What seemed like a short and relatively non-controversial agenda became much more interesting once I had a chance to review the council package at the library. Here are some of the highlights and my comments. To get the full story I’d advise town residents to review the agenda that is available online and the council package that is made available at the library and the town office. A reminder: the library is closed Mondays.
Item 5.1 – a deputation on the upcoming province wide property reassessment is worth seeing live or catching later on Cogeco. It is unlikely there is a systematic plan to lower assessments, so expect more tax increases.
Item 9.1.1 – concerns a review of service delivery. This is scary, from a tax payer’s perspective. The town is considering hiring a consultant, probably KPMG, to audit the town’s services and identify opportunities to reduce expenses and/or raise revenues by about $900,000 per year. We’ll probably end up paying about $50,000 to be told that the town is already doing a good job and the only opportunities are those town residents are unlikely to accept. But town staff and council will have done the necessary audit and we will all be a little poorer. (Disclosure – I work as a consultant, albeit not is the financial sector, and have first hand experience on what consultants can do and why they are hired. In most cases it’s a CYA exercise.)
Item 9.1.2 – concerns water and waste water arrears. I wondered what this was all about and why we received three separate bills (water, waste water, and water heater rental). I’m not sure I really get it but it seems to be related to the fact that if you have it all on one bill, and only a portion is paid, you can’t be sure what service is in arrears and should be shut off. I hope the new proposals will address the problem. We seem to have an issue with deadbeats who don’t pay their bills. It’s especially a problem when they are renters. Suggestion – require a deposit on the start of service. I’ve lived in many different municipalities and we were always required to put up a $100 or $200 deposit for service to be turned on. Yes, it’s not fair for those who pay their bills. The alternative is paying higher rates to compensate for those people who ‘stiff’ the town.
Item 9.2.2 – offers direction for staff follow up concerning the Ranger Cabin on Tower Hill. (Disclosure – the Anne Bossart of the Tower Hill group is my wife, so I have some additional insights and probably some biases. Take this into consideration.)
My reading of the direction seems to indicate the Director of Public Works is suggesting the cabin is dilapidated and in need of repairs that would cost on the order of $15,000 to $30,000. His preferred approach, which he has presented previously, seems to be to tear down the cabin and replace it with a gazebo. He does not provide a budget for what this might cost.
A philosophy of recycle, reuse and repair is seemingly being exchanged for a philosophy of replace, replace and replace. That may, or may not, be the right thing to do when it comes to trucks and plows, but it really isn’t the right thing to do when it comes to our history and our heritage. It’s a bit like taking Buddy behind the shed to be shot because well, he’s a bit slow on the hunt, the vet bills are adding up, and we’d rather have a younger dog, preferably a different breed.
How about adding a recommendation that the town residents who support rehabilitation of the cabin be given until the end of the year to put together a plan? They’ll get it done, and it will be for much less than the cost of tearing down the cabin and replacing it with a gazebo. With public funding sources identified, a heritage property at stake, and a motivated volunteer group, it may cost the town nothing. Doing the right thing for less – now that’s a bargain that the consultants wouldn’t be able to come up with.
Item 9.5.1 – concerns the charitable waste grant. It looks as though the money budgeted by the town for charitable waste will be disbursed to the groups that have filed requests. This is good.
See you Tuesday.
Another longer meeting Tuesday night with deputations and lots of discussion at the Council level. Even some of the Councillors seemed to tire of the discussion and questions asked.
Most items reviewed by Council were approved. One notable approval was 9.1.2 Big Sound Marina: Power Upgrade, Resolution that Council grant 2012 pre-budget approval to upgrade the power at Big Sound Marina in the amount of $75,000. The Councillors in their wisdom, a decision I certainly support, felt the investment was necessary to keep Parry Sound at the hub of the big boat cruising scene. We are uniquely located in Georgian Bay, with pristine waters and wonderful scenery far from the big boat congestion of the Midland and Meaford areas, and a short day trip from almost all parts of Georgian Bay. And people who own big boats know how to spend big money which is appreciated by our Parry Sound merchants and service providers. Hopefully much if the expense will be covered by grants, but even if it isn’t it is the type of upgrade that will pay off for the town for the next decade or two. And this probably means we will get two major big boat cruising events this summer. As noted by Ms Middaugh, one of these events has been estimated by others to contribute in excess of $500,000 in local spending. Did I mention that big boat owners are big spenders?
In the same sense of planning for the future, Council approved 10.4.3 Heritage Designation By-law – 17 George Street – Tower Hill Garden. As one of the two Parry Sound icons, not neglecting Number 4 of course, Tower Hill has been part of the town’s history for almost a century. And as you read and hear about people’s memories of spending quality time in the gardens you get a sense of what it was and what it should continue to be. I applaud Council’s decision. What did surprise and disappoint me on this matter was the niggling by one of the councilors concerning the ranger cabin and whether it should be excluded from the designation. The question was well handled by Mr. Laing who pointed out that this was unnecessary given the latitude afforded Council by the Heritage Act. This was the same councilor who spent much time at one council meeting questioning whether the Town should allow the hanging of the Artists Round the Sound art in town hall because it was not explicitly stated who would be responsible for patching the holes that wold be required to hang the art. I think there are better things for the councilors to spend their time thinking about especially after seeing how the art has complemented town hall and established a visual sense of place for staff and visitors.
You can find more information on the meeting in the official minutes that will be posted in a couple of days. In addition, more information with additional reporting is always available in the North Star and Beacon Star a few days later. The same articles are often also available online at Cottage Country Now.
I’ve finished reading a new Parry Sound Library book – The 3rd Alternative, by Stephen R. Covey. He’s the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, a book that over the last couple of decades has had a major impact on the way people think and act, from world leaders to people like you and me.
His new book outlines how it is possible to do better in everyday situations and conflicts. Rather than having winners and losers in any argument or conflict he is suggesting both both not only can win, but they can do even better than they imagined. It just takes looking at the challenge with a different frame of mind. This 3rd Alternative thinking is a logical progression to one of the 7 Habits – “Think Win-Win”. Dr. Covey provides the reasoning and benefits of 3rd Alternative thinking in many real life situations.
The book is an entertaining read and full of great ideas. It’s a definite winner and worth checking out from the Parry Sound Library.
Do you have a great book you would like to share with others? You may want to adopt a book at Parry Sound Library. For just of the cost of the book you can share it with members of the community. Drop by the library for information on the program and ideas on books you may wish to adopt, or suggest your own title.
There is good news for Parry Sound with the announcement of the decision to build the new elementary school on an eight acre property on Beatty Street, a couple of hundred meters north of Isabella Street. I picked up on this Monday with the posting of the announcement at the CottageCountryNow.ca website.
There are two upsides to the selection of this location. It’s a reasonably low traffic area for children who walk, although there will need to be attention paid to traffic on Isabella. Site lines are rather poor and with a downhill slope there is a tendency to speed. But that should not be too big an issue with education of local drivers and some gentle enforcement of speed limits.
The big win is with respect to train and transportation noise. Unline the current location of the Victory and William Beatty schools, the new school will be far from any rail noise, notably the air horns and the squealing of rail car wheels. The location is also far enough away from the 400 that vehicle traffic noise will not be an issue.
I suspect that a very few years after the new school is operational we will see above average reading and mathematics scores for the students. A quiet learning environment has been shown to be an important contributor to academic success.
This is another one of those ‘green shoots’ of growth and good decisions that will make Parry Sound and even better place to live.
As many of you have noticed there are crossing gates being installed at the Forest Street rail crossing. As of October 19th the gate mechanism seems to have been installed with the gate arms still to come. I hope it will be operational by the end of the month, but I’m not aware of a schedule.
Thanks are due Peter Brown, Director of Public Works for the Town of Parry Sound, and Councillor Paul Borneman for making this happen. The crossing was originally scheduled for installation in 2010 but was pushed back. Without the efforts of Messrs Borneman and Brown it might have slipped to 2012.
Here’s hoping that we look forward to the installations of gates at the Cascade Street crossing in 2012. As you remember this was the site of a train related fatality earlier this year. The Cascade crossing has a very obstructed view and creating one more barrier to ‘taking a chance’ can only help someone make the right decision and save their life.
People can always go around a gate at a railway crossing, but it takes time and it’s not easy. Like the RIDE program for reducing drunk driving, the crossing gates cannot prevent people from making a stupid decision, it can only make them think twice about the consequences.