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A decision has been made. Parry Sound will be merging Parry Sound Hydro corp. with Lakeland Holding. Council, absent one member, voted unanimously to approve the merger and shareholders agreements. I have been following this for about 18 months now and I believe that the Town has made a good and necessary decision. ‘Kicking the can’ a bit further down the road was possible, but would have still required a decision at some point. The hydro business is a major topic of provincial interest and concern, and I imagine there will be additional changes wrought by provincial edict. The town’s interests will be better protected as part of a larger organization. Congratulations to Parry Sound Hydro, it’s staff and board, Lakeland Holding management and board and Parry Sound Council and Staff.

Everything else on the agenda paled in comparison with the Parry Sound Hydro decision. I will mention that I wouldn’t be looking to Council for marketing and advertising advice if I were a client. I won’t disagree with the decision of Council concerning item 9.4.2, but the process was predictable. Council may not pretend to know very much about the operation of a power generator, but when it comes to promotional materials we are all experts. The business of marketing and advertising is no less professional and demanding than the business of turbines and generators, but somehow we all think we know what is best. It’s human nature I suppose, but it really does put the town at a disadvantage. There are many stories about clients who over ruled marketing professionals on the basis that they ‘didn’t like it’ or ‘didn’t get it’. Just yesterday I read a suggestion that advertisers should put a ‘hairy arm’ into every ad. The ‘hairy arm’ referred to one advertising person who discovered the client always needed to make a ‘correction’, so they deliberately put in something that was wrong (originally it was hairy arm in the corner of the ad). Once the boss ‘corrected’ the ad it was good to go, with no significant changes. At some point you need to trust the professionals. And if you don’t have professionals on staff, go out and hire their services. As a Town we have no problem dropping tens of thousands on advice about what to do with a sagging wall, but we can do our own advertising and marketing. How’s that working so far?

The items of interest from the Councillors Reports, and Questions of Staff include:

  • the library roof should be completed this week.
  • there is a concern about building projects interfering with winter snow removal and traffic/pedestrial safety. Staff was requested to return with a proposal to limit the season for these types of projects.
  • there was a $7,000 donation to Harvest Share from CP.

Correspondence and Deputations

4.2 – Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, recommending Staff undertake a fact finding initiative to better understand how other communities operate in regards to a finance committee. Requesting a hiatus until the fact finding initiative is completed. [Well this one is a disappointment. Here we are heading into budget season and the Citizen’s finance Committee is taking a ‘hiatus’. And the next budget will be with a new council and presumably a new committee. Why now? Is there some political pressure to limit their input to the budget? Are the committee members too ‘busy’ to get together? Or is it simply a sense that the committee has little ability to accomplish anything so why bother? I have rarely seen committee members at the open sessions of Council where the budget is discussed, and hardly ever at regular sessions of Council where many issue that impact the budget are discussed. (A couple of them do attend regularly, but only a couple.) Is it time to establish a ‘Shadow Budget Committee’ to provide Council with the voice of the ‘People’? Or perhaps just the ‘Person’? Every individual has the right to make a deputation to to Council and I hope that more people will take the opportunity. Yeah, you get criticized, but it can make an important difference.]

Consent Agenda

There is nothing significant on the Consent Agenda.

Resolutions and Directions to Staff

9.1.1 – a refund of unused 2013 EMS budget levies to the municipal partners.[CARRIED – council asked for an explanation of why it couldn’t be put into reserve or just credited against 2014. The answer is that it could prejudice provincial grants in 2014.]

9.1.2 – a request to purchase eight track chairs for EMS, at a price of $21,490.57. [CARRIED – with an explanation of what these devices are used for.]

9.2.1 – an update on OPP police costing. [CARRIED – a big issue that Council is pushing to level the costs for communities. Right now Parry Sound is at a severe disadvantage.]

9.2.2 – Council approve the revised REDAC Terms of Reference. [CARRIED – as suspected it’s an initiative/request from Seguin township. In my opinion it’s an attempt to limit any sort of regional co-operation that might lead to amalgamation.]

9.3.1 – approval of a renewal of Parry Sound’s general insurance policy for another year ($249,507.12, tax included). [CARRIED – this is an increase of about 10.5% over 2013 and seems to be the lowest price available to the Town.]

9.4.1 – a request for $14,340 plus taxes for INCON Construction Ltd., to repair the Town Dock kiosk decking. [CARRIED – this involves structural and cosmetic repairs.]

9.4.2 – a pair of recommendations concerning the Town’s slogan and corporate logo. [CARRIED – the logo below was approved after considerable discussion, which I’ve commented on above.] [DEFEATED – the slogan ‘Sound of …’. Don’t get me started on this decision. It may be the right decision, probably not. Too many people consider themselves to be marketing and advertising literate. I know how to buy, therefor I know how to market. I know how to drive a car, therefor I know how to design cars. Or, I know how to eat, therefor I know how to cook. Yup, you sure do. How’s that working for you? You should be able to take care of your medical issues without a physician seeing as have been living for this many years and it’s been okay so far.] [CARRIED – council agreed to a session on branding led by a community member.]

PS_Logo

9.4.3 – a resolution to deny a deposit refund to the Algonquin Regiment Veteran’s Association, and a resolution to deny a request from the Algonquin Regiment Veteran’s Association to place a directional sign at the Stockey Centre directing people towards the Memorial. [DEFEATED – the refund will be issued. This seemed unfair to Council given the organization’s limited resources. I agree with the decision but suggest they might have chosen to levy the deposit penalty and then make a donation in the same amount to the association, or offered them a credit. Who knows what other ‘deserving’ organizations will ask for similar treatment. How will Council decide what organizations are deserving?] [DEFEATED – Council has requested Staff work with the veteran’s association to develop signage that works for all involved.]

9.6.1  – the C.A.O. investigate a Mayor for a Day Program for 2014.

By-Laws

10.1.2 – an update to the Town’s dog by-law as reviewed at an earlier session of Council as well as the application to the Chief Justice of Ontario Court of Justice for the revised fines. [CARRIED – no meaningful discussion.]

10.2.1 – two by-laws; the first to execute a Merger Participation Agreement between Parry Sound Hydro Corporation (Holdco) and Lakeland Holding Ltd., and a second to execute a Shareholders’ Agreement between Parry Sound and Lakeland Holding. [CARRIED – both items, see discussion the discussion earlier. I spoke with an individual after the decision who was passionately convinced it was a bad deal for the town. I can imagine scenarios where the Town could have a better return, but unfortunately my sense is that the Town could not afford the cost or the considerable risk that it entailed.]

10.3.1 – approval of three-year multifunction copier/printer lease agreements with Near North Business Machines as previously approved by Council. [CARRIED – no discussion.]

What is Old Shall Soon be Renewed (Parry Sound in B&W)

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These notes review only those portions of the council meeting that I see as having greater importance or general community interest. See my agenda preview posts for additional comments.

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).