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As promised the council meeting on Tuesday was very interesting. Parts are worth catching on cable if you have access.

A couple of general notes regarding the meeting. The projector still sucks, the terrible pink tint and the low contrast make it impossible for the audience and council to follow the presentation. It must also be a terrible distraction for the presenter. This situation has been going on for 2 months now. These projectors now go for as little as $400 and having two of them would ensure that the audience’s time is not being wasted. If I have a deputation to make I will beg, borrow or buy a unit to ensure my message is presented in the best ‘light’ possible.

The second note concerns attendance. I will be posting the attendance at the meetings as a way of understanding the trends regarding participation. The numbers for the February 7th meeting are: council and mayor – 7 (a full complement), staff – 9, media – 2, audience – 11. The audience figure dropped to 4 after the West Parry Sound Health Centre deputation was completed. By the end of the meeting the audience was down to two and staff was down to three. The media and council were there to the end.

Interesting and Notable Agenda Discussions and Decisions

Item 9.1.1 requesting council to approve the drafting of an agreement/terms of reference for a youth drop-in centre was approved. This does not imply funding approval. There was support on council for the initiative but concerns about funding given the $51,700 annual price tag, which could be reduced to $16,700 per year if Trillium funding and donations are received.

Item 9.1.2 regarding council approval for a revised Municipal Assistance Program (MAP) took considerable time. The issue facing council was how to help support the Salvation Army with their disposal costs. The net/net is that council wants to help the Salvation Army and similar charitable community groups manage expenses related to the delivery of valuable services to Parry Sound and the region. But the MAP does not allow for grants to be made to any charitable group that has a religious affiliation. Well, that was the unspoken ‘elephant’ in the room during the discussion. Town staff indicated that the Salvation Army did not qualify for the MAP, but never said why. Why not? If religious affiliation is an impediment to doing the right thing it needs to be stated and policy reviewed in that light.

It was also argued that the Salvation Army could not dump unusable donations at the transfer station because of restrictions on the provincial license to operate the facility. Here is the town web page listing the dos and don’ts of garbage pickup. It seems the relevant language is “No other commercial tipping accepted.” Presumably the Salvation Army garbage is considered commercial. But they are in fact just getting rid of garbage from the community that is dumped on their door. Commercial garbage in my mind is the by product of producing a service or product. Tim’s wrappers and cups are commercial waste. Left over rags and sofas dropped off are not. Let’s clear up our definitions here. And what does the town do with the Tim’s and McDonald’s and Subway wrappers that are dropped in the municipal garbage pails? Do they sort them and return them to the shops that pushed them out the door and tell them to dispose of it through commercial disposal services? I don’t think so. Let’s not be too ‘holy’ about what is and what isn’t commercial garbage. Let’s be practical.

But it seems as though council understands the issues and the balance that need to be struck. They have asked staff to return with a proposal that would allow the town to help support the costs the Salvation Army and other denominational charitable organizations that are faced with disposing of garbage related to their invaluable services to the community. I’ll be interested in seeing what staff comes up with.

Item 9.4.2 a proposal for a wider ban on smoking in public spaces, including parks, sports areas, the Fitness Trail and more was approved. It will go into effect in June 2013. This will allow for time to erect signs and educate the public concerning the restriction. It wasn’t clear to me what the penalties and warning procedure would be, but it probably will be the same as for those areas in which smoking is currently banned.

Item 9.6.1 directing council members to attend training concerning obligations under the Code was approved. See my pre-council meeting notes for more information. And no, it did not become a political issue.

Item 10.4.1 a bylaw to increase the parking meter rates from $0.50 to $0.75 per hour, and the parking ticket fees by a couple of bucks was pushed back as requested by the Downtown Business Association (DBA) until their revitalization plan was ready for presentation. Council did ask that the DBA present it’s plan in a timely manner so that the parking increase issue could be reviewed and voted upon. More information on this is available in my pre-council meeting notes.

Item 10.4.2 a proposal to revise how taxi drivers are regulated and licensed was approved. It reduces some of the burden and cost to the taxi drivers and should not negatively impact our safety and security.

Item 10.4.4 a by-law to permit the town to initiate cleanup, at the owners cost, of properties that fail to meet by-law standards for maintenance was approved. This promises to make it easier for the town to take care of issues related to by-law violations that in the past were unreasonably burdensome. There will still be the opportunity to appeal any charges before action is taken.

There were also two very good presentations from the West Parry Sound Health Centre regarding their activities and their performance, as well as a request for certain accommodations in road closures to allow for their upcoming fund raising run.

The official council meeting notes should be available in a couple of days at the Town of Parry Sound website. But these notes really don’t capture much of the thinking that went into the decisions. The best way to understand what went on is to attend.