Moving on Out?


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Out of the downtown that is.

I have heard the same rumour from a couple of people that the LCBO is looking to move into the recently empty Rexall Pharmacy building at the south end of Parry Sound beside Sobeys. That’s all it is, a rumour.

But, it’s not a new suggestion, and it makes complete sense for the LCBO. A nice new building that is probably the right size, and a lease on their current location that expires later this year. Lots of parking, close to shopping, and I would imagine, within a year, a bank in the area. One stop shopping for groceries, cash, liquor, beer, fast food, and a pharmacy and the Canadian Tire for everything else. There is even a drive through window. Why bother going downtown?

As a taxpayer, it doesn’t bother me at all, well at least not for the near-term. The property taxes the LCBO pays as part of its rent for a downtown location are probably the same as it would be for a south end location. It would mean less congestion in the downtown, but then again there never is that much congestion anyway.

In the longer term I do have concerns. You may not have noticed, but the 2016 MPAC property assessment reduced the valuation of business properties in the downtown. The lost business taxation revenue was picked up by residential properties. If an LCBO move were to induce more businesses to relocate to the south end because of the loss of shopping traffic, or businesses in the downtown decided things were too tough and simply closed down, it might create a situation where the downtown was labeled ‘depressed’, and assessments would be further reduced, possibly considerably reduced. That would shift even more of the tax burden to residential property owners, or result in a cut in municipal services.

Of course, lower assessments on business properties, and lower taxes, might allow landlords in the downtown to lower their rental rates. That in turn could spur a renaissance of sorts where businesses attracted by lower rental costs would move to the downtown, which would in turn attract more traffic; a virtuous cycle would be created that would in time lead to increased assessments and more tax revenue. But that is unlikely to happen. One consistent story I have heard is that the downtown landlords overprice commercial property rents, which in turn makes operating a business in the downtown expensive, which dissuades businesses moving downtown. I can’t verify this story, but if the LCBO were to leave there will be more vacant storefronts, leading to a vicious cycle where landlords need to squeeze more out of the businesses that stay in the downtown that compels them to leave.

As an aside, it is my firm opinion that the RBC will be moving the to the south end in 2018 or no later than the first half of 2019. They have already made the move to a mobile facility beside Dunn’s Storage indicating their intention to be gone from the Parry Sound Mall. I initially filed an appeal to the by-law that approved the RBC move in hopes that it would give the Downtown Business Association a chance to marshal their resources and mount an opposition to the move. But after speaking to the DBA and a few merchants it became apparent that they either felt there was no threat, or they preferred to ignore it because it was too much effort. In the end I dropped the appeal after spending a thousand dollars and the prospect of spending an additional twenty or thirty thousand to have any hope of success. One can’t help those who won’t help themselves.

Perhaps the downtown businesses understand the situation better than I do, and the RBC move was not a figurative dying canary signaling the eventual relocation of banks, booze retailers and bars away from the downtown. That belief has some support. The Mayor explicitly stated that he would not approve any move of these businesses from the downtown, and he was the deciding vote on approving the RBC move. Making it even more interesting is the fact that this is an election year. If the LCBO doesn’t feel they have the support from the current Council to approve the move, they may just wait until there is a new council. I expect that there will be a least two seats open, so there could be a change in the appetite of Council to weaken the downtown. Town Staff and Council have to seriously consider the possibility that denying the LCBO a move to the south end might push them to move out of Parry Sound, across the Town Line just a little down Oastler Park Drive. Oh, and paying about one-third in property taxes in Seguin would be a bonus. The LCBO leaving Parry Sound would mean two, not one, empty buildings and another loss of tax revenue. Hmmm! The LCBO is a retail site, nothing more. Does the LCBO outlet in Dunchurch have town water and sewer services?

There still is an active appeal against the RBC move which explains why the RBC is in a temporary location. It concerns the Province’s approval of the Town’s Official Plan amendment to permit the RBC move. A hearing will be held next month before the Ontario Municipal Board. I have nothing to do with this appeal, it is not being made by the Downtown Business Association or one of the downtown businesses, but rather the Parry Sound Mall. I wish them luck, but I fear their appeal will fail. The Province has already indicated that they wish to delegate the responsibility for this type of Official Plan amendment to the local communities.

With all of this new, fluid, and unconfirmed information the community will need to decide what outcome it prefers.

  1. Allow an LCBO move if that is what they want and let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps it’s the start of a precipitous decline in the Parry Sound Downtown and the banks and Beer Store follow the move. Perhaps it will be the spark that gets the landlords, businesses and the Town to work together and build a real downtown plan that can succeed. We have a new Economic Development Officer being hired; this should be their number one job. Better to find solutions for a collapsing downtown than dream about an innovation park.
  2. Deny the move and hope the LCBO decides to renew their lease at their current location. That implies no change in the status quo for probably five years and things continue on their current path, for better or worse.
  3. Deny the move and discover that the LCBO has decided to build a new facility just across the town line. The Town loses the tax revenue (I’m sure the current property owner would get tax relief of some sort sooner or later) and the property sits empty with the implications of Outcome 1 above.

You have to care, but you can’t care too much. The people who are most likely to bear the near-term brunt of any movement of businesses to the south end are those businesses and landlords who can’t just get up and move. If they don’t care should we? What about removing restrictions concerning what businesses are restricted to the downtown and letting the market decide?

Council Agenda Preview – March 20, 2018


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There are a large number of agenda items. I have ‘slimmed down’ the items to those that I think are most relevant in terms of the Correspondence and Resolutions and Directions to Staff. There has been no abridging of the Deputations and By-Laws. A few items stick out and are worth clarification or a short comment.

2.1.1 – This relates to a property that is in “Town” but doesn’t have clear access to municipal sewer services, or will be burdened with considerable expense to connect to the town system. I’m not sure I would like to have a neighbouring property, possibly a multi-residence rental property, operating a septic system behind my backyard.

9.4.2 – Weeks Construction is getting the contract for a significant portion of the Waubeek Street reconstruction. Given Fowler Construction’s performance on Emily Street it seems they were not gong to get this contract despite winning the past few.

9.5.1 – It looks as though the Splash Pad, if it goes forward, will be situated at Waubuno Beach. That makes sense to me.

10.5.1 – This concerns lease of waterfront property adjacent to the OPP facility that the Town purchased last year, presumably in anticipation of eventual waterfront development. The proposed lease is for three years so nothing is happening anytime soon.

Check out the full agenda at the Town’s website if you want to see all agenda items and details along with the supporting Staff reports.

Closed Session

(e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals affecting the municipality or local board (Official Plan Amendment No. 1 Appeal)

Public Meeting

2.1.1 – Council will hold a public meeting to consider a proposed Zoning By-law amendment under Section 34 of the Planning Act, as amended. The subject property is a vacant lot on Hanna Road, known as southern part of Lot 57 on RCP 338, or more particularly described as Parts 2 and 3 of 42R20780, in the Town of Parry Sound. The property proposed for rezoning is shown on the attached Location Map. The applicant has requested relief from the Residential Second Density Zone to permit residential development that is not on municipal sewer services.


4.1 – Parry Sound Recreation Complex Committee. Providing an update on appointed members and 1st meeting will be in April 2018

4.2 – Splash Pad Committee. Thanking Council for contribution and requesting a designated spot for the splashpad.

4.3 – Georgian Bay Forever. Diversion of microplastics/fibres from the waters of Georgian Bay through a pilot project


5.1 – Georgian Bay Forever. Requesting the participation of Parry Sound in 2 pilot projects, diversion and measurement of change in quantity of microplastics in wastewater.

Consent Agenda

8.1 – 2017 Integrity Commissioners Report. Resolution. Whereas the Council, Boards and Committees Code of Conduct stipulates that the Integrity Commissioner shall file his/her annual report regarding any activities to Council no later than March 31st of each year; and That should there be no complaints/investigations for the year, in this case, 2017, then the Clerk shall report to Council accordingly; Therefore, the Clerk reports that the former Integrity Commissioner, George Rust-D’Eye and the current Integrity Commissioner Harold Elston, have reported that there were no formal complaints filed nor investigations conducted in the year 2017.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1 – Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Resolution. That the Council of the Town of Parry Sound accept the bid from Dependable Emergency Vehicles in the amount of $194,682.12 +taxes for the supply of 18 SCBA, 36 additional air bottles and ancillary equipment.

9.4.1. – 2017 Water System Summary Report. Resolution. Whereas the Town of Parry Sound owns and operates the Parry Sound Drinking Water System (M.O.E. Designation Number 2200000585) which has been categorized as a “Large Residential” Drinking Water System, and Whereas Ontario Regulation 170-03 (as amended) under the Safe Drinking Water Act requires, according to “Schedule 22 Summary Reports for Municipalities” that all large Municipal Residential Drinking water systems have a report prepared no later than March 31st of each year addressing the items detailed in the Regulation and is given to the members of Council in the case of a drinking water system owned by a municipality; Therefore, be it resolved that Council of the Town of Parry Sound hereby acknowledges receipt of the report titled: “Town of Parry Sound Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plan, Large Municipal Residential Drinking Water System Summary Report 2017”, as prepared by Kyle Hall, Manager of Water Systems.

9.4.2. – Waubeek Street Reconstruction Tender Results. Resolution. That upon the recommendation of C. C. Tatham and Associates, Council award the tender for Waubeek and Prospect Street Reconstruction to Weeks Construction Inc., in the amount of $5,101,291.00 plus HST, this tender being the lowest of four (4) tenders received.

9.5.1 – Splash Pad – Response to request for location. Resolution. That Council designate space at Waubuno Beach for future development of a Splash Pad as identified on Attachment #1.


10.1.1 – West Parry Sound Emergency Plan 2018. By-law 2018 – 6813. Being a by-law to adopt an Emergency Management Program and Emergency Response Plan for the West Parry Sound Area and to meet other Requirements under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

10.2.1 – Disposition of Amended Procedural By-law. By-law 2018 – 6814. Being a By-law to govern and regulate the proceedings of Council of The Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound, its Committees and where applicable, its Boards and to repeal By-law 2015-6573.

10.2.2 – Separate By-law for Election Signage. Direction. That staff be directed to bring back the draft Election Sign By-law to the April 17th, 2018 Council Meeting, for disposition by Council after the 14-day public notice period so the public may have the opportunity to provide comments.

10.3.1 – Business Improvement Area (BIA) Levy By-law – Downtown Business Area. By-law 2018 – 6815. Being a By-law to adopt the estimates of the Board of Management of the Downtown Parry Sound Business Improvement Area and to strike the Tax Rate thereon for the year 2018

10.5.1 – Chantler Barging Ltd. Lease Agreement/Renewal – 3 Bay Street. By-law 2018 – 6816. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a lease renewal agreement between Chantler Barging Ltd. and the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound.

10.5.2 – Rezoning Application – Z/18/1 – 60 and 60a Seguin Street (Themer). By-law 2018 – 6812. Being a By-law to amend By-law 2004-4653 (The Zoning By-law), as amended, for 60 and 60a Seguin Street (Themer)

10.5.3 – Rezoning Application – Z/18/2 – 128 Gibson Street (Corkins). By-law 2018-6817. Being a By-law to amend By-law 2004-4653 (The Zoning By-law), as amended, for 128 Gibson Street (Corkins).

10.5.4 – Custodial Services for Parry Sound Fire Station. By-law 2018 – 6818. Being a by-law to authorize an agreement with Bernie Filiatrault Janitorial for Custodial Services for the Parry Sound Fire Station.

10.5.5 – Artists Round the Sound Agreement. By-law 2018 – 6819. Being a By-law to enter into an agreement with the Artists Round the Sound (ARTS) for the rental of wall space at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts. Direction (For Direct Staff Follow-up): That Council direct staff to prepare a Request for Proposal for an art exhibit at the Stockey Centre at the conclusions of the ARTS Agreement.

10.5.6 – Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation Intern Agreement. By-law 2018 – 6820. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of an agreement between the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) and the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound accepting the terms and conditions of the approval of the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Project Development Intern.


Council Agenda Preview – March 6, 2018


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Once again, we have a light agenda for this week’s council meeting. The more notable items include:

9.1.1 – Town of Parry Sound/Parry Sound Area Planning Board. Resolution. A necessary step it seems for the Town to get greater control of it’s own Official Plan amendments.

9.2.1 – Resolution. Staff 2018 Goal Plans Summary. I haven’t gone through the goals but I find them to be a good summary of what is going to get done, or not, for the current year. I’ll take a look at them at some point and provide comments in a separate post.

10.5.2 – By-law. Department of Canadian Heritage – Cultural Spaces Canada – Funding Agreement. The Town has received a grant of $580,000 that helps offset the $1.4 million cost of the Stockey Centre renovations.

Closed Session

d) labour relations or employee negotiations. (Update on Union Grievances)

k) information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them; (Infrastructure Funding)

Public Meeting

2.1.1 – Council will hold a public meeting to consider a proposed Zoning By-law amendment under Section 34 of the Planning Act, as amended. The subject property is known as 60 and 60a Seguin Street, or Part of Reserve and Part of Lot 1 on Plan 86, Part of Waubeek Street on Plan 2, more particularly described as Part 1 of 42T16527, in the Town of Parry Sound. The applicant has requested relief from the Residential Second Density Zone to fulfill a condition of consent. Reduced frontage, access, parking and yard requirements are requested as a result of the provisional severance.

2.1.2 – Council will continue the public meeting to consider an additional proposed amendment to the Zoning By-law under Section 34 of the Planning Act, as amended. The subject property is known as 128 Gibson Street, or Lot 7 and part of Lot 8 on the westside of Gibson Street on Plan 62, in the Town of Parry Sound. The applicant has requested relief from the Residential Second Density Zone to permit an additional dwelling unit above a proposed detached garage.


4.1 – Rebecca Pollock, Chair, Parry Sound Area Active Transportation. Appreciation for the Town’s snow removal efforts

4.2 Mike Rivard, Acting Correspondence Manager, Minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr’s Office. Letter thanking Parry Sound for our correspondence regarding invasive species in the Great Lakes. The Town’s letter has been forwarded to the Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Consent Agenda 

8.1 – Appointment to the Parry Sound Downtown Business Association Board of Directors. Resolution. That upon the recommendation of the Parry Sound Downtown Business Association Board of Directors, Mike Puro be appointed to the Board of Directors to represent the downtown business Above and Beyond; and That the term of office ends November 30, 2018 per the term of Parry Sound Council.

8.2 – 2018 Nomination of Mayor McGarvey for the Ontario Small Urban Municipalities’ (OSUM) Executive Committee – Term 2018-2020. Resolution. That Mayor McGarvey be nominated to the Ontario Small Urban Municipalities’ Executive Committee for the term 2018-2020.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1 – Town of Parry Sound/Parry Sound Area Planning Board. Resolution. That Council request the municipal members of the Parry Sound Area Planning Board for a Resolution supporting the Town’s intention to withdraw from the Parry Sound Area Planning Board.

9.2.1 – Staff 2018 Goal Plans Summary. Resolution. That the 2018 Staff Goal Plan Summary, attached as Schedule “A”, be approved.

9.5.1 – 2018 Municipal Assistance Program Allocation. Resolution. That Council approve the 2018 Municipal Assistance Program allocations per Schedule “A” attached.


10.2.1 – West Parry Sound Joint Election Compliance Audit Committee Terms of Reference and Appointments. By-law. Being a by-law to authorize the establishment of the West Parry Sound Joint Election Compliance Audit Committee and to repeal By-law 2010-5489. Resolution. That subject to the approval by the five member Councils of the Township of McKellar, Municipality of McDougall, Township of The Archipelago, Township of Carling, and Township of Seguin, Parry Sound Council appoint the following people to the West Parry Sound Joint Election Compliance Audit Committee for the 2018-2022 term of Council: Peter Spadzinski, Sandy Eddington, Larry Simmons, Judy Keown (Alternate)

10.3.1 – Gas Tax Funding Agreement. By-law. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a Letter of Agreement between Her Majesty the Queen in right of the Province of Ontario (as represented by the Minister of Transportation) and the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound under the Dedicated Gas Tax Funds for the Public Transportation Program.

10.5.1 – Memorandum of Understanding – Parks & Recreation Ontario: Youth. By-law. Being a bylaw to authorize the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding between Parks & Recreation Ontario (on behalf of Play Works) and the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound under the Youth Action/Advisory Council Development project.

10.5.2 – Department of Canadian Heritage – Cultural Spaces Canada – Funding Agreement. By-law. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a funding agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage – Cultural Spaces Canada – for the Stockey Centre roof and siding renovations.



Wasauksing Swing Bridge Update


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The letter pasted below was passed on to me a couple of days ago. It may be of interest to some of you. It is not a confidential document as it was sent to a large number of recipients in the area who have expressed an interest in the issue. To protect their privacy I have ‘whited out’ their addresses.

It seems that if you have an interest or opinion in the matter you are invited to provide comments to the referenced Transport Canada office. (Click on the letter below to see a larger version.)

Here is a link to the report referenced in the letter.

Council Agenda Preview – February 20, 2018


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There seems to be little of importance on the agenda beyond 2.1.1/10.2.1, whether the matter of fluoridation should be on the 2018 ballot. It seems that Council promised a vote would be held when they chose to remove fluoride from the municipal water system at the request of a vocal community group.

Selected agenda items are noted below.

Closed Session Agenda Items

d) labour relations or employee negotiations. (Performance Review-Director of Public Works)
j) educating or training council members and no member shall discuss or deal with any matter in a way that materially advances the business of the Council (Parry Sound Area Municipal Airport Update)

Public Meeting

2.1.1 – Council will hold a public meeting to consider comments from the public regarding the placement of the following question on the ballot for the 2018 Municipal Election per the Fluoridation Act, R.S.O. 1990: Are you in favour of the fluoridation of the public water supply of this municipality? Council will hear from the pubic regarding the placement of the question on the ballot. This is not a forum to debate the issue of fluoride in the public drinking water supply.


4.2 – Lauren Scott. Correspondence about the dangers of a 5G system.


5.1 – Simon Blakely, Employment Officer, Professions North*Nord (PNN). Presentation of PNN’s services and programs

5.2 – Lynn Middaugh, Director of Development and Leisure Services, Parry Sound. The Ontario Business Case for Cruising the Great Lakes, by Cruise Ship Industry Group (CSIG)

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.2.1 – Update of Procedural By-law, a by-law to govern the proceedings of Council and Committee Meetings. Direction. That staff be directed to post for the public the updated draft procedural By-law that governs the meetings of Council and Committees per Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act (MOMLA), which introduced a series of reforms to the Municipal Act, Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and City of Toronto Act affecting Parry Sound’s procedural by-law.

9.3.1 – Approve Signing Authorities. Resolution. Whereas the Council for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound approved Resolutions 2014-030 and 2014-228 approving signing authority and credit card authority to Members of Council and certain members of staff; and Whereas there are no changes to the position or authority levels at this time; and Whereas there has been a change in the Director of Finance and POA Court Servicesposition;
Now therefore be it resolved that Resolution 2014-030 be amended to remove Trevor Pinn, Director of Finance and POA Court Services as a signing authority; and Further that Kim Chen, Director of Finance and POA Court Services be added as a signing authority.


10.2.1 – Fluoride Question on the Ballot-2018 Municipal Election. By-law 2018 – 6802. Being a bylaw to submit a Question to the Electors on the 2018 Election Municipal Ballot.

10.2.2 – Appointment of Treasurer. By-law 2018 – 6803. Being a By-law to appoint a Treasurer for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound and to repeal by-law 2017-6786.

10.5.1 – Department of Canadian Heritage – Cultural Spaces Canada – Funding Agreement. By-law 2018 – 6804. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of a funding agreement with the Department of Canadian Heritage – Cultural Spaces Canada – for the Stockey Centre specialized equipment for the performance hall.


Wet Dreams? Part 4


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It was about a month ago that a CBC article arrived in my news feed. It said that one third of Canadians live paycheck to paycheck. It stunned me, although I wasn’t surprised. I don’t think that Parry Sound has any reason to believe that its residents are any better off.

A Thought Experiment

Let’s take a family in Parry Sound with two children. Let’s assume that they rent and pay $1,000 per month not including utilities. That’s not an unreasonable estimate for an apartment big enough for two or three children. Rent represents a large portion of their disposable income. Let’s also assume that a pool is built in a multi-municipal partnership and as a result Parry Sound taxes go up by 2%, a best-case scenario. That means the landlord’s taxes will go up and be passed on to tenants. Let’s assume it’s a simple 1% rent increase to cover the cost of the tax increase. A landlord has more than taxes as part of expenses. This family now is paying another $10 per month or $120 per year to support a municipal pool. If they want to use the pool they need to find another $1,000, or a month’s rent, to pay for a family membership at the pool. Can they swing this? Not if they are living paycheck to paycheck.

A Pool for Exactly Who?

Exactly who is a municipal pool intended to serve? Well, it will obviously only serve those who want to swim and have the resources to get to the pool. That’s not everyone and it may not even be a majority of residents. A pool will also serve only those who can afford a pool membership. That further shrinks the ‘pool’ of users. Everyone else will be helping to subsidize the pool for those who want to swim recreationally or competitively, are able to access it, and can afford it.

Actually, it will be only a tiny minority of people who use the pool. Any pool will operate much like a commercial gym. Gyms price their memberships to entice people to buy in, realizing that it will only be a small percentage who actually use it regularly. Most gyms are unable to properly serve all of the people who have paid for a membership if they were to show up regularly. The net/net is that the gym owner makes a profit and the people who actually use the facility are paying less than they really should because of the effective subsidy of others. In this case of a pool all taxpayers are being asked to cover the cost for what will be used by only a few. According to StatCan there are 16,000 people living in the municipalities considering participating in a pool. How many of these can you fit into a pool at one time? Or in one week?

Don’t believe or like this line of thinking? Here is a link to an article in the Washington Post that discusses the business of gym memberships. They note that one gym has 6,000 total members but only capacity for 300. That sounds about right for a pool, but with a 16,000 to 300 ratio.

All-Star Game – Magic Johnson to Darryl Dawkins for a Dunk

There is the point being made that a pool would help with the recruitment of medical professionals to the West Parry Sound Health Centre (WPSHC). That opinion was made clear a couple of years ago when the CEO of the WPSHC made a presentation of Parry Sound Town Council. After the presentation the Parry Sound CAO soft lobbed a question to the CEO asking if a pool would assist with recruitment. Like a Magic Johnson pass to Darryl Dawkins at an All-Star game, the CEO grabbed the alley oop and not only slammed it home, he broke the backboard. Beautiful. And like any All-Star Game it really didn’t make any difference.  A pool can make a difference in recruitment, but ….

Is it enough? Can a pool really make a difference? It’s an 11-million, or even 20-million-dollar bet.

Talking to others I have come to understand that perhaps the biggest reason recruitment is an issue may not be the lack of the pool, but the lack of good opportunity for two career families. Heck, it’s a problem for all families thinking of moving to the Parry Sound area, not just physicians. A physician may be married to a lawyer, or a chartered accountant, or an engineer, or a biologist, or a management consultant, or …. How easy is it for both adults to find good career advancing jobs in the Greater Parry Sound Area?

There is also the issue of educational resources. You have seen the local academic scores. Health professionals are presumably competitive academically, and probably want the best learning environment for their children. That means children learning in an environment where it is not only the teachers that challenge them, but also other students with similar goals and advantages. Do we have magnet schools for the musically or scientifically gifted? Rosseau Lake College is excellent, but as a private school has its own set of pros and cons for a parent to consider.

It’s perhaps better for physicians or top medical professionals to work in an urban centre and provide their families with all of the available benefits and cottage in the Greater Parry Sound Area. Win-win. Weekdays, a vibrant multicultural urban centre, access to educational resources, a local church, synagogue or mosque, and of course a pool and much, much more. Weekends, the relaxation and connection to nature on a lake or river in the West Parry Sound area.

Perhaps that too negative. It’s possible that a pool can help with medical professional and executive recruitment, but it needs to be part of a larger recruitment plan. Let’s see the plan.

It All About Access

How do we make a case for a pool recognizing that at this point it is largely the pet project of a relatively limited number of folks wealthy enough to take advantage of it?

The answer in my opinion is to make it accessible to children, through a school program. That doesn’t necessarily mean attaching it to the new ‘super school’. I understand that there is no room, and more importantly no budget. That’s okay. If we want the pool to be part of the community, we need to introduce children to it. Even if they only get a dozen dips in a school year it is an important experience that might have lifelong implications, and one they would not have been able to enjoy otherwise. There may be a future Olympian waiting to have their potential revealed.

That family who saw their rent go up $120 per year because of a new pool might be okay with the increase if their children we able to use the pool without any additional charge.

Lessons of the Bobby Orr Community Centre

Let’s not use the Bobby Orr Community Centre model as a template for a municipal pool. At this point the taxpayers of Parry Sounds subsidize the BOCC to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars per year. Beyond its use for meetings as well as community and private events the BOCC is primarily used as an ice rink. But as an ice rink its use is pretty much limited to organizations who pay for ice time. The organizations who pay for ice time play an important role in subsidizing the BOCC expenses and are given top priority in terms of ice time assignment. This results in other taxpayers, casual skaters, having very limited use of the facility, sometimes depending on the Mayor or Tim Hortons to cover the cost of a free skating period. People do have access to free skating at the Kinsmen Park, but that depends on the weather and the contribution of volunteers. Let’s not hope that a municipal pool would, like the Bobby Orr Community Centre, be limited to those who pay a premium or participate in programmed content while all others are relegated to Waubuno Beach, and subject to season and weather.

If a pool is a municipal resource that is subsidized by the taxpayer, the taxpayer needs to have access. A pool cannot become a resource that is reserved for those who can afford to pay more or are willing to participate in structured programs. Structured programs, swimming lessons and swim club, will be necessary, but shouldn’t preclude regular casual public access.

Concluding Comments and Suggestion

Building a pool for the right reasons and with the financial involvement of the neighbouring municipalities can make sense if it is done for the right reasons with a plan that encourages use by all. Or at the very least doesn’t create any artificial barriers.

How about we forgo any basic user fees and make it free to all municipal residents? Add in another $300,000 to the annual expense line that might come from user fees and spread the cost among the communities. You pay just a very little bit more in your taxes but that’s all it costs to access the pool unless you use the programming. That family with two kids could then afford to go for a Saturday morning swim in the middle of January.

There is an election coming up, let’s put it to the voters to decide. Let’s not leave the decision up to a few dozen individuals who raise enough fuss that they get their way. That has worked too well in the past, perhaps not to the benefit of the larger community. In Parry Sound the squeaky wheels, as long as there are enough of them, get the budget. Let’s remember the many folks who live paycheck to paycheck when we look at how tax money should be spent.

That’s it for me on this topic. I may chip in with some comments at some future point. I will be interested in watching how this initiative progresses. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

(Disclosure: I can afford my portion of any tax increase that is part of a joint municipal pool initiative. I can also afford a $1,000 per year pool membership.)







wet Dreams? Part 3


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Swimming in Numbers.

In the end it’s about the numbers. There is no question in my mind that there is no one against a pool, aquatic centre or athletic complex on the basis of its contribution to the community. There may have been people for and against the Walmart on principle and not numbers. And there were people for and against fluoridation, and the numbers didn’t really matter. In the case of a pool it’s all about the numbers at the council level.

Let’s start with some numbers. These numbers can be used to tell any number of stories, but we will focus on only a couple that are relevant to a municipal pool.

The numbers in the table above are derived from a few sources, notably StatCan, MPAC, and individual municipal budgets and tax rate bylaws. The Occupied Home figures from StatCan, basically tells you how many of the properties are not used seasonally, that is they are residents and not cottagers. The MPAC Values represent the property values in the various municipalities. To make things a little easier to digest I have normalized the figures with the Town of Parry Sound being set at 1. That means all of the properties in Seguin have about four times the values of those in Parry Sound. McKellar property values total about four fifths that of Parry Sound. Some of these numbers may be surprising. Tax rates are similarly expressed relative to those of Parry Sound. For example, a person in Parry Sound paying $2,000 of municipal tax on their property would pay $540 in Seguin for a property with a similar MPAC assessed property value, $740 in McKellar and $880 in McDougall. This does not include the education tax levy which is the same in each municipality. The education portion represents about 10% of my total tax bill in Parry Sound but would represent about 35% of the tax bill of someone in Seguin or the Archipelago. We pay exactly the same rate for education taxes, but it ‘hurts’ more in a relative sense in the other municipalities.

If this is the financial backdrop for a pool project, it’s important to understand the implications for each of the municipalities. I have a pretty good idea of the more important considerations in Parry Sound and will imagine some of the dynamics and concerns in the other municipalities. At this point Carling, McDougall and the Archipelago have expressed initial interest in a municipal pool project. McKellar has declined to participate. Seguin has not yet responded as far as a I know, and I believe Parry Sound has not committed but is likely to agree to participate in looking at the options.

Town of Parry Sound

Parry Sound Town Council is generally in favour of a pool if it can be done as part of an equitable long-term sharing agreement with the other municipalities. Going alone would increase the Town levied taxes by about 12% as mentioned in an earlier post, and these taxes are already four-times that of Seguin and the Archipelago.

The Town is likely to have other concerns that would need to be addressed in any agreement. It’s obvious the pool would need to be in Parry Sound, if only for access to a secure supply of treated water. None of the other communities would be able to provide this service and the cost of building and operating a treatment facility would make the pool project too expensive. But, the Town has concerns about losing a portion of its water treatment capacity to a project that will not generate revenue. Who pays for additional capacity if at a later date capacity equivalent to that used by the pool is required for development?

There is also the prospect of losing prime real estate to another project that will not generate property taxes. The Town now has more than two dozen facilities occupying prime real estate that don’t pay taxes. This includes churches as well as social service and medical service providers. These groups enhance the quality of life for Parry Sounders, but they also enhance the quality of life of those in the surrounding communities. These facilities make use of, and raise the cost of, tax subsidized services, increasing the load on tax payers of Parry Sound.

Would a consortium of municipalities be willing to give Parry Sound a credit on the tax assessed value of a municipal pool? Assuming an ‘assessed’ value of $11+ million for a pool would suggest that if it were a business or residential property it would pay about $150,000 in annual municipal taxes. Would the consortium be willing to credit the Town that amount against their contribution? Oh, oh, I hear the howls already!

For Parry Sound a pool is not that interesting unless acceptable terms were negotiated. What might be acceptable to Parry Sound might not be acceptable to its neighbours.

The Archipelago and Seguin

I am lumping these two together because they largely share the same interests, although they might not share the same ways of thinking.

Issue one is the tax payer. The majority of Seguin and Archipelago taxes are paid for by seasonal property owners. What they want is limited services and low taxes. They are paying two sets of taxes, one for their home in ‘Hogtown’, and another for their cottage in ‘God’s Country’. They don’t need a pool, they have one they are already paying for back home. These are informed folks who do not want to pay for anything more than is absolutely necessary to ensure a road to their cottage, and rules to prevent their neighbour from building a bigger dock or ‘bunkie’ than they have. And when it comes to roads they are already paying for that last ‘mile’ of driveway to access their ‘cottage’.

There are still folks in both municipalities who live, work, and contribute to the larger West Parry Sound community. In principle, they probably would like a pool, but not if it costs that much. It’s a bit different depending on whether you live in The Archipelago or Seguin. Archipelago residents really have only one choice where to go for shopping and services – Parry Sound. Sudbury, Huntsville and Bracebridge are a bit too far. For Seguinites it’s a bit more nuanced. Given the proximity of Huntsville and especially Bracebridge, it becomes a toss-up as to whether you drive to either one of those towns or Parry Sound. It may not even be a toss-up for those in Rosseau. Once you’re in Bracebridge for a pool you have more options in terms of their recreation centre and shopping. Pay more taxes for a pool in Parry Sound that you won’t use? The eastern Seguinites will probably say no. For those in Orrville a Parry Sound pool might be desirable, if they think they will use a pool. Not all will. The situation for Archipelagians is more obvious if they want a pool. That may be why they have expressed initial interest in a community pool discussion.

Both communities offer their seasonal residents the lowest taxes possible. These are the municipalities that boast multiple multimillion dollar properties. A quick look online revealed numerous, and I mean numerous, properties with valuations in excess of $5 million each in Seguin. That $5 million dollar ‘cottage’ would pay about $18,000 in Seguin taxes (not including education taxes). Raising their taxes 2% would mean an additional $360 in taxes. That might mean foregoing a couple less bottles of fine wine, probably very fine wine. When you make this type of money though, a dollar spent on something you really don’t want hurts more than you might imagine. And if it hurts they squeal. With a ward system they have ears to squeal into.

Carling and McKellar

I’m lumping these together to save words even though McKellar has declined participation. The situation these municipalities share is similar. Heading off to Sudbury or Muskoka for a pool is not really practical. At the same time, they both have more than two-thirds of their property value owned by seasonal residents and face the same issues discussed with regard to Seguin and the Archipelago.

The property values in both of these municipalities approach but don’t come consistently close to the stratified values of the Seguin and Archipelago properties. Seasonal residents of both municipalities are likely to pushback against any increase. Perhaps in anticipation of this McKellar’s council has already declared their lack of interest and retreated to their bunker.


McDougall is much like Parry Sound in many ways, but not all. If you have driven along Big Sound Road you realize that there are a number of million dollar plus properties, just not the multimillion properties of Seguin and the Archipelago. Parry Sound does not have these types of properties, which may explain why the ‘rich folk’ who work in Parry Sound don’t live in Parry Sound. Taxes in McDougall are also the highest in the area, but still less than half of Parry Sound’s. It’s an easy ride from McDougall, at least the major population centre of Nobel, to Parry Sound for shopping and making use of a municipal pool.

Who Pays What?

This will certainly be a point of discussion and probably disagreement. Do you share expenses on the basis of permanent population, seasonal plus permanent population, private dwelling numbers, or MPAC assessment? I’m sure the lower tax municipalities, with higher assessment values and lower populations, would prefer a population-based sharing. Parry Sound would prefer an assessment-based allocation.

Both methods of allocation are currently being used. Belvedere Heights allocates municipal contributions on the basis of MPAC assessed property values. By this measure Parry Sound, The Archipelago, McDougall and McKellar all pay about the same, plus/minus $15,000. Carling pays about $40,000 more and Seguin pays about four-times as much. This is because Seguin in particular has a massive assessment base with all of those multimillion dollar ‘cottages’.

The Reginal Health Unit on the other hand allocates municipal contributions on the basis of the MPAC 2014 population count. This makes the Town of Parry Sound the largest contributor, while the Archipelago pays next to nothing. This makes sense as health services are delivered on a per person basis, although it is likely our ‘summer visitors’ and cottagers make considerable use of the hospital, albeit not so much the health unit services.

Playing Arbitrage

The situation with McKellar is interesting to think about. They have expressed no interest in a community pool, but could we deny McKellar residents the right to use the pool? Probably not. We would just need to charge a premium for those who want to use the pool but whose municipality doesn’t provide support. It’s a tricky situation. We are likely to have visitors interested in using a pool. Some will be tourists with no relation to the community and there will be others who are friends or family of area residents whose municipalities contribute to the pool. Charge too much and the Town looks like a money grabbing community, charge too little and it will make it cheaper for other municipalities and their residents to not participate in supporting the community pool. But then again, any additional revenue is probably ‘profit’. What is the additional cost of ten visitors compared to the corresponding dollars of non-resident income?

Let’s look at the McKellar situation as an example of what communities might want to think about. If McKellar were to participate in the pool they would probably be on the hook for about $85,000 per year (permanent population basis). That would raise their taxes by a bit less than 1.5%. On a property value basis, let’ assume that for a $250,000 property, not a high-end cottage, this would amount to an increase of about $18 per year. In exchange for this the resident could purchase an annual pool pass for let’s say $1,000. Also assume the non-resident rate is $1,400, a 40% premium. For that person having McKellar in the consortium is a big savings. It’s likely that it would be a break-even event for residents if they were only to use the pool twice a year and pay a resident as opposed to non-resident single visit rate.

What about McKellar as a whole. I would be surprised that if more than 30 pool memberships were sold to McKellar residents. That would bring in $30,000 of revenue as a ‘resident’. The non-resident rate would bring in $42,000, a difference of $12,000. That’s not close to the $85,000 it would cost McKellar to participate in the consortium. McKellar would be better off reimbursing pool users the $400 cost of a non-resident membership. It would raise taxes only a fraction of a percent if the amount couldn’t be found in petty cash.

That’s what arbitrage is all about, capturing profit by exploiting the difference between prices in different markets. In theory at least, it could work to the benefit of a community like McKellar to sit outside. It would be hard to refuse McKellar residents access to the pool because McKellar isn’t party to the pool partnership or charge them the appropriate premium to cover the real benefit they are receiving.

Final Thoughts

The numbers and the individual interests of municipalities are what will drive the decision. Understand the numbers and you can perhaps better anticipate and address concerns at your local municipal level.

There is also a social issue that needs to be addressed. A municipal pool is not like roads or health services that we all use in one way or another, even if we don’t have a car or never get sick. I’ll take a look at that in the next and final installment.





Council Agenda Preview – February 6, 2016


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As things start to heat up at Council I’m getting a little bit worried as explained below.

4.2 – This concerns the sewer flushing issues that has been the topic of previous letters but no public discussion, announcement or apparently any resolution.

9.2.2 – Why is money being put into a splashpad reserve fund without any public discussion? While I think a splashpad has merit, I don’t think it is at the point of having funds allocated to it. Council should be willing to open a reserve fund and put in a dollar if they want to indicate their support in the absence of a proper budget discussion and agreement. Putting the suggested $40,000 into the reserve without requesting other proposals for park and recreation type installations or programs is shortsighted and perhaps suggesting some sort of favouritism. I’m still a bit miffed about the decision to install the ‘musical garden’ on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail at a price of $35,000 without any public discussion. I have played with the instruments, and it’s more than okay, but I am yet to see anyone else use it. Could these funds have been put to better use? We’ll never know. Staff and Council seem to treat the Parkland Reserve Fund as a ‘rainy day’ or ‘mad money’ fund. How about the Park inventory and plan we were promised a couple of years ago before going forward allocating parkland funds? (Yes, I do remember these things.) Reading the Staff recommendation, I note that this item is not a core service, it is not a goal, and it only indirectly relates to Council’s Strategic Priority. The enemy of the best is not the bad, it is the good.

I like, and in principle support, the idea of the splashpad. Let’s review and approve it appropriately. If a nod of support for the proposal is required let’s open the reserve and put in a $1,000, not $40,000.

9.5.1 – This one I think is just plain writing sloppiness. I certainly hope so. “That upon the direction of Mr. Bobby Orr, Council provide financial support”. So, Mr. Orr now directs how Town of Parry Sound Council spends our money? No, I’m sure that Mr. Orr merely supported, or recommended support for, Mr. Ideson’s participation at the Paralympics. His recommendation is as good as a direction given his substantial contributions to the Town and area, but I think he would be embarrassed by this language. Words really do matter, ask any lawyer.

Things seem to be getting a little bit loosey-goosey. I hope this is not a symptom of pre-retirement malaise. Eyes open Councillors. Staff may find it easier to recommend yes than no, especially if they don’t need to deal with the consequences of either.

Closed Agenda Items

  1. b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees. (AMO Board relations)
  2. c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land for municipal or local board purposes. (Big Sound Marina)
  3. d) labour relations or employee negotiations. (Union Grievances, Negotiation Mandate)
  4. f) the receiving of advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose. (Union Grievances, Negotiation Mandate)


4.2 Richard and Marilyn Mooder, residents. Re: Feel their concerns have not been resolved.

4.4 Form letters from one group and citizens supporting a question on the ballot for municipal election to appoint an elected official to the citizen’s Ad Hoc Wellness and Pool Recreational Committee.
Gardens of Parry Sound – Russell Becker, 3 illegible signatures, Norma Romanelli, Gloria Young, June Carlton, Glenna Hoddy, Nancy Lock, E. Robinson, Dorothy Simpell, D. Stratton, Lois Moloney, Margaret Dunnigan, Lou McLeod, ? Marshall, Deana ? Vivian Moore, Dr. Victoria Smith, Jennifer (no last name), Chris George, Lise Henderson (resident), Valerie and Colin Cramp. Total of 24 letters

4.5 Chris McDonald, resident
Re: Splash Pad Reserve and Splash Pad Development Plans


5.1 Tricia Bain, Facilitation & Planning Coordinator, Community Living Parry Sound Re: Community Ramp Project

5.2 Peter Istvan, Member, Citizens Ad-Hoc Wellness and Pool Recreational Committee. Re: Appointment of Council Member to become a member of this Committee

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.1 – Issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 2019 Fire Truck Purchase instead of a Tender. Resolution. That the Council for the Town of Parry Sound waive the Purchasing Policy and direct staff to proceed with a Request for Proposal for the purchase of a Fire Truck to be delivered in 2019.

9.2.1 – Request to put a Question on the Municipal Ballot Re: Pool/Complex member Appointment. Resolution. Whereas Council received a letter of request from a citizens’ Ad Hoc Wellness and Pool/Complex Committee encouraging all seven West Parry Sound Municipalities to pass a by-law by March 1st, 2018 to include a wellness/pool related question on the ballot for the 2018 municipal election as follows:

I support my municipality in appointing an elected representative to a Recreation Complex Advisory Committee to investigate and determine the feasibility of a recreation wellness and pool complex in the Parry Sound area (Yes or No);

Therefore, Be It Resolved that Council for the Town of Parry Sound put a question on the ballot for the upcoming Municipal Election asking eligible voters to appoint an elected representative to a citizens’ Ad-Hoc Wellness and Pool Recreation Committee.

Resolution. Be It Resolved That Council for the Town of Parry Sound officially appoints Mayor Jamie McGarvey as a member of a citizens Ad Hoc Wellness and Pool Recreation Committee to investigate and determine the feasibility of a recreation wellness and pool complex in the Parry Sound Area.

9.2.2 – Splashpad Reserve Fund. Resolution. That a Splashpad Reserve Fund be established; and That $40,000 be transferred from the Municipal Property / Parkland Reserve Fund to the Splashpad Reserve Fund. Direction. That further contributions to the Splashpad Reserve Fund be considered as part of the 2019 Budget process and be dependent on the extent of community fundraising support at that time.

9.5.1 – Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Reserve Fund – Donation. Resolution. That upon the direction of Mr. Bobby Orr, Council provide financial support in the amount of $2,000 to Mark Ideson and his quest for Gold at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in March to be funded from the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame Reserve Fund.

9.5.2 – Open Grant Program. Resolution. That Council approve the 2018 Open Grant Program allocations per attached Schedule “A”.

9.5.3 – Bill 139 – Update. Resolution. That the February 6, 2018, Bill 139 Report and Recommendation, attached as Schedule “A”, be accepted by Council for information purposes.


10.1.1 – Appointment Bylaw – Allison Kreuger – Municipal Law Enforcement Officer. By-law 2018 – 6796.
Being a bylaw to appoint Allison Kreuger as a Municipal Law Enforcement Officer.

10.3.1 – Temporary Borrowing Authorization. By-law 2018 – 6797. Being a by-law to authorize temporary borrowing to meet the current expenditures of the Town of Parry Sound until taxes are collected and other revenues are received.

10.3.2 – Ontario Regulation 284/09. That Council hereby adopts the compliance report for expenses excluded from the 2018 budget outlined in the staff report “Ontario Regulation 284/09”, attached as Schedule “A”, as a requirement of Ontario Regulation 284/09 passed under the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended.

10.3.3 – 2018 Budget. By-law 2018 – 6798. Being a By-law to Adopt the Operating and Capital Budget Estimated for the Year 2018.

10.3.4 – Tax Policies – Capping and New to Class/New Construction. By-law 2018 – 6799. Being a bylaw to specify our Tax Policies, including the claw back percentage, the capping threshold parameters, the minimum tax level for new to class / new construction and to exclude certain properties from the capping program for the year 2018.

10.3.5 – Tax ratios for 2018. By-law 2018 – 6800.Being a by-law to set Tax Ratios for Municipal purposes for the year 2018.





Wet Dreams? Part 2


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In this post I examine the likely costs of a municipal ‘pool’ for the area. I don’t discuss the impact of any costs on individual municipalities in this post. the focus is on the likely costs to build and operate a pool.

I can assure you that any numbers I present will be wrong. I am not doing an in-depth cost analysis; that is best left to an experienced consultant. My estimates are based on figures I believe to be credible and reasonable. As appropriate, I provide links. That qualification of being wrong doesn’t mean you should dismiss the analysis if you disagree with it or embrace it unquestioningly if you agree. It’s an estimate and the basis for constructive discussion. Looking at the numbers also helps identify issues that are worth discussing and digging into. There will be two more posts on this topic so assume that the more obvious questions and implications of this analysis will be discussed in a later post.

Cost Estimates – Introduction

Building and operating a pool comes with four sets of expenses. The Build. Annual Operating Costs. Programming Costs. Reserve Fund.

There is also Revenue to consider, unrelated to property tax implications. That is discussed in this post as well.

The Build

I will toss out the number of $11 million to build a swimming pool. This is based on an article from 2013 concerning a pool being considered by the community of Exeter in Southwestern Ontario. The estimate for their pool was $9-13 million. I have taken the midpoint and ignored inflationary increases over the past 5 years. This is for an indoor pool, not an aquatic centre.

This seems to be a reasonable, albeit conservative estimate, in my opinion. I note that the Town of Parry Sound will be investing $1.2 million in the Stockey Centre just for new siding and a metal roof. A replacement of the ice surface at the Bobby Orr Community Centre also comes in at $1.2 million. The Stockey Centre cost $12 million to build in 2002, about $16.5 million in 2018 dollars. The retaining wall rebuild along Bowes Street cost about $200,000. This was the replacement of an existing wall that was less than 100 metres in total length and varied from ground level to no more than 2.5 metres in height. Things are remarkably expensive when you start moving earth.

It’s possible to lowball costs and take a cheaper path, but that always comes back to bite as we have learned in Parry Sound. That $1.2 million upgrade at the Stockey Centre is required because the current roof leaks and needs to be replaced. And the siding at the Stockey Centre hasn’t held up as well as promised. In the case of the Bobby Orr Community Centre, the town was required to spend tens of thousands to repair/replace/upgrade the heating in the stands. The BOCC roof will cost thousands more to repair/replace/upgrade. It’s possible to do things on the cheap, but it usually turns out to be a mistake.

So, let’s work with $11 million to build a municipal pool. This is for a 25 metre five lane pool, no high diving area, and no separate children’s pool. Certainly no separate fitness area.

None of the local communities, certainly not the Town of Parry Sound, can afford to pay $11 million upfront for a new pool so we need a debenture. There are many considerations in estimating the cost of a debenture, but what the heck, let’s go for it.

The first thing to be decided is the length of the debenture. I understand this generally is the expected lifetime of the facility. An indoor pool is different than most other buildings. The humidity and pool chemicals have a profoundly negative impact on longevity. A pool can last longer than 20 to 30 years, but the maintenance costs rise substantially as the pool ages. For the purpose of our discussion I will optimistically assume a 30-year bond.

An $11 million, 30-year, bond will cost about $700,000 per year at an interest rate of 3.5%. This 3.5% rate seems to be a reasonable, albeit optimistic, figure. Over the length of the loan the pool would have cost $21 million, or about twice the initial cost. That’s not too bad for the privilege of stretching it out over thirty years. It’s likely that inflation will average more than 3.5% over this period. People too easily forget the 1980s and the 10-15% interest rates people paid for mortgages.

If we drop the repayment period to 20 years, the annual cost rises to about $750,000. Keeping the period at 30 years and using a 5% interest rate raises the annual payments to $870,000.

Operating Costs

This is perhaps the weakest part of this analysis and most subject to correction. Nonetheless, the costs can be approached from a couple of different directions with results that hopefully come close.

There is some public information available regarding operating costs. The article mentioned earlier estimates operating costs at about $450,000 in 2013 dollars for a pool that should meet Parry Sound’s needs. Inflated to 2018 this number rises to about $480,000. These figures reflect post user revenue. So, the numbers need to be increased accordingly. Adding in $220,000 for user related offsetting revenue raises the annual operating costs rise to about $700,000. Looking more closely at the article the costs could be higher or lower by $100,000.

Another way to estimate the costs is to look at the cost to operate the Bobby Orr Community Centre, for which we have figures. There is a huge difference between the two in terms of costs. The BOCC only actively operates for a bit more than half the year with an ice pad. For the other months the building is maintained and available for public use, but with much lower expenses. A pool in contrast needs to be actively maintained 12 months a year. While an ice pad, once in place, mostly stays that way, a pool probably needs to be refreshed several times a year with a much higher use of water. Pools also require chemicals. But they don’t require a Zamboni type machine.

Reviewing the 2018 Town of Parry Sound budget documents I see that the BOCC has expenses in 2017 estimated at $700,000 and revenues of $180,000, for a net of $500,000 (don’t worry about the arithmetic, it only needs to be close because it certainly won’t be correct). The Stockey Centre had estimated operating costs of $1.5 million in 2017.

Okay, let’s go with $700,000 for the annual operating expenses for a municipal pool. This seems a bit low in comparison with the Bobby Orr Community Centre expenses, but it’s an estimate.

Some guidance is offered by looking at the Bracebridge 2017 Budget figures for their Sportsplex. This is a much larger operation and has annual expenses of $1.6 million, including the facility’s debenture principal and interest of about $640,000. This debenture figure is lower than I would have thought, but it may have been lowered by upper level government grants, which is also possible for a pool in the Parry Sound area. Operating expenses then were about $1 million. The two largest items were wages ($330,000) and hydro ($260,000).

Programming Costs

If you have a pool you need to offer programming. This ranges from management, to instructors, to life guards. I wanted to exclude a person to lead the programming activity as there is already such a person in Parry Sound, but if this is a joint municipality project we need to add in a programming head who also keeps an eye on the operations and makes sure things don’t screw up.

Let’s add in about $150,000 for programming costs. This would include 0.5 FTE to oversee the pool operation and programming as well as instructors and life guards. As a reference point the Town of Parry Sound spent a little more than $60,000 for their outdoor Swim Program in 2017 that stretches no more than three months.

Reserve Fund

It would only be prudent to add in another $100,000 per year to a Reserve Fund for the pool. This is what’s suggested in the 2013 Exeter article, and while a little low it’s close enough.

Total Expenses

Adding together all of the costs for a pool we end up with annual expenses of about $1.5 million. If you add together the expenses I’ve estimated in the earlier sections, you will see that I’ve rounded it down a bit. It only needs to be close and I’d rather not be seen as trying to stick a knife in the project.

But, that’s only part of the total package. There will be revenue and there are likely to be grants. We can depend on user fees, so let’s take a look at them. Upper level government grants are a different issue that are likely and not guaranteed. Local fund raising is possible, but it will represent a drop in the bucket. I have rounded down the expenses in part, so let’s forget about local fund raising being a meaningful dollar contributor. It’s more likely to be a symbolic statement of support than a financial pillar upon which to build the argument for a pool.

There is also the possibility of a partnership with the YMCA or the school board. One has expressed interest, and the other hasn’t. Neither would really change the costs, nor what we would pay in our taxes. The YMCA still needs to get money to pay their part, either grants or user fees, and the school board would probably just raise the education portion of our taxes to pay their part. I may be pessimistic, but beyond some operational efficiencies in a partnership, these groups won’t improve the bottom line in terms of tax impact. Expenses don’t just disappear, and revenues don’t just appear.


This is a bit trickier, because it assumes a price structure for pool use. The only indirect experience I have is with the Sudbury Y. It offers a full family membership, including pool use, for $1,200 per year. The Bracebridge pool offers family pool use for a specified 45-minute period each Saturday for 3 months for about $60. That adds up to about $240 per year. And that is for one 45-minute period on one defined day per week. In Barrie it’s $17 per family per visit. Once a month would be $200 per year, once a week would be $900 per year.

Okay, let’s go with the annual use fee from that Exeter 2013 article of $1,000 per year per family. What that offers in terms of pool access is not clear. The article also mentions a total of 300 memberships, and $300,000 in revenue. All of those numbers carry much more baggage than I want to discuss in this post. I’ll get to that in the last of this four-post series. For now, we’ll assume $300,000 in revenue, the equivalent about 20,000 family days of use at $15/day.

The Net/Net

Add the numbers together and we end up with a net cost of $1.2 million per year for a municipal pool, not an aquatic centre or recreational complex. That is before any upper level government grants.

If the Town of Parry Sound was to shoulder the full expense Town taxes would increase by about 12%. It would be a one-time increase that would carry forward, but unlike the infrastructure reserve expense it would not be increased each year.


In the next post I’ll take a look at the various municipalities, their assessments, their tax rates, their ‘demographics’ and the local political issues that might impact any decision or support for a municipal pool. The last post will be the most interesting in my opinion as I consider some of the human aspects of a municipal pool, particularly how it might impact different segments of the community.

Hang tight Ryan. The next post should be up by the middle of this coming week.



Wet Dreams? Part 1


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In a series of four articles I will try and lay out some of the more obvious issues concerning a municipal pool in the Greater Parry Sound area. I will alternatively refer to this as ‘pool’, ‘aquatic centre’ or ‘recreational complex’. There is a difference between the three terms that may come into play in the discussion. A pool is something we already have in Parry Sound and in the local area, by my count at least three in local hotels. These are rather modest facilities, in some regards not much more than ‘super-sized’ hot tubs that provide a valuable service to many in the community. The next step up in terms of size and facilities is an aquatic centre. I would imagine that this might include two pools, one for more exercise-oriented use that could host competitive meets, and the other targeted to recreational use, perhaps with an extended shallow area for children. It might also have a diving pool. I imagine that a recreational complex would combine an aquatic centre with a full gymnasium or exercise centre. Big – Bigger – Biggest.

At this point in the process I have shifted my position on the desirability of a pool to one of neutral. I have in the past suggested that a pool is not something the Town needs, even if it wants it. That position was based on my research into the costs and my observations on how the various communities were cooperating. Why bother to even consider a pool if the costs would be very high and there was little prospect for regional cooperation. It seems that in the past couple of years there has been a shift to more cooperation, in principle at least, when it comes to the issue of an aquatic centre that can be used and shared by the area municipalities.

The issue of cost remains the biggest issue and will be the topic of a separate post. If a pool was ‘free’, and let’s remember nothing is actually ‘free’, it seems to me that the plans for a pool would be underway, if the pool were not already built.

I will relate my thinking about the cost of a pool to my thinking about personally purchasing, servicing and enjoying a Porsche. I don’t own a Porsche for many of the same reasons we don’t have a municipal pool already. In both cases somebody needs to come up with the cash for the initial purchase/build. Since neither of us could afford a Porsche or a pool from our bank accounts we would need to take out a loan. The question would be whether we could afford the monthly payments. In the case of the Town they could. It might mean raising taxes or deferring other infrastructure projects. In the case of my new Porsche it would mean taking on a second job or cutting expenses. Perhaps I could sell my property and move to Carling or Seguin where I would save thousands annually on taxes but still have access to Parry Sound services. Though, perhaps not the high speed internet access I need for work. Dang, not an easy solution but perhaps the Province and the Feds will build the internet structure I would need. But that’s another issue that only confuses the discussion of a pool.

So, even if I could make the necessary sacrifices to buy a Porsche I would need to face the operating expenses. It’s a Porsche, so it wouldn’t be cheap. Expenses that would require more income or additional sacrifices. Annual operating expenses is probably the biggest issue for any aquatic centre, recreational complex or municipal pool. In the case of Parry Sound that would mean raising taxes or cutting back on other services. Perhaps we could get folks to agree to reduced snow removal services.

But, if three friends in the area were to go in on the purchase of Porsche Boxster I might be able to swing it. Cutting the upfront and ongoing costs by three quarters might make it manageable. I really wouldn’t need it full time. It’s not practical in winter, so I would still need my Honda Civic. Having access to the Boxster a couple days a week would be more than acceptable, especially if one of my neighbours would keep it in their garage. Hmmm! Seems like something I might be interested in. I would of course be much more interested if one of my neighbours were to buy the Porsche and let me use it for ‘gas money’.

I think that’s not an unreasonable analogy for the issues underlying a municipally owned and operated pool. I wonder if it would be easier to find three other people to chip in for a Porsche than get the local municipalities to chip for a pool. Each of the local municipalities has their own concerns that range from land use to infrastructure demands to cost. But I’m getting ahead of myself, more on this in future posts.

My bottom line is that I’m very much okay with the idea of a pool, aquatic centre or recreational complex if it doesn’t cost me anything in capital or operating costs. I’m probably still okay if the tax payer related costs were minimal and users would be responsible for the larger part of the expenses. I’m not that interested in using a pool. That’s just not what I’m interested in. If I want to get wet I can use one of the local beaches. If I want to exercise I can bike, walk, hike, ski or snowshoe depending on the season. I suspect that’s one of the reasons people have concerns about a municipally supported pool. They may feel they will be paying for a resource they don’t use. Not everyone who pays for the pool will use the pool.

That’s the case for me with the Stockey Centre and the Bobby Orr Community Centre. I don’t use them. At this point these two facilities cost the taxpayers of Parry Sound more than $500,000 per year and the Town is now preparing to put in another $2 to $3 million in necessary renovations and repairs. These costs will need to be paid for with a bond paid off over 20 years that will add to the current $500,000 in costs. It’s not the case with a hospital. Everyone hopes they don’t use it but are willing to pay for it to be there if and when they do need it. Let’s realize that a municipal pool is a quality of life expense, like my Porsche.

Actually, the Porsche analogy isn’t really appropriate. I don’t want a Porsche at any cost. A pool? A pool I might be okay with. It depends on the cost

The next post will offer some back of the envelope calculations on the cost to build and operate a pool. They won’t be right, but they’ll be closer to right than wrong.