Last night’s meeting was a model of efficiency and performance. Not only did council get through the agenda quickly, they deferred very few items, and in my opinion made good decisions.  The councillors were consistent in terms of their style and positions so there were very few surprises that then permitted useful discussion and decisions. I also have the sense that staff and council have a better sense of each others expectations and intentions. Staff is providing better drafted by-laws and resolutions to council, and the councillors are learning to trust staff. Hmm, sounds good to me.

For the most part council addressed the many issues related to the “Old Pump House”. Council agreed the building is a unique part of Parry Sound history that deserves to be preserved through heritage designation. That decision will mean a two or three month delay in putting the property on the market. The issue of rezoning the property to permit commercial uses, it is now zoned for residential use only, was discussed. If undertaken by the town the process could take up to three years, and would delay the sale of the property. A purchaser might be able to get it rezoned in about half that time. Council will revisit this issue next meeting after the Waterfront Advisory Committee has presented their thoughts about creative uses for the property. Regardless, this will not slow down the process of preparing the property for sale. Expect it to be put on the market sometime in April if nothing else comes up in the interim (my “guesstimate”).

It’s interesting to see that the former Heritage Committee is more active as a citizen’s committee than it was a formal committee of council. So far this term they have managed to get two town properties designated for the benefit of past and future generations, Tower Hill Park and Garden and the Old Pump House. Part of the problem as I understand it was that the previous council representative on the committee was more of a hindrance than a facilitator. It’s interesting to note that this same councillor was the only member of council to vote against both of these designations. It seems the committee got the fox out of the hen house by refusing to reform with the start of the new council.

One final note about councillors and mayor.  I can’t believe how much responsibility the mayor assumes on behalf of the town, both official and volunteer. While some of the councillors in their reports are pressed to mention more than one public activity they have participated in since the last council meeting, the mayor seemingly has participated in a half dozen or more. And these are valuable activities that often involve travel and long hours away from home and his daytime job. I think we are a better town for his involvement. And the councillors don’t need to make longer reports; a couple of them perhaps need to get a little more involved with the community.

A last note: the budget discussions will formally start on January 16th at 6:00. Be there, it’s an interesting discussion and there are always lots of free front row seats.

Agenda Highlights:

 2.1.2 – the public meeting regarding a zoning by-law amendment for turning a 4-unit residence into 5-units was held and it seems that council will likely approve it based on the information and discussion. The magic words were used – ‘affordable housing’.

4.4, 8.1 – a letter and a resolution in support of a wind farm at Henvey Inlet was deferred until there was more information on the local impact for the development. Council appropriately noted that this was an issue they needed more information on before they could provide an endorsement on behalf of the town.

5.2, 9.3.1, 9.3.2, 9.5.1, 9.5.2, 9.5.3, 10.3.1, 10.3.2 – were a series of resolutions, by-laws and a deputation related to the Old Pump House, also known as the Former Waterworks Pumphouse. As expected, and discussed above, all of the items were approved with the exception of Heritage Conservation Easement (9.5.2) which was defeated, and the by-law to sell the property (10.3.2) which was postponed to the next meeting of council with the expectation that the Waterfront Advisory Committee would provide input regarding alternative uses for the property that might involve rezoning.

9.1.2, 9.1.3 – resolutions requesting equipment for the Public Works department, a vacuum truck and a scissor lift, were both approved. It seems that council is starting to understand that Public Works is not just collecting toys, they are equipping themselves to work more efficiently which should result in lower overall costs for the town. And while council quite appropriately did not hold the purchases hostage pending heat in the BOCC, the heat was turned up on the Public Works department during the meeting. Things seem to be slipping in terms of getting the heat turned on by the middle of December. Mother Nature must be sympathetic as she has not yet turned on her own ice-making machinery.

9.4.1 – the special council meeting to start the 2013 budget process will be held January 16th at 6:00 PM in the council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.

9.5.4 – a resolution to replace the Volunteer Management Policy was approved.

9.6.1 – council approved a direction for the preparation of a letter to the Ontario Minister of Education requesting funding for Parry Sound crossing guards. There was discussion of a similar letter to be prepared for submission to the separate school board.

10.3.4 – a by-law to raise the fines for parking violations was approved as were the fees for certain planning services (Item 9.3.3).

10.5.1 – council approved a by-law permitting Artists Round the Sound to display their art in the Stockey Centre for a nominal rental fee.

10.5.2 – council also approved a by-law to enter into a 3-year agreement with Canadian Tire to advertise on the BOCC’s ice resurfacer for a bit more than $9,000 over three years.

There was more, but these are the highlights in my opinion. And yes the meeting was finished with thirty minutes to spare; good work on the part of council and staff. The minutes should be available by tomorrow and the local media outlets, Moose-FM and the North Star will have more in-depth coverage.

Bridge Art – Splatter