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.