Last night’s council meeting provided additional insights into the challenges and opportunities facing Council and the Town of Parry Sound. You really need to attend the meetings in person or watch them on Cogeco on a regular basis if you hope to really understand what is going on. Catching meetings here and there really doesn’t allow you properly understand the issues and their context.

I’ll be handing out raspberries starting with this week’s meeting. Raspberries will be awarded to council and mayor as appropriate for suggestions and recommendations that seem a little too far out or, in my opinion, are mean spirited. Don’t expect to see very many of them awarded, this is a council and mayor who have their heads screwed on straight. There will no be mention of who receives these awards, you will need to attend the meeting or view the proceedings on Cogeco to figure it out.

Attendance for the February 21st Council meeting7th meeting: council and mayor – 7 (a full complement), staff – 8, media – 4, audience – 13. The audience figure dropped to 4 following the zoning bylaw amendment discussion related to the new public school. By the end of the meeting the audience was down to two and staff was down to four. The media and council were there to the very end.

Councilors Reports

Interesting points raised in the councilors’ and mayor’s reports included:
– upcoming March 6th public meeting and presentation in Carling regarding the Highway 400 extension
– non-public council meeting(s) regarding Parry Sound Power
– the social services budget will remain at 2011 levels for 2012
– a request was made for additional public comment on the Town’s official plan

Interesting and Notable Agenda Discussions and Decisions

The public meeting related to the zoning bylaw amendment for the new school involved a presentation of the proposed plan and two deputations from residents in the area of the new school. The proposed plan presentation was short with very limited information. The key points I noted was that the school will have a full complement of 624 students, 63 staff and a total of 84 parking spots. The deputations voiced support for the new school but requested information on the plans for the school, particularly traffic management, safety for children walking to and from school, and services management. The school board representatives indicated that there would be much more information forthcoming and council and staff indicated that local residents would have the opportunity to review and comment on the plans.

Item 9.2.1, the water and wastewater report was approved as submitted by Watson & Associates. A resolution was approved accepting Option 1 as the funding plan going forward. Option 1 includes a commonly shared increase of water rates to all water users. This increase is expected to mean a 5% increase per year, or about $50 annually for the average non-metered residential property.

Item 9.2.2, the water report indicated there were there failing tests in 2011. There seems to be little cause for concern as I heard it last night. Some quick figures: the highest daily water supply use was 55% of capacity in 2011, while the average daily water use was 30-35% of capacity. There seems to be significant capacity in the supply side of our facilities to support additional growth.

Item 9.4.1, on the subject of vandalism concerns in the Parry Sound High School area earned certain council members one and a half raspberries. A full raspberry to the councilor who suggested the town ask the OPP to start enforcing behavior by means of ticketing; a law and order type strategy. In my mind like the Americans building a fence on their border with Mexico. A half raspberry is awarded to the councilor who seconded a motion to add this to a resolution, but never really injected themself into the discussion. In the end council recognized and agreed the ongoing process involving a discussion between all stakeholders that is already in place was the best approach to the situation. While many might hope that it would progress more quickly, the ongoing approach has the promise of eventual success by modifying behavior. In general, issuing fines to change behavior is a less than optimal approach, especially if there are alternatives.

Item 9.6.1 regarding the boundary adjustment with Seguin was passed on a split vote, 4 to 3. This resolution offers property owners in the boundary adjustment area property tax relief until that time the properties are developed, require Parry Sound services, or are sold. A deputation by Mike Reeves in support of the resolution emphasized the potential value to the town in extending a proposal to the property owners that made it attractive for them to become part of Parry Sound.

It was interesting to follow the arguments on the part of the two groups of councilors for and against the resolution. Apparently there was concern that Parry Sound was required to cover the full $90,000 cost of the study concerning the boundary adjustment, even though the study addressed an area larger than the one being considered for the boundary adjustment. But that seems to me to be the cost of doing business. I for one support the decision made by council and mayor on this and I hope the property owners will agree to join Parry Sound under these new terms.

What was noticeable by its absence was any proposal from staff regarding the handling of waste from non-profit organizations. Next meeting perhaps?

There was more discussed than I noted here. Read the official council meeting minutes for more information, they should be available in a couple of days at the Town of Parry Sound website. Information, often with additional background, is generally available at the North Star website a few days after the meeting. But these notes and articles really don’t capture much of the thinking that went into the decisions. The best way to understand what went on is to attend.