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Well I was right about this week’s meeting having the potential to be interesting. At one point I was moved to get up and make a deputation (more on this below). There were a number of split decisions, and even a recorded vote, and a member of the audience was told they were out of order. Since the meeting was recorded and will be broadcast on Cogeco I guess you could call it reality TV. Perhaps not at its best, but perhaps it’s most honest. I’m also starting to suspect that some members of council are thinking about re-election when they make their comments and votes.

Councillors and Mayor Reports, Questions of Staff

  1. The town will be looking into the roofing issues at the library.
  2. There was very poor attendance at the open meeting to discuss the use of the Bobby Orr Community Centre.
  3. June 1st saw the start of the non-smoking by-law, this impacts all town public facilities and parks.

Correspondence and Deputation

Well there were two interesting unscheduled deputations (mine doesn’t count). The first deputation concerned the request to plant a commemorative tree on Tower Hill and lay an engraved memorial stone (about 12” x 24” from what I could tell) for a deceased parent. That number increased to five trees by the end of the deputation. At first glance this seems like a reasonable request. Ah yes, if it’s a single request. But what if others want the same consideration? What if Tower Hill becomes a memorial garden with dozens of trees planted in the lawn area with these small pillars? Seems to me that a tree and a memorial stone is basically a grave site. And if that person’s ashes are then spread in the garden it would be a graveyard. And who decides what trees and what memorial stones go where? Are there prime spots and cheap seats? Should we start lining them in rows? Can we start doing the same thing at the Stockey Centre and Waubuno Beach park? Seems like a cheap way to avoid paying for a gravestone and the purchase of a burial plot. No, I don’t like the idea. This is no way for the town to limit the cost of replanting the diseased trees that were cut down. Public parks are not memorial gardens, and memorial gardens aren’t public parks. Council said that they would review the request and respond in the near future. (This was the deputation that caused me to get up and hastily make some of these points.)

I was just advised that if human remains, including ashes in an urn, are buried on a property, the site is deemed a graveyard and subject to additional conditions of operation.

The second deputation concerned a town resident’s request to operate their ATV on the town’s public streets. They claim this is only to get wood from the town’s transfer site that they can split and give to more needy neighbours. It was labeled a charitable request. I’m not sure but I suspect this individual has access to a pickup truck that could provide the same function. And if not, then perhaps the town or members of the community could agree to drop off a load of uncut logs for his charitable use. It would be interesting to see an ATV with trailer wheeling through town with loads of wood. How much wood can an ATV and wagon even tow? But this request was enough to get Council at odds with each other over the present and future of ATVs in town (more below, 9.1.2).

Consent Agenda

Council approved the Clean Air Day request as well as the request for a Tag Day to support a baseball association.

Resolutions and Directions to Staff

7.1 – council approved the employment agreement for the town’s new Director of Emergency and Protective Services (brought forward from closed session).

9.1.1 – Council approved adding a link to the ‘Stop the Drop’ website from the town’s website with certain disclaimers.

9.1.2 – by a split vote, decided by the Mayor, Council decided to forgo development of a by-law to permit the operation of all-terrain vehicles on Parry Sound streets. The discussion was serious although not heated. The council members in support of investigating an ATV by-law seem to agree that there needs to be a plan and support group to warrant the investment of time and effort of town staff to do this. Neither of these conditions now exist, but the councillors who voted against the resolution (and for an ATV by-law development) seemed to be positioning themselves with pro-ATV groups and voters. In the end we won’t have ATVs on town streets until a more formal proposal is presented by a group that has the weight and experience to contribute to developing the logistics for their safe and reasonable use in and around Parry Sound.

9.2.1 – the issue of allowing customers to change from metered to non-metered water service tied Council and Staff in knots. This issue arose as a result of a customer request to move from metered water use to unlimited in an expectation that they would save money. While it’s worth going back and reviewing the town’s legislative history on the matter there is also the issue of principle. Is the town committed to conservation and moving forward with ‘earth friendly’ policies? Personally I feel we should consider moving everyone to metered water service to reduce use. There are actually people in town who ‘wash’ their driveways. Metering would mean considerable cost to the town to buy and install install the units; wireless I guess. And water consumption would probably drop resulting in lower revenue as metered residences reduce their usage and their costs drop below the flat-rate currently being charged. Anyway, the item was postponed until July 2nd so that Staff could look into what resolutions, directions and by-laws had been passed by previous councils that might impact Council’s final decision.

9.3.1 – Council approved the sale of the old pump house building (former Waterworks) for $242,000 without any discussion. I look forward to seeing this wonderful building receive the attention that the town could not afford to give it.

9.3.2 – the proposal from Century 21 Granite Properties to be the listing agent for the Old Pump House was withdrawn. It will be reactivated should the approved sale of the property (9.3.1) not go through.

9.3.3 – the Smelter Wharf inspections and repairs were approved.

9.3.4 – town staff has had discussions with the Ministry of the Natural Resources regarding the ministry’s wetland review of certain Parry Sound properties. Some understanding was reached with respect to the scope and intent of the review. Staff was authorized to continue discussions with the Ministry.

9.3.5 – the town rescinded the sale of the two lots on MacFarlane Street because of existing by-laws that prohibit the development of residences within 100 meters of an odour producing facility (the water treatment plant). Council decided not to look into revising the by-law.

9.4.1 – Council approved the purchase of two new trucks, one ¾-ton and one ½-ton. But not after reiterating their point that buying used was often a smart idea. The Director of Public Works stated that he had spent 30 hours of his personal time doing online research to find appropriate trucks, and more was required. None of the councillors offered to help with the search in hopes of saving the town some money. Okay folks, the difference between new and used is ‘nickels and dimes’ in terms of the overall budget. Let’s say we can save $12,000 per truck upfront buying used. Over 6 years, that saves about $2,000 per truck per year. It also means we would lose perhaps one year of use per vehicle given that it is used. That probably means about 1/5th of the upfront cost is lost, about $6,000, or $1,000 per year. Add in the fact that the trucks probably don’t meet the town’s exact needs, the possibility that they were abused (they are trucks), the repaint cost (Parry Sound red), and tire replacement and you really don’t save anything. But it looks good on reality TV; councillors taking care of your tax dollars.

9.4.2 – the Fowler Construction proposal to design and rebuild the Smelter Wharf boat launch was approved at a savings of about $100,000 over some earlier estimates. Now that’s the type of savings Council should be spending time looking at. If I remember correctly, none of the councillors suggested we look at how the original $160,000 projected cost for the boat launch could be reduced. But everybody knows how to save money buying vehicles. Savings are more likely to come from the more expensive items, and from those areas where limited information is held between buyer and seller. This disconnect is known as ‘Information Asymmetry’ and it applies to the types of things that council deals with on a regular basis, and often ignores.

9.5.1 – Council approved the negotiation of a one-year contract for the town to provide by-law enforcement services to Carling and the Archipelago after a little bit of politicking. Nickel and dime discussions as far as I’m concerned.

By-Laws

10.2.1 – the by-law to specify the 2013 ‘claw-back percentages’ for properties in Parry Sound was approved without discussion.

A final thought and suggestion. How about we ask people who are asking for new by-laws and major changes to submit their request/proposal with the signature of let’s say 20 town residents if they want to have Council and Staff take any action. This wouldn’t prohibit any resident from raising an issue with Staff and Council. It would limit the one-off ideas that Council and Staff have been chasing in the last couple of months. With 20 people behind an idea there is some sense that the issue is real and deserves consideration. But as we have seen with the ATV request there has been absolutely no third party support for the request to operate ATVs in town. Yet Council and Staff have spent hours researching and debating the request. And it’s not over. If a resident wants to get Council’s attention they should first try selling it to their neighbors, friends and family. Council at their discretion could of course choose to pick up any request for review regardless of how much or little verified support is provided. It’s a bit like the US White House ‘We the People’ website requiring 100,000 signatures within a month to address an issue. If someone takes the time to discuss it with others before lobbing it at Council it shows serious intent. (Yes, I would have been able to get 20 signatures for my earlier petition to receive press credentials for this website.)

These notes review only those portions of the council meeting that I see as having greater importance or general community interest. Please see my earlier Council Agenda Preview post for more discussion and details concerning the various agenda items.

The official minutes from council meetings are available at the Town of Parry Sound website, no later than the Friday following the meeting. The full council proceeding are available on video through Cogeco. Schedule details are available from the town office (705-746-2101).

Just another Parry Sound Sunset.

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