The upcoming April 3rd regular meeting of council seems to be a bit of a snooze. With all of the budget and boundary adjustment issues that have kept staff and council busy it’s not too surprising that there is little time for other issues. I expect this will change once the budget is approved, perhaps as soon as this week, and the boundary adjustment discussion is formally dead.

Well most of the issues on the agenda are a snooze, except that there is a proposed direction to staff to prepare for a 2.5% tax rate increase for this year; more on this below.

Before I dive into a short summary of the items on this week’s agenda I’ll offer my thoughts on what’s going on with Parry Sound Power and a possible $16 million capital investment. Despite my requests for more information there has been nothing offered. Recent budget discussions have offered a clue. Parry Sound has noted a $35,000 legal expense in the 2012 budget related to Parry Sound Power. This is a little odd. If the town were simply looking at a capital investment, albeit quite large, it is hard to imagine that they would require this type of legal support or review. Even a large purchase agreement would not demand this amount of legal time. More reasonably, and consistent with the secrecy surrounding the project, the town is looking to bring a ‘partner’ into the capital project. This might well be a private or public corporation that would make a substantial investment in the project in exchange for a share of the income generated. This party would of course demand a great deal of confidentiality until a final agreement is signed. Last year council briefly considered a partnership related to solar power. There are also reports that a similar arrangement related to Parry Sound Power was seriously explored a few years ago. Well if this is the case I hope the town will allow their shareholders (that’s us, town residents and taxpayers) to weigh in on any agreement. Reducing the investment cost and the risk is always a good idea even if the upside is lowered. Stay tuned for more news as it develops. I do note that Parry Sound Power Gen – Power Generation Project is a topic on the closed session of council prior to Tuesday’s meeting. It’s getting warmer.

Interesting and Notable Agenda Items

Item 2.1.1 concerns a public meeting held just prior to the regular council meeting to discuss a rezoning of a property on Belvedere Avenue to permit a multi-unit residence. Get used to it; in-fill in terms of increased density is the future of Parry Sound if we want to be able to afford city type services and conveniences. Want a little more space and fewer neighbours? Head out to Seguin, Carling or any of our neighbouring municipalities. You will not only get less congestion and lower taxes you will also get fewer services and longer commutes for work, shopping and social services, but that’s a fair trade-off isn’t it?

Item 4.2 is a letter to council asking for closer consideration of infrastructure requirements related to the new school planned for Beatty Street. It seems there may be safety issues related to roads and sidewalks in the neighbourhood that need to be addressed if there will be a greater number of vehicles and pedestrians in the area. It’s Catch-22, you build in a more remote area because it offers lower costs and more space, but this same area has fewer services and requires more investment. I hope the school board and province will be required to cover the cost of any necessary infrastructure upgrades.

Item 9.5.1 is a direction to staff to prepare for a 2.5% tax rate increase for 2012. This is consistent with earlier public budget meetings and the current $173,000 budget gap. It seems we will be facing a 2.5% increase unless the Citizen’s Finance Committee meeting on April 2nd is able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and identify ways to either increase revenue, or reduce costs, by $173,000. Don’t count on it.

These are the key issues to be covered on Tuesday; the agenda lists a number of additional items that may be of some interest to you, here is a link to the latest agenda. Take a look. I will be at the meeting.