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From looking at the agenda and the council package this week’s meeting seems to be packed. Perhaps there aren’t many more items than normal on the agenda, but there are a number of decisions to be made, some of them not so easy. There is one item in particular than I’m interested in seeing how council votes; it’s the real estate sign on the Mid-Town Hotel building. This item is back on the agenda in hopes of a different answer. Let’s see if there is more persuasive information to change the original decision because otherwise it will become obvious to people that the way to get your way is to ‘wear down’ council. There are a number of other items that in many not so obvious ways will be shaping the way this town looks and operates in the years to come.

Correspondence and Deputations

4.1 – a request to proclaim May 2013 as “Community Living Month’.

4.2 – a letter advising the town that it had earned $13,755 related to 4th quarter 2012 blue box recycling.

4.3 – Andrew Ryland, President of the Parry Sound Chamber of Commerce has provided a report on the chamber’s membership numbers and categories.

5.1 – John Jackson Planner Inc. is making a presentation on a potential waterfront development. I’m not sure what this is about, there wasn’t much in the pre-council meeting package. I’ll try and get a copy of the presentation after the fact and provide a summary.

Consent Agenda

There is nothing on the Consent Agenda.

Resolutions and Directions to Staff

9.2.1 – this is a ‘bookkeeping’ item related to the Stockey Centre’s unfinanced capital outlay. The amount in this case is a credit of a little more than $32,000 offset against the principal.

9.3.1 – is a bit of a meandering report from staff that discusses the use of the Bobby Orr Community Centre. The report offers more background than real direction, but provides some interesting numbers regarding the BOCC, including operation and costs. The numbers of note included:
– Total ‘ice’ expense at the BOCC was about $683,000 for 2011/12, consisting of:
– ~$48,000 for administration
– ~$604,000 building costs (No detail or explanation provided. Utilities, labour, depreciation?)
– ~$32,000 for equipment (presumably the Olympia ice resurfacer)
– Revenue for ice use was $167,000 in 2011/12
– the ice surface was operated 182-days 2011/12

This amounts to a per day cost of about $3,756 per day to operate the BOCC and the ice surface for the 182-day period. The report makes the estimate that the BOCC ice surface is available for 16 hours per day, and translates into an hourly operating cost of $235. This hourly cost is a more realistic $313 per hour based on a 12-hour per day potential use. Even this seems unreasonable unless there are senior precision skating teams that likes to practice daily. I think the per hour of operation cost is mroe like $400-500 with the maximum likely use of he facility.

Revenue for use for use of the ice surface in 2011/12 was $166,565, covering about 24% of the expense. This suggests the current operating cost per hour of use is on the order than $500. Youth hockey leagues pay about $118 per hour to use the ice, and adult leagues $149 per hour, far short of the true facility costs. And these charges are at the higher end of rates for ice surface rental when looking at other communities in the near north area.

A quick analysis of the supplied figures reveals that about 40% of the kids playing in the youth hockey leagues are Parry Sound residents. The others come from the surrounding municipalities.

These are quite a few numbers to digest. It’s not easy to provide a simple analysis of what they mean and what they imply. The bottom line is that Parry Sound residents heavily subsidize the users of the ice surface at the BOCC, including users from the surrounding communities. Arguably the use of the BOCC by these non-residents is a benefit to the town as they help offset facility costs and do not preventing local residents from using the facility.

The direction asks council to approve a process by which the town can solicit community input into better use of the BOCC, presumably by reducing costs, increasing revenues or simply identifying ways the community can gain better ‘value’ from the BOCC regardless of whether there is any improvements in the cost of the facility.

Two thoughts come to mind. I can now understand why there was a brief discussion at council of shortening the ice season. At a cost of about $3,756 per day, shortening the season by even ten days could save more than $35,000. (I don’t think it’s that simple, as much of the cost is fixed and not variable.). And don’t ever, ever bring up the idea of building a community indoor swimming pool. The operating costs for that type of facility would far exceed the costs for the BOCC, and the revenue probably would be no greater than for the ice surface. and then there is the issue of liability and the associated insurance costs.

But let’s see what is presented and discussed at the council meeting.

9.3.3 – this is another run at council regarding a realtor’s sign on the Mid-Town Hotel. Denied two meetings ago, it’s back on the agenda. We’ll see what council does, but I’ll offer my two bits. You lead, follow, or get out of the way. There is little to no leadership in Parry Sound with respect to how we want the downtown to look. In theory the Downtown Business Association (DBA) should provide this leadership, but they are seemingly torn by different factions. Some DBA members probably suggest more signs are better for business regardless of appearance, while others probably feel the town from a retail perspective will never move forward until it cleans up the look of the signage and the storefronts. Council to date hasn’t taken an obvious position, often bowing to individual petition, rejecting applications only if there is an obvious safety issue.

I’ll take a position. The proposed signage is tacky and cheapens the appearance of the downtown. But it is only one of too many tacky signs in town. So can the town be fair in rejecting the request? Well if you want to lose weight you have to, at some point, look a doughnut right in the eye and say no. Yes the doughnuts feelings will be hurt, and there is some sense of inconsistency, but do you want to move forward or not? But it’s always easier just to eat the doughnut and say ‘next time it will be different’.

9.4.1 – this is a resolution related to the new public school infrastructure. The town is suggesting practical investments in local infrastructure upgrades that would support the new school’s needs and improve local services at a more reasonable cost. You need to read the council package materials for the details, but I wonder how much impact these improvements will have on the 2013 and 2014 town budgets.

By-Laws

10.3.1 – is a by-law to authorize the execution of a land sale to M6 Developments. This is the next step in the ‘Age in Place’ project beside Canadore College agreed a few meetings ago with York Developments. The contract seems to provide the appropriate level of protection for the town. It’s interesting to see that the construction timeline still envisions completion of the development by the third quarter of 2014. There is a requirement for an environmental review of the second part of the property in anticipation of additional future expansion of the development. Again I suggest you review the package for more information.

10.3.2 – this is a by-law to authorize the condominium agreement with Distler Construction for the third phase of the Silver Birch development. There seems to be little of note here except for a cryptic mention of some approval required from Parry Sound Power. We’ll perhaps find out what this about.

10.3.3 – another by-law, this one seeks to grant site plan approval for the development of a three-unit building on Seguin Street in front of the curling rink and across from Tulloch Engineering. I’ve heard that this will be a commercial plaza, perhaps home to NAPA autoparts.

There’s a little more that I didn’t cover, but nothing too critical in my opinion. I won’t be at the meeting, I’m in Philadelphia attending a conference for one of my clients. Let me know what goes on. I don’t have access to the delayed broadcast on Cogeco, so I’ll depend on the official minutes to understand the decisions made by council.