This week’s meeting has quite a bit more than the last few in terms of the number of items. Expect to stay until after 9:00, possibly pushing 9:30 depending on how contentious the issues prove to be. The council meeting is preceded by a presentation of the new e-voting system from 5:00 to 6:00. I assume it’s open to the public.
Correspondence and Deputations
4.1 – an invitation was received for council representatives to attend a joint meeting of the West Parry Sound Health Centre Board on April 29th, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
There are no scheduled deputations.
The Parry Sound Downtown Business Association (DBA) Board of Directors is nominating a new board member.
Resolutions and Directions to Staff
9.1.1 – staff is recommending that Parry Sound advise the public that the town will not support an animal shelter. This is in part based on the fact that the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) – Muskoka Branch, already provides animal shelter services to Parry Sound. Staff is suggesting continued support for the spay/neuter program for feral cats. (At some point I expect someone on staff or council will have the courage to suggest that rather than spay and neuter these cats the more humane action would be to have these animals put down. The remaining birds, small mammals and reptiles of the community would appreciate the action. One down, hundreds, if not thousands, saved. Even spayed and neutered feral cats hunt for food and sport.)
9.1.2 – staff is recommending against the DBA proposal to install two new ‘sitting’ areas in the downtown. One would have required the loss of parking spaces in the Gibson Street parking lot. The other would have created a ‘Pop Up Park’ on James Street towards Country Gourmet. It’s not an easy decision as evidenced by the CAO’s comments. On the one-hand the new ‘parkettes’ will reduce much needed parking spots in the downtown and the associated revenue. On the other, they do ‘soften’ the downtown and make it more inviting. The DBA focus seems to be in capturing more customers, unfortunately at the cost of the town revenue. This is not unlike the parking fee increase wrangling of 2012 where the DBA opposed meter fee increases. I’m not sure how this one will end. It will depend in part on the DBA council representative who has in the past forcefully supported various DBA initiatives and requests.
9.3.1 – town staff, in response to a direction from council, is proposing that council business go paperless with the use of electronic documents. This will mean iPads for council and key staff, as well as the necessary supporting hardware and software. The total bill is on the order of $20,000. This amount is requested for pre-budget approval. Excuse me while I shout – I THOUGHT THAT COUNCIL AGREED THEY WERE NOT GOING TO CONSIDER PRE-BUDGET APPROVAL ITEMS. This is certainly not a priority, time constrained item. Why not put it into the regular budget cue? Huh. Why not? Let’s walk the talk. (I’ll have a separate post on this in few days.)
On the subject of iPads and electronic documents, I’m in strong support. It can improve efficiency, but perhaps at the expense of effectiveness. It’s not so easy to read an e-document and make a few notes in the margins, or to highlight an important section. Yes, it can be done but it’s not easy, especially if you don’t have a fair bit of experience using the system. Expect some frustration about two months after implementation when the glow of a new toy has worn off and the councillors find it may be saving staff time, but adding to theirs. It will save me time, I won’t need to schlep to the library on Friday evenings to review the council package. One technical point – 32 GB is plenty, unless of course you plan to use it as a media viewing device, or staff can’t figure out how to make compact PDF packages.
9.4.1 – is a resolution in support of signs on the CN trestle over Bowes Street. I was at first confused, but came to realize it’s the bridge/trestle over Bowes Street just after you pass Louisa Street. Yeah, let’s junk up the town a little bit more. And let’s have moving signs so drivers will be distracted as they squeeze from two lanes to one. As a bicycle rider who has a 99.9% off-sidewalk record I really don’t want to be nailed by a tourist who at the last moment realizes he/she needs to merge left while reading that there is a new store/show/product in town. Or should I just start riding on the sidewalks and put pedestrians at risk? It’s as bad an idea as sending drivers text messages to promote a product/service/activity as they enter Parry Sound.
9.4.2 – is a revised resolution for town property on Fleck Street that was offered to a developer for the building of an affordable triplex. Instead of a $100/month rent reduction for 10 years, it is now $166/month for 7 years. The difference is about $5,800 to the benefit of the ‘town’, a bit more on a net present value basis. And if you were wondering, the builder is effectively paying $41,832 for the lot, but over seven years. I hope the $166 per unit is ‘payable’ even/if the units are not being occupied, or else the cost will be even less. The triplex is targeted to tenants from the District Social Service Administration Board waiting list. Of course, under this arrangement the town is effectively providing a subsidy to tenants. The town will not get any revenue for the sale/transfer of the lot, although it may receive future property tax revenue.
9.5.1 – council will review a proposal by a citizens’ Ranger Cabin Restoration Committee to restore the Ranger Cabin on Tower Hill at no cost to the town. Sounds like a good deal to me. (Disclosure – my wife is on the committee and is one of the volunteer gardeners on Tower Hill).
9.5.2 – the DBA continues to be active with a proposal for a raised garden at the foot of Jukes Lane. This initiative has town staff support. Town staff is separately requesting that council ask the DBA to reconsider their proposal for other raised gardens because, as currently proposed, they will interfere with parking spots and winter maintenance.
10.1.1 – is a by-law to increase set fines for by-law traffic violations (parking). This seems to a follow-on to the parking meter rate discussions of last year. The fines relate to things like parking in a no-parking zone, stopping in a no-stopping zone or parking in a fire route. These are zingers – the proposal is to raise fines to $55 and $75 depending on the violation. Staff is also proposing the reassignment of certain town parking areas for overnight use, to make it easier for people to leave their car overnight rather than drink and drive while visiting the downtown.
10.3.1 – the town is proposing to enter into a very attractive agreement with Vianet for internet service. How about unlimited usage at speeds of 10 Mbps up and 100 Mbps down, at two locations, for $200 in total? Sweet.
10.3.2, 10.3.3 – these are bylaws setting the tax ratios for the different classes of properties in Parry Sound. They seem to be similar or the same as last year’s.
There’s a little more that I didn’t cover, but not too critical in my opinion. I told you it would be a busy meeting.
See you there.
Perhaps there isn’t enough distraction. Let’s add some more.
(From this angle we look like a town from the movie Slapshot.)