Fluoridation is on the agenda this week whether or not Council wants to discuss it, with letters and a deputation scheduled. It looks as though Parry Sound will no longer be fluoridating its water supply. I think it’s a shame. Actually, that’s not really what I think, but it has been appropriately suggested I keep my comments to myself.
Beyond that there appear to be a few Councillor initiated items on the agenda, Business Stimulus (9.6.1) and a Request for Water and Wastewater Rate Reduction for Seniors (9.6.2). I offer some thoughts on each of these items.
It seems to be business a usual, a couple of requests for support, dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s on finance issues, and such. There is more than what is listed here and I suggest you check out the full agenda at the Town’s website.
4.1 – Letter Previously received from Kris Phillips, President of OmniVet Pharma Inc. Re: Addition of signatures regarding removal of fluoride from the Town’s water system.
4.2 – Joe Moloney, Parry Sound Progressive Water Management Group. Re: Information provided regarding removal of fluoride from the Town’s water system.
4.5 – Parry Sound Resident Taxpayers. Re: Questions regarding Council’s lack of response to requests to remove the fluoride from the Town’s water system.
5.1 – Stephen Burnett, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition (GLCC). Re: Great Lakes Cruise Ships.
5.2 – Joe Moloney, Parry Sound Progressive Water Management. Re: Update to Council regarding collection of signatures for referendum to remove fluoride from the Town’s drinking water.
5.3 – Jack Tynan, President. Andrew Ryeland, Board Member and Peter Searle, CEO, Park to Park Trail Association Re: Update on Park to Park Trail’s activities.
Resolutions and Direction to Staff
9.2.2 – Visitors’ Information Centre. Direction. That Council direct staff to investigate the feasibility and scope of the Town operating a Visitors’ Information Centre (VIC) at the Stockey Centre, reporting back to Council March 14, 2016. This is a much needed initiative on the part of the Town. Locating it at the Stockey Centre is brilliant, lots of parking, a great location, and also the ideal opportunity to ‘sell’ the idea of attending or hosting a function at the Stockey Centre.
9.6.1 – Business Stimulus Plan. Resolution. Whereas Council’s 2015-2018 Strategic Plan identifies Growth and Development as a Strategic Priority; and Whereas this Strategic Priority states that ‘the Town will be development ready and will strengthen and diversify its economy to provide sustainable growth and quality employment.’; and Whereas Council has given direction that consideration be given to the development and funding of a business development strategy as part of the 2016 budget process: Now Therefore Be It Resolved That Council establish a Business Development Task Team (BDTT) consisting of Cllr. Keith Saulnier, Taylor Elgie, Rob Mens and Lynn Middaugh to develop a Business Development Plan as follows: i) That a list of developers and private property owners of lands suitable for development be prepared and met with to gain an understanding and appreciation of issues related to doing business in Town and their development interest; and ii) That staff prepare a comprehensive list of non-mandatory fees (i.e.: building permit, site plan application, sign permit, securities, etc.), and the impact of amending these fees in an effort to stimulate development; and iv) That the BDTT review Resolution No: 2006-71, ‘Principles and Guidelines for Private Development’, the Tax Increment Equivalent Grant Program (TIEG), the Façade Improvement Program, and the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and make recommendations as appropriate for Council’s consideration; and v) That Phase I of the Business Stimulus Plan focus on the former Imperial Wharf, waterlot, and adjacent lands at the bottom of Champaigne Street given that the Town owns and has control of these lands. The Phase I focus supports the Town’s Official Plan, Strategic Plan and the Waterfront Development Advisory Committee’s efforts to implement the Waterfront Development Master Plan; and vi) That the BDTT report back to Council by April, 2016 with a Business Stimulus Plan.
Lots of text in this resolution but the initiative is more than welcome, for both development of the waterfront and a unified municipal business plan. The Town needs to identify and develop opportunities building on its own unique assets.
9.6.2 – Request for Seniors Reduction in Water & Wastewater Rates. Resolution. Whereas senior citizens on fixed incomes constitute a significant proportion of the Town’s population as is the case in communities across the Province; and Whereas seniors constitute 24.3% of the Town’s population, and Whereas the numbers of seniors aged 65 and over is projected to more than double from 1.8 million, or 13.7 per cent of population in 2009, to 4.1 million, or 23.2 per cent, by 2036; and Whereas water and wastewater user fees are often considered by residents as another form of taxation; and Whereas those user fees have and are projected to continue to rise far in excess of the rate of inflation due substantially to the deteriorated state of municipal infrastructure and the cost of replacing and repairing that infrastructure; and Whereas Provincial support through the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund has been steadily and substantially declining for the past several years; Now therefore be it resolved that Council of the Town of Parry Sound petition Mario Sergio, the Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs to develop a program designed to provide relief to municipalities to offset water and wastewater fees. Further that this resolution be sent to the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premiere of Ontario, Glen Murray, Minister for Environment and Climate Change and Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance; and To all Ontario municipalities and AMO for their support and endorsement.
This resolution acknowledges that our water costs are higher than we would like them to be, but that’s what it costs to deliver the service. It’s a bit like Alberta crude which costs $70 a barrel to produce, and at this point is not at all competitive in the world market. At the same time there is the ongoing desire to make things cheaper for seniors. As I approach ‘seniorhood’ I am conscious of many seniors who have never had it so good with lots of disposable income. Their mortgages are paid off, the kids have left home, and there is some degree of social support to supplement what they should have saved while working. This is the group that is showered with ‘senior citizen discounts’ for services, admission tickets and purchases. Perhaps some of these items are discretionary and the discount is an attempt to lure the seniors into attending an event or buying a service or item. I think we would be better off providing these discounts to the young families who are struggling to buy a home, are working one or more jobs, and probably raising a couple kids. Young families are challenged in so many ways that offering them, rather than seniors, the savings would seem to be more appropriate.
It’s interesting to note that the resolution is asking the Province to step up and provide relief for the water bills of seniors in Parry Sound. In practice Parry Sound Council has the ability to offer this type of saving to seniors. But that would put an unreasonable amount of stress on the Town budget, or the younger population, and it would be hard to explain to others, some even more financially challenged than many seniors, why one group was singled out for special treatment.
10.3.2 – Land Ambulance Contract. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of an agreement between the West Parry Sound Health Centre and the Town of Parry Sound for the provision of Land Ambulance Services for four years (2016-2019). There was some suggestion that the Town, on behalf of the District, would put this contract out to tenders. I think sticking with the West Parry Sound Health Centre makes sense. The report in the full agenda package is worth reading, it’s well presented and easy to understand.
10.4.1 – Amendments to the Council, Boards and Committees Code of Conduct. Being a By-Law to amend By-law 2012-6138, a by-law governing Council’s conduct through a Code of Conduct and to consolidate 2012-6138 with 2014-6467, a by-law to amend the Code of Conduct. Unfortunately, Attachment A is not included in the full agenda package, making it hard to comment on.
10.5.2 – Set tax ratios for 2016. Being a by-law to set Tax Ratios for Municipal purposes for the year 2016. It’s worth a read if you are a business owner in Parry Sound. It seems that both multi-residential and industrial properties enjoy a relative property tax benefit in Parry Sound, and it doesn’t seem as though that will be changing anytime soon. Not that it should, I guess.
10.5.3 – Tax Policies – Capping and New to Class / New Construction. Being a By-law to specify our Tax Policies, including the claw back percentages, the capping threshold parameters, the minimum tax level for new to class / new construction and to exclude certain properties from the capping program for the year 2016.
I won’t be at this week’s meeting of Council. It will receive good media coverage by the Moose-FM and MetrolandMedia. It’s a busy week for me from a business and volunteer perspective. I plan on attending the budget meeting next week.
Parry Sound Colours – Mid-January (Parry Sound in Colour)