There are a number of interesting items on the agenda and I direct your attention to 4.2, 9.3.2, 9.3.3 and 9.4.1. I offer comments for many of the agenda items in the text below.
Item 9.6.1 – Highway signage, deserves some upfront commentary. The issue was also featured in Friday’s Beacon Star. It was about three years ago that signs started to proliferate along the 400. By now I estimate that there are about 1 or 2 per kilometre between Parry Sound and Mactier. About two years ago I was thinking about taking a photograph of each of the signs and then hosting an ‘ugliest sign’ competition. Enough qualified to make it a real contest. I didn’t get around to it in the end, but still feel they are eyesores in what is a very attractive part of the 400. I prefer to keep an eye out for the Inuksuks that pop up along the 400. My complaint about the signs is that not only are there too many of them, for the most part they look ‘cheesy’, cheaply done and poorly considered. Who is it that thought anyone driving at 100 km/hr, more likely 120 km/hr, can read more than a brand name and perhaps a URL? These signs are like the junk flyers that we resent receiving in our mail and email. I’m not sure there is any way to make these signs more aesthetically appealing, so I would rather they just disappeared. But it seems too many crappy signs are the price of today’s society. One would have thought that with the internet and social media that there would be less need for physical billboards. Part of the problem is that they are so cheap to rent that it is a no-brainer to take several if you can. I’ll let the sign companies, the businesses, and the MTO work it out. I’d rather pay attention to the proliferation of crappy signs in Parry Sound. Everyone talks about how nice the flowers are in other tourist towns, but they never mention that these same towns are not littered with ugly signs and unattractive storefronts. You can’t hide ugly with flowers. I can understand it’s hard to say no to people and businesses that squeal when you don’t let them do what is in their business interests even if it impacts negatively on Parry Sound as a whole.
4.1 – Donald Sanderson, Chief Executive Officer, WPSHC & Lakeland Long Term Care. Re: Request for Contribution and Deputation before Council
4.2 – R. James Chapman, 139 William Street. Re: Concerns about the application for the extension of the current land use on the property owned by Dean and Deborah Adams, 114 Williams Street.
An interesting letter that raises a number of important considerations in terms of regulations and enforcement. The correspondent asks for the Town to provide a response to his very reasonable questions. None is offered in this council meeting package. I hope we will see one forthcoming. Why have regulations if they are not enforced? There will always be those who push the boundaries, and those that regularly step over them. That’s why we have elected officials and public servants, to review and enforce existing laws and regulations to ensure that people are protected from those who step over the line. It takes courage to step up and complain publicly about a neighbour who seems to be ignoring town by-laws, much less common consideration.
Resolutions and Direction to Staff
9.3.1 – 2017 Audit Services RFP. Direction. That Staff proceed to prepare an RFP for External Audit Services for the Town of Parry Sound’s Fiscal Years 2017 to 2021; And that Staff contact all of the boards and committees consolidated into the Town of Parry Sound’s financial statements to get their support for a group RFP.
It’s that time when audit services need to be reviewed and a request for proposal be issued. In this case the intention is to roll up a couple of other Town of Parry Sound organizations into the same audit for the purpose of convenience and cost savings.
9.3.2 – Revision to the Budget and Financial Controls Policy. Resolution. That Council hereby approves the Budget and Financial Controls Policy, attached as Schedule A, for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound; and Further that Council rescind Resolution 2015-139. This is a big issue, with a rather mundane title.
The net/net is that with the new property assessments the Town will lose about 5% of its tax revenues due to lower assessments on the existing properties. There is interest in recasting the concept of taxes from a municipal tax levy to a municipal tax rate. To recoup the loss of revenue from the reassessment the Town will need to raise the tax levy by 5%, but the tax rate would stay the same. Get it? It’s not really smoke and mirrors, it’s trying to manage the optics of a situation. There will be any number of issues related to the revised property assessments. This Resolution seemingly attempts to change little in terms of overall financial costs to the town residents but make the make the process a little more palatable. “Town of Parry Sound intends to raise tax levy 5%. Residents freak, Stay tuned.” Much ado about not much.
9.3.3 – Review of New Multi-Residential Tax Class. Direction. That Staff review the current requirements for admission into the New Multi-Residential Tax Class and bring back a new by-law subject to Option 1 (Open the class to new affordable housing projects) outlined in this report.
This is part of a much larger issue related to tax rates in Parry Sound, especially requests for reduced tax rates to support affordable housing. While this does have considerable merit from a social perspective, it comes at the expense of higher tax rates for those who do not live in affordable housing. With a very limited footprint, Parry Sound is home to an exceptionally high proportion of provincially and federally funded service organizations, hospitals, churches, schools, and affordable housing projects when compared to neighbouring municipalities. This diverts valuable tax revenue properties to no tax, or low tax uses, that still make use of all of the Town’s services, and in some cases require even more services. The Town needs to perform an audit of these no tax / low tax uses and share this with the public so residents can understand if there is a ‘fair’ balance. What is the real cost to property owners in Parry Sound of hosting these not-for-profit organizations? On the surface there appears to be many lost lost opportunities to expand the tax base and lower taxes for residents and businesses? Are some of these organizations better located in the surrounding municipalities? I will suggest that the new school be built in McDougall or Seguin, and the current high school be sold for business and/or residential development, preferably not lower revenue generating not-for-profit or affordable housing.
9.3.4 – Review of Water and Wastewater Rates. Direction. That Staff review the current water & wastewater rate structure and prepare a report for Council on a recommended rate structure.
This is another interesting bit of ‘housekeeping’. There is interest in reviewing the cost structure for water billing and use. I suggest people read the full R&R in the agenda package. The Town, for metered users, charges about $74 per month for water supply and wastewater, and allots 1,000 gallons, with additional usage charged at about $10 per 1,000 gallons. Unmetered residential users are charged about $116 per month. What is interesting is the estimate that the average household of four people uses about 6,000 gallons per month. With metered water this would cost on the order of $124 per month, versus the $116 charged for unmetered users. Not all that different, but I wonder if people would stop washing their driveways if they were paying by the gallon. A review is appropriate in my opinion of both rates and parity. One suggestion – how about we use litres instead of gallons. Gallons is so 1960s, or American. Your choice.
9.4.1 – Clean Water and Wastewater Fund – Waubeek Street Reconstruction. Resolution. That Council resolve that the highest priority for the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF) is the rehabilitation of Waubeek Street from Avenue Road to Wood Street, including roadwork, water main, sanitary, force main and storm sewer replacement, and further; That Council directs staff to proceed with the funding application submission.
This probably would include a much needed rebuild of Waubeek Street as well. Luck favours the prepared.
9.6.1 – Highway Signage. Resolution. Whereas small business drives the economy not only in the West Parry Sound area but across the province of Ontario; and Whereas small business operators and the local economy depend on those travelling to the area and signage is invaluable to provide both advertising and direction particularly on restricted access roadways such as Hwy 400; and As such, The Town of Parry Sound would ask the Ministry of Transportation to review their highway sign regulations looking to provide reduced costs, greater opportunity and increased stability for small business tourism operators and others with respect to its signage regulations on highway right-of-ways; and Further that this resolution be forwarded to the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premiere, the Honourable Steven Del Ducca, Minister of Transportation, Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the District of Parry Sound Municipal Association, the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and Ontario Small Urban Municipalities.
Sure let’s continue to junk up the scenery on Hwy 400 and make it consistent with the ‘quaint’ junked up signs of Parry Sound. If you want to impress at a job interview and you are a guy you usually show up showered and shaved, or trimmed. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Continue to look sloppy and you will be considered sloppy, unless of course you are a star athlete or actor. In those cases appearances can be deceiving, but not when it comes to towns.
10.1.1 – Fire Dispatch Agreement. Being a By-law to authorize the execution of an agreement between the Town of Parry Sound and West Parry Sound Health Centre for the provision of Fire Department Dispatch Services.
10.3.1 – Approval of funding agreement with the Province of Ontario for the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund – Formula Based Component Spokesperson: Being a By-law to authorize the execution of an Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund Formula-Based Component Agreement between Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario (as represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) and the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound.
I’ll probably be at the council meeting on Tuesday evening. I may make a deputation regarding Item 9.3.3, I’m concerned that the proliferation of low-tax and no-tax development in Parry Sound is hurting our ability to fund critically important initiatives.
October Arrives at the Parry Sound Waterfront. Colour to Follow.