meeting, May 16. The four opposing mayors were Sandra Murray (Shawville), Brent Orr (Bristol), Bill Stewart (Campbell’s Bay), and John Armstrong (Clarendon).
L’Isle-aux-Allumettes mayor Winston Sunstrum proposed the resolution “to receive [Shawville’s resolution] for information purposes, but for the MRC to take no action” and called the vote after a resolution passed by the municipality of Shawville was brought to the table. Shawville agreed to cover $20,000 annually for plowing and maintaining the visitor parking lot if the MRC were to cover the remaining costs, estimated at about $15,000. 
Sunstrum cited his reasons for not wanting the MRC to fund the parking: it’s not in the MRC’s mandate to manage hospital parking; paid parking is a reality everywhere; and the MRC has indicated their disapproval of the “downloading of costs” many times in the past.
Before the vote, Armstrong suggested the issue be brought back to a working session for further discussion. Jim Gibson (Rapides-des-Joachims) reiterated how about 40% of the hospital’s users come from the Gatineau area and
suggested those areas be approached to contribute to the parking lot costs. 
Pontiac Voice responds
According to Josee Bouchard, Pontiac Voice spokesperson, the CoM’s decision is in check with what the Pontiac population wants. “We did an online survey, and 99% of respondents (over 500) said they didn’t want their taxes to increase to pay for the parking,” she explained.
Pontiac Voice is not a part of the ongoing negotiations, but Bouchard said they continue to pressure CISSSO to maintain free visitor parking at the PCH. “Other CSSS’ in the province (one in the Eastern Townships) have been able to keep free parking and not respect parking policies if they have a balanced budget. In a poorer sector, it makes sense to have different policies than elsewhere, but the CISSSO doesn’t seem to be very keen on that,” concluded Bouchard, noting Pontiac Voice is currently working on a petition. 
“The fight will not end before the problem is resolved,” said Maestro Joe, a Pontiac Voice Committee member.