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Posts Tagged ‘smiths falls council’

Smiths Falls councillor stuffing stockings for seniors

Monday, November 7, 2016 @ 09:11 PM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Chris Must
chris@pdgmedia.ca 

Smiths Falls town councillor Dawn Quinn reminded colleagues that Christmas is on its way, and she has turned her thoughts to assembling Christmas stocking for lonely seniors.

Quinn is appealing for donations to fill stockings to be given to seniors who would otherwise get nothing. She reported that one lady has already knitted and donated a number of socks and toques. Other stocking stuffers such as writing pads and pens are also welcome. One year, she said, binoculars were donated and later used by seniors to watch birds using a nearby feeder.

The stockings will be assembled by staff at Royal LePage. Anyone wishing to donate items may contact Quinn to have them picked up, or drop them off at Royal LePage or Dawn’s Closet.

New community funding policy agreed on by Smiths Falls council

Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 09:10 PM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Chris Must
editorial@pdgmedia.ca 

The value of staff time in providing support for community events will be taken into account as the town of Smiths Falls develops new policies for awarding grants to community groups, as well as festivals and events.

In an effort to make the awarding of community donations less political,  town staff have developed a matrix for use in determining whether applications should be eligible for grants from the town, and whether to recommend that they receive the full amount or a lesser amount than applied for.

Following an update presented by town clerk Kerry Costello at an Oct. 24 meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole, councillors agreed that any grant of more than $5,000 should require a memorandum of understanding between the town and the recipient group. Organizations applying for $10,000 or more will be required to appear before council as a delegation.

Councillors were told that the new policies will take into account the cost of providing staff support, such as setting up tables and chairs or closing streets for community events.

Community services director Art Manhire said these types of “in-kind” support for events are costing the town up to $90,000 annually in staff time.

In future, he said, organizations asking for in-kind support, even if they do not require actual funding, will have to go through an application process.

“There are all kinds of things staff are doing that aren’t being tracked,” said Coun. Dawn Quinn. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Costello said feedback from councillors at the Oct. 24 meeting will be incorporated into the new draft policies, and brought back to the next meeting of council.

New role for Smiths Falls’ Committee of Adjustment

Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 09:10 PM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Chris Must
editorial@pdgmedia.ca 

The Town of Smiths Falls’ Committee of Adjustment will be taking on some new duties, at least on a trial basis.

Under new provincial legislation, the town must appoint a planning advisory committee. The Smart Growth for Communities Act (Bill 73) received royal assent in December 2015. The intent of this legislation is to provide new processes for communities to plan for growth, enhance transparency and accountability, and give local municipalities more independence in planning decisions.

One immediate effect of the legislation is the requirement for Smiths Falls to appoint a planning advisory committee.

In a presentation by senior planner Niki Dwyer at an Oct. 24 Committee of the Whole meeting, town staff recommended that the role of planning advisory committee be filled by the existing members of the Committee of Adjustment, which consists of six community members and town councillors Joe Gallipeau and Jay Brennan. The committee’s current role is adjudicating minor zoning variance applications.

The committee’s additional role will involve overseeing public meetings required for official plan amendments, zoning amendments, and applications for new subdivisions and condominiums.

Dwyer said that having the Committee of Adjustment take on this new role will “hopefully not add any more red tape than necessary to the process.”

Town Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris suggested that this new arrangement be tried for a year to ensure that the additional workload would be manageable.

The committee supports the plan, noted Coun. Brennan.

Council supports project to improve regional cellular and broadband service

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 @ 10:09 AM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Howida Sorour-Roberts
heddy@pdgmedia.ca

Smiths Falls council passed a motion on Sept. 19 to support the development of a full business case proposal called the Eastern Ontario Regional Cellular Mobile Broadband Project.  The town has also added its voice to the county’s in requesting MP Scott Reid and Randy Hillier, MPP, work closely with the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus and the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) on the project.

The aim of the project is to provide higher speed and bandwidth to at least 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Eastern Ontario. 

Fanning the urgency of the project is the need to establish a public safety broadcast network for first responders across the nation and EORN’s proposal is to develop a pilot project to cover Eastern Ontario to support the national network.

Smiths Falls sanctions Farmer’s Market as town event

Thursday, May 26, 2016 @ 11:05 AM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

Page Taylor – Smiths Falls

During the Smiths Falls council meeting on May 24, Nicola Thomson and Trish Krotki of the Downtown Business Association requested that the Smiths Falls Farmer’s Market, slated to begin June 4 at the corner of Russell and Beckwith streets, be sanctioned as a town event.

Mayor Shawn Pankow, along with Councillor Lorraine Allen and Councillor Chris Cummings agreed that the event would be beneficial. It would support local growers, promote sustainability and attract tourism. At the special meeting of council taking place afterwards, the motion carried that the farmer’s market be sanctioned as a town event.

By: Amy Hogue

A traffic study looking at the impact of the closure of the Confederation Bridge has founda 200 and 300 per cent increase in traffic at the Abbott Street and Lombard Street intersection, council was told at an Oct. 12 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting.

Council learned a redesign of the Abbott Street and Lombard Street intersection could help relieve traffic congestion.

The Traffic Impact Study (TIS) was undertaken in August and used data compiled in 2012 to compare traffic flow rates following the closure of Confederation Bridge.  In a report presented to council on Oct. 12, Engineering and Environmental Coordinator, Vanessa Bernicky, said the TIS revealed the road traffic is managing with the bridge closure, but added the study revealed ongoing issues with the intersection at Lombard Street and Abbott Street, mostly related to the swing bridge and the impact its opening has on traffic, causing delays.

The proposed Beckwith Street construction for 2016-2017 would only worsen congestion problems.

Two of the six options outlined by Bernicky to improve traffic flow included a reconstruction of the Abbott Street and Lomard Street intersection, at an estimated cost of $40,000 for the design work only, or improvements to the intersection to accommodate right hand turns from Abbott to Lombard at an estimated cost of $350,000.

Other recommendations included relocating the swing bridge closed warning sign closer to Abbott & Lombard Streets intersection for $2,000, restricting left-hand turns on Abbott Street between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. for $3,000, changes to traffic signal light timing at Beckwith Street and Main Street intersection, and the completion of a Traffic Masterplan Study for $70,000.

Councillor Chris Cummings said he would rather see a redesign of that intersection, and suggested a traffic circle might do the job. Cummings pointed out although he isn’t an expert, he has travelled through other communities and seen how well traffic circles can work to relieve congestion.

Councillor Joe Gallipeau questioned whether or not there was enough municipal land to put in a traffic circle at that location, to which Bernicky replied that the $350,000 estimate for a right hand turn includes the cost of the design, reconfiguration of the lights and curving islands but the municipality would still need to negotiate land expropriation, if needed.

“We can’t use a traffic circle because we have to control the traffic turning onto the bridge,” Bernicky said, adding that to put in a traffic circle they would need a great deal of land to allow for the turning radius of truck traffic.  

Councillor John Maloney seconded that opinion. He said he used to drive transport trucks and that “you would need a really big circle,” to accommodate the turning circle of a transport truck.

As an immediate congestion relieving tactic, Mayor Shawn Pankow suggested changing the timing for the restriction of left turn lanes off of Abbott Street, and doing a traffic count to determine when would be the best time to enforce that restriction.

“In my experience there’s a lot of traffic there all day long,” Pankow said.

Pankow suggested restricting turns from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of the recommended 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. restriction, but noted that would push traffic straight ahead to Beckwith Street.

Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris suggested council give direction to staff to look at a redesign that could include a traffic circle and come back with a quote.  In the meantime, he recommended moving forward with moving the swing bridge closed warning sign and resynchronizing lights to relieve congestion.  An overall redesign of the Abbott Street and Lombard Street location could be included in the 2016 budget.

Council debates windows replacement at town hall

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 @ 05:05 PM
posted by admin

BY AMY HOGUE

The question of how much is too much to pay for a window preoccupied council at COW on May 25, as they debated the pros and cons of vinyl clad versus wooden windows for town hall, with cost coming out as one of the biggest factors for consideration.

Community Services Manager, Art Manhire, presented council with estimates for replacing 30 windows at town hall with either wooden windows or vinyl.  The estimate for the wooden windows, from the company Jeldwen, totaled $46,838.04 while the vinyl clad windows, from Marlboro, added up to only $22,580.00, less than half the price.

The cost of the wooden windows are not only more than twice as much as the vinyl, council was told, but it will also require more maintenance than the vinyl alternative, at an approximate cost of $20,000 every five years for repainting and caulking.

Councillor Chris Cummings said that although it wouldn’t be the end of the world for council to choose the vinyl windows, he believes “wood is the preferred option for any heritage building.”

“This is a town building, we should be held to a higher standard,” Cummings said.

Mayor Shawn Pankow said this amounts to, over the 30 year lifespan of the windows, an approximate cost of $150,000 for the wooden windows, versus a $25,000 cost for the vinyl windows.

Council ultimately directed staff to obtain more detailed quotations for both the vinyl and wooden windows and to return to council with the additional information.

NEWS: Council agrees to explore policing options

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 @ 09:04 AM
posted by admin

BY AMY HOGUE

What began as a presentation by Police Services Board (PSB) Chair, Karen Hallinan, at a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on April 27 to update police on the organization’s Business Plan, evolved into a tense discussion about police services as a whole and the options available to the municipality to reduce costs.

Hallinan informed council that the Police Services Board’s Business Plan had expired the end of December 2014, and that the organization is currently uncompliant with the ministry.  Hallinan was initiating the conversation about police services with council before moving out to other stakeholders.  Part of the process of updating the PSB’s Business Plan involves public meetings to get an idea of what services the community would like to see from police.

Following Hallinan’s presentation, Mayor Shawn Pankow expressed how important adequate and effective policing are for a community, calling his time on the PSB board an “eye opener.”  Pankow noted it will be 10 years in 2016 since council looked at costing policing alternatives, and he thought “it would be irresponsible” for council not to take a closer look at the municipality’s options.

“At this stage, council should have a discussion about policing in the community,” Pankow said.

Pankow went on to note his concern about the rising costs of policing, which he said is currently at $1,150 per household, and is the most expensive in the province.  According to Pankow, in 2008 the police services budget was $2.8 million but that in 2015 that budget had increased to $4.7 million, equating to a 42 per cent increase overall and a five per cent annual increase.

“From a sustainability standpoint, to continue to raise at that level it isn’t sustainable,” Pankow said, before adding that “when policing represents 30 per cent of the budget, there are other things that don’t get attention.”

Pankow noted there are various options available to the municipality when exploring policing models.  Pankow suggested council explore costing with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), or explore collaboration with neighbouring municipalities.  Pankow said that although the exact numbers aren’t known, 90 per cent of OPP policing in Ontario costs less than $500 per household, as opposed to the $1,150 per household Smiths Falls currently pays.

“It’s very difficult to provide the desired level of policing for 9,000 people,” Pankow stressed, “We have to consider the OPP.”

Pankow asked for support from council to undertaken a service review of police services, which would include exploring other policing models.

Hallinan responded to Pankow’s suggestion for a service review and an exploration of policing alternatives, reminding council the OPP has a moratorium on providing costing to municipalities which could delay that process.  Hallinan stressed that because the PSB business plan expired in 2014, they “have to move forward with consultation or else we could be in trouble with the ministry.”

Councillor Dawn Quinn said she supports Pankow’s suggestion for a complete service review of police services.

“We have to do our due diligence,” Quinn said, “We have to look at these costs.”

Quinn also pointed out that there have been responsibilities placed on the Smiths Falls Police, such as mental health, that she questioned if they are the responsibility of the police services.

Councillor Chris Cummings acknowledged Hallinan’s concern with the need to move forward with a business plan, but noted that “at the same time, we are undertaking a service review.”

Hallinan expressed her concerns with the municipality’s exploration of policing alternatives, pointing out that the municipality would be unlikely to obtain a contract for more than three or four years, and that policing a rural area is very different from policing a town like Smiths Falls.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as it seems,” Hallinan said.

Hallinan suggested the PSB go through its process of public consultation and identify what the needs in the community are and then bring that information to council.

“You people may be spinning your wheels while we’re off gathering information,” Hallinan pressed.

Cummings pointed out that the PSB would be included in the process, noting that he will want to hear the outcome of the PSB public consultation before making any decision.

“We want to be able to tell the community we looked at everything,” Cummings said.

Cummings also stressed that the Smiths Falls Police do a good job delivering service and that exploring different options doesn’t mean anyone involved has done anything wrong.

Pankow pointed out that alternative policing models don’t necessarily mean a lower level of service. “Any model we have could provide the same level of policing if you’re willing to pay for it,” Pankow said, “I think the business plan and service review can work in parallel and the business plan can be an important part of the service review.”

Councillor Jay Brennan said he is not opposed to having an honest conversation with residents of Smiths Falls.  Brennan also pointed out that 88 per cent of the police services budget comes from salaries, and a service review “means that number has to go down.”

Councillor Lorraine Allen said in her experience most people in the community want the police to be there when they need them, and they want to feel safe.

“I want to make sure at lower cost we’re going to get the same level of service,” Allen said.

Smiths Falls’ Police Chief, Robert Dowdall, told council that a service review for police services is different than a service review for other departments.

“We have to meet adequacy standards,” Dowdall stressed.

Councillor John Maloney reminded council that any discussion about police services involves members of the community and that tensions were bound to rise during discussions of that nature.

“There’s people involved…we’ve got to remember we’re creating tension sometimes,” Maloney said, but did note that he believes the taxpayer comes first and at $500 per household for policing costs the municipality could do it for 10 years and save $10 million.

The meeting concluded with a staff direction to bring forward recommendations to the next COW meeting on who will sit on the new task force for the service review.

Correction:  This story has been edited to correct an error indicating the 2008 budget for police services was $3.2 million.  This has been corrected to $2.8 million.

Budget points to zero per cent increase, mayor questions increases from 2014

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 @ 12:03 PM
posted by admin

BY AMY HOGUE

Council appears to be holding firm to a zero per cent tax increase for 2015, although staff are waiting for final numbers that will complete the budget.

Deputy treasurer, Janet Koziel, presented council with an overview of the draft budget at a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on Mar. 9, presenting it to council as “a balanced budget.”

This fourth draft of the budget saw a number of changes to the operational budget, among which included revisions to the Community Donations budget line that saw a reduction of $27,200; the combination of the chief building official position and bylaw enforcement position which should see a reduction of $48,027 in payroll costs; an increase in costs related to the freezing of water main pipes, of $22,413, and a decrease in the Community Improvement Program of $50,000.

Koziel also pointed to a year-end surplus from 2014 that was “delightfully larger than anticipated” at $141,000. The overall impact of the changes means a total decrease of the operational budget of $50,837, and a decrease of $683,000 in capital expenses which were either deferred or reduced.

Koziel explained the fly in the ointment could come with the County Reconciliation, which is expected to come in at $100,000, but noted that number could fluctuate. Staff are also waiting for numbers from the province, which could impact the final totals for the 2015 budget. If a grant application of $475,000 to the Build Canada Fund is denied, this could also impact the final numbers, leaving council to search for creative ways to make up the difference.

Councillor Jay Brennan thanked staff for their efforts in maintaining the requested zero per cent increase, while Mayor Shawn Pankow questioned the additional expenses the town will face due to the freezing water mains, asking, “are we leaving ourselves pretty tight?”

CAO Malcolm Morris recommended that without final numbers that could impact the budget, council should not give the budget first and second reading that evening (Mar. 9), but wait until staff have received all the information needed to finalize the budget. This could mean early April before the budget will officially be approved by council.

“This will give us time to come back with solutions for the $60,000,” Morris told council, referring to the additional costs the town is facing due to the freezing pipes issue.

Pankow questioned the increases in the 2015 operational budget over the 2014 budget amounts.

“Before we set the budget, I’d like more insight into what’s contributing to these increases,” Pankow said, noting that although there could be real reasons for the increases from 2014, that “we can’t do that every year.”

Morris pointed out that “the areas where we’re seeing an increase could indicate where we should lend our attention to a service review.”

The budget is set to come back to the committee meeting on Mar. 23.

Council Briefs: Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting

Thursday, March 5, 2015 @ 11:03 AM
posted by admin

Reported and Written by Amy Hogue

1) Open air and pit fires permits may soon come to Smiths Falls
Fire Chief Normand Beauchamp hopes to reduce firefighter responses in Smiths Falls with the introduction of open air and fire pit permit fees.  Currently, open air fires and fire pits are not permitted in Smiths Falls, but Beauchamp proposes to introduce annual permits to residents for both types of fires.
“The cost of the permit is just to get it in the system,” Beauchamp assured council, justifying the low fee of $10 per application.
The purpose behind the permit is not to generate revenue, but to reduce firefighter response numbers and, ultimately, costs.  Beauchamp proposes the permit system could save the municipality up to $6,000 in costs by reducing the number of calls that firefighters respond to, only to find out it’s a safe fire pit or open air fire.  The cost for firefighters to respond to a fire call is approximately $600.
Council members discussed the fee, questioning if it should be raised to $25 per permit.  Beauchamp will return to council at a later date with further details.

2) Door-to-door campaign for dog and cat tags coming to Smiths Falls
In a report presented by manager of Planning and Sustainable Growth, Lynda McKimm, the recommendation was for council to approve a door to door campaign for dog and cat tags and to set a tag fee for micro-chipped animals of $5 annually.
The report stated that in 2014 there were 330 tags sold, equalling $3,760 in fees.  McKimm believes that a door-to-door campaign could generate revenue of approximately $28,000.  The calculation, made in cooperation with the Animal Control Officer, is based on the number of residences in the town and an estimate of the number of dogs living within town limits.
The creation of a database for all dogs and cats tagged in the municipality was also recommended, as this would eliminate the need for future door-to-door campaigns.  In subsequent years, notices could be sent to residences who previously had purchased tags, reminding them to purchase new tags for the current year.
The report suggested approaching not for profit groups to sell the dog and cat tags door-to-door, with an offer for commission for tags sold.  An increase in fees beginning after March 31, 2015, was also recommended, increasing the tag fee from $15 to $30.  Because there is no fee for micro-chipped animals in Smiths Falls, McKimm also recommended charging $5 per tag for micro-chipped animals.

3) Procedural by-law changes requested by Councillor Quinn
Councillor Dawn Quinn brought forward a request for changes to the procedural bylaw to reduce repetition at council meetings.  After engaging the clerk for information about how best to accomplish this, Quinn pointed out that under the current procedural bylaw, council must read bylaw aloud for three readings, which could be unnecessary.
Director of corporate services, Kerry Costello, suggested using a similar structure for COW meetings by receiving consent reports.  This would mean that monthly reports received from staff would be accepted by council, and only discussed if there were any additional questions from council.  Costello suggested creating a consent portion of the agenda.
Quinn stressed that this is an important issue for council, pointing out that council currently has a lot on their plates, and any time that is saved could be devoted to other items.
Costello will bring back more information at a future meeting with further suggestions for changes to council’s procedure that could save time.

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Posts Tagged ‘smiths falls council’

Smiths Falls councillor stuffing stockings for seniors

Monday, November 7, 2016 @ 09:11 PM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Chris Must
chris@pdgmedia.ca 

Smiths Falls town councillor Dawn Quinn reminded colleagues that Christmas is on its way, and she has turned her thoughts to assembling Christmas stocking for lonely seniors.

Quinn is appealing for donations to fill stockings to be given to seniors who would otherwise get nothing. She reported that one lady has already knitted and donated a number of socks and toques. Other stocking stuffers such as writing pads and pens are also welcome. One year, she said, binoculars were donated and later used by seniors to watch birds using a nearby feeder.

The stockings will be assembled by staff at Royal LePage. Anyone wishing to donate items may contact Quinn to have them picked up, or drop them off at Royal LePage or Dawn’s Closet.

New community funding policy agreed on by Smiths Falls council

Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 09:10 PM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Chris Must
editorial@pdgmedia.ca 

The value of staff time in providing support for community events will be taken into account as the town of Smiths Falls develops new policies for awarding grants to community groups, as well as festivals and events.

In an effort to make the awarding of community donations less political,  town staff have developed a matrix for use in determining whether applications should be eligible for grants from the town, and whether to recommend that they receive the full amount or a lesser amount than applied for.

Following an update presented by town clerk Kerry Costello at an Oct. 24 meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole, councillors agreed that any grant of more than $5,000 should require a memorandum of understanding between the town and the recipient group. Organizations applying for $10,000 or more will be required to appear before council as a delegation.

Councillors were told that the new policies will take into account the cost of providing staff support, such as setting up tables and chairs or closing streets for community events.

Community services director Art Manhire said these types of “in-kind” support for events are costing the town up to $90,000 annually in staff time.

In future, he said, organizations asking for in-kind support, even if they do not require actual funding, will have to go through an application process.

“There are all kinds of things staff are doing that aren’t being tracked,” said Coun. Dawn Quinn. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Costello said feedback from councillors at the Oct. 24 meeting will be incorporated into the new draft policies, and brought back to the next meeting of council.

New role for Smiths Falls’ Committee of Adjustment

Monday, October 24, 2016 @ 09:10 PM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Chris Must
editorial@pdgmedia.ca 

The Town of Smiths Falls’ Committee of Adjustment will be taking on some new duties, at least on a trial basis.

Under new provincial legislation, the town must appoint a planning advisory committee. The Smart Growth for Communities Act (Bill 73) received royal assent in December 2015. The intent of this legislation is to provide new processes for communities to plan for growth, enhance transparency and accountability, and give local municipalities more independence in planning decisions.

One immediate effect of the legislation is the requirement for Smiths Falls to appoint a planning advisory committee.

In a presentation by senior planner Niki Dwyer at an Oct. 24 Committee of the Whole meeting, town staff recommended that the role of planning advisory committee be filled by the existing members of the Committee of Adjustment, which consists of six community members and town councillors Joe Gallipeau and Jay Brennan. The committee’s current role is adjudicating minor zoning variance applications.

The committee’s additional role will involve overseeing public meetings required for official plan amendments, zoning amendments, and applications for new subdivisions and condominiums.

Dwyer said that having the Committee of Adjustment take on this new role will “hopefully not add any more red tape than necessary to the process.”

Town Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris suggested that this new arrangement be tried for a year to ensure that the additional workload would be manageable.

The committee supports the plan, noted Coun. Brennan.

Council supports project to improve regional cellular and broadband service

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 @ 10:09 AM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

By Howida Sorour-Roberts
heddy@pdgmedia.ca

Smiths Falls council passed a motion on Sept. 19 to support the development of a full business case proposal called the Eastern Ontario Regional Cellular Mobile Broadband Project.  The town has also added its voice to the county’s in requesting MP Scott Reid and Randy Hillier, MPP, work closely with the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus and the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) on the project.

The aim of the project is to provide higher speed and bandwidth to at least 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Eastern Ontario. 

Fanning the urgency of the project is the need to establish a public safety broadcast network for first responders across the nation and EORN’s proposal is to develop a pilot project to cover Eastern Ontario to support the national network.

Smiths Falls sanctions Farmer’s Market as town event

Thursday, May 26, 2016 @ 11:05 AM
posted by April Scott-Clarke

Page Taylor – Smiths Falls

During the Smiths Falls council meeting on May 24, Nicola Thomson and Trish Krotki of the Downtown Business Association requested that the Smiths Falls Farmer’s Market, slated to begin June 4 at the corner of Russell and Beckwith streets, be sanctioned as a town event.

Mayor Shawn Pankow, along with Councillor Lorraine Allen and Councillor Chris Cummings agreed that the event would be beneficial. It would support local growers, promote sustainability and attract tourism. At the special meeting of council taking place afterwards, the motion carried that the farmer’s market be sanctioned as a town event.

By: Amy Hogue

A traffic study looking at the impact of the closure of the Confederation Bridge has founda 200 and 300 per cent increase in traffic at the Abbott Street and Lombard Street intersection, council was told at an Oct. 12 Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting.

Council learned a redesign of the Abbott Street and Lombard Street intersection could help relieve traffic congestion.

The Traffic Impact Study (TIS) was undertaken in August and used data compiled in 2012 to compare traffic flow rates following the closure of Confederation Bridge.  In a report presented to council on Oct. 12, Engineering and Environmental Coordinator, Vanessa Bernicky, said the TIS revealed the road traffic is managing with the bridge closure, but added the study revealed ongoing issues with the intersection at Lombard Street and Abbott Street, mostly related to the swing bridge and the impact its opening has on traffic, causing delays.

The proposed Beckwith Street construction for 2016-2017 would only worsen congestion problems.

Two of the six options outlined by Bernicky to improve traffic flow included a reconstruction of the Abbott Street and Lomard Street intersection, at an estimated cost of $40,000 for the design work only, or improvements to the intersection to accommodate right hand turns from Abbott to Lombard at an estimated cost of $350,000.

Other recommendations included relocating the swing bridge closed warning sign closer to Abbott & Lombard Streets intersection for $2,000, restricting left-hand turns on Abbott Street between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. for $3,000, changes to traffic signal light timing at Beckwith Street and Main Street intersection, and the completion of a Traffic Masterplan Study for $70,000.

Councillor Chris Cummings said he would rather see a redesign of that intersection, and suggested a traffic circle might do the job. Cummings pointed out although he isn’t an expert, he has travelled through other communities and seen how well traffic circles can work to relieve congestion.

Councillor Joe Gallipeau questioned whether or not there was enough municipal land to put in a traffic circle at that location, to which Bernicky replied that the $350,000 estimate for a right hand turn includes the cost of the design, reconfiguration of the lights and curving islands but the municipality would still need to negotiate land expropriation, if needed.

“We can’t use a traffic circle because we have to control the traffic turning onto the bridge,” Bernicky said, adding that to put in a traffic circle they would need a great deal of land to allow for the turning radius of truck traffic.  

Councillor John Maloney seconded that opinion. He said he used to drive transport trucks and that “you would need a really big circle,” to accommodate the turning circle of a transport truck.

As an immediate congestion relieving tactic, Mayor Shawn Pankow suggested changing the timing for the restriction of left turn lanes off of Abbott Street, and doing a traffic count to determine when would be the best time to enforce that restriction.

“In my experience there’s a lot of traffic there all day long,” Pankow said.

Pankow suggested restricting turns from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead of the recommended 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. restriction, but noted that would push traffic straight ahead to Beckwith Street.

Chief Administrative Officer Malcolm Morris suggested council give direction to staff to look at a redesign that could include a traffic circle and come back with a quote.  In the meantime, he recommended moving forward with moving the swing bridge closed warning sign and resynchronizing lights to relieve congestion.  An overall redesign of the Abbott Street and Lombard Street location could be included in the 2016 budget.

Council debates windows replacement at town hall

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 @ 05:05 PM
posted by admin

BY AMY HOGUE

The question of how much is too much to pay for a window preoccupied council at COW on May 25, as they debated the pros and cons of vinyl clad versus wooden windows for town hall, with cost coming out as one of the biggest factors for consideration.

Community Services Manager, Art Manhire, presented council with estimates for replacing 30 windows at town hall with either wooden windows or vinyl.  The estimate for the wooden windows, from the company Jeldwen, totaled $46,838.04 while the vinyl clad windows, from Marlboro, added up to only $22,580.00, less than half the price.

The cost of the wooden windows are not only more than twice as much as the vinyl, council was told, but it will also require more maintenance than the vinyl alternative, at an approximate cost of $20,000 every five years for repainting and caulking.

Councillor Chris Cummings said that although it wouldn’t be the end of the world for council to choose the vinyl windows, he believes “wood is the preferred option for any heritage building.”

“This is a town building, we should be held to a higher standard,” Cummings said.

Mayor Shawn Pankow said this amounts to, over the 30 year lifespan of the windows, an approximate cost of $150,000 for the wooden windows, versus a $25,000 cost for the vinyl windows.

Council ultimately directed staff to obtain more detailed quotations for both the vinyl and wooden windows and to return to council with the additional information.

NEWS: Council agrees to explore policing options

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 @ 09:04 AM
posted by admin

BY AMY HOGUE

What began as a presentation by Police Services Board (PSB) Chair, Karen Hallinan, at a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on April 27 to update police on the organization’s Business Plan, evolved into a tense discussion about police services as a whole and the options available to the municipality to reduce costs.

Hallinan informed council that the Police Services Board’s Business Plan had expired the end of December 2014, and that the organization is currently uncompliant with the ministry.  Hallinan was initiating the conversation about police services with council before moving out to other stakeholders.  Part of the process of updating the PSB’s Business Plan involves public meetings to get an idea of what services the community would like to see from police.

Following Hallinan’s presentation, Mayor Shawn Pankow expressed how important adequate and effective policing are for a community, calling his time on the PSB board an “eye opener.”  Pankow noted it will be 10 years in 2016 since council looked at costing policing alternatives, and he thought “it would be irresponsible” for council not to take a closer look at the municipality’s options.

“At this stage, council should have a discussion about policing in the community,” Pankow said.

Pankow went on to note his concern about the rising costs of policing, which he said is currently at $1,150 per household, and is the most expensive in the province.  According to Pankow, in 2008 the police services budget was $2.8 million but that in 2015 that budget had increased to $4.7 million, equating to a 42 per cent increase overall and a five per cent annual increase.

“From a sustainability standpoint, to continue to raise at that level it isn’t sustainable,” Pankow said, before adding that “when policing represents 30 per cent of the budget, there are other things that don’t get attention.”

Pankow noted there are various options available to the municipality when exploring policing models.  Pankow suggested council explore costing with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), or explore collaboration with neighbouring municipalities.  Pankow said that although the exact numbers aren’t known, 90 per cent of OPP policing in Ontario costs less than $500 per household, as opposed to the $1,150 per household Smiths Falls currently pays.

“It’s very difficult to provide the desired level of policing for 9,000 people,” Pankow stressed, “We have to consider the OPP.”

Pankow asked for support from council to undertaken a service review of police services, which would include exploring other policing models.

Hallinan responded to Pankow’s suggestion for a service review and an exploration of policing alternatives, reminding council the OPP has a moratorium on providing costing to municipalities which could delay that process.  Hallinan stressed that because the PSB business plan expired in 2014, they “have to move forward with consultation or else we could be in trouble with the ministry.”

Councillor Dawn Quinn said she supports Pankow’s suggestion for a complete service review of police services.

“We have to do our due diligence,” Quinn said, “We have to look at these costs.”

Quinn also pointed out that there have been responsibilities placed on the Smiths Falls Police, such as mental health, that she questioned if they are the responsibility of the police services.

Councillor Chris Cummings acknowledged Hallinan’s concern with the need to move forward with a business plan, but noted that “at the same time, we are undertaking a service review.”

Hallinan expressed her concerns with the municipality’s exploration of policing alternatives, pointing out that the municipality would be unlikely to obtain a contract for more than three or four years, and that policing a rural area is very different from policing a town like Smiths Falls.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as it seems,” Hallinan said.

Hallinan suggested the PSB go through its process of public consultation and identify what the needs in the community are and then bring that information to council.

“You people may be spinning your wheels while we’re off gathering information,” Hallinan pressed.

Cummings pointed out that the PSB would be included in the process, noting that he will want to hear the outcome of the PSB public consultation before making any decision.

“We want to be able to tell the community we looked at everything,” Cummings said.

Cummings also stressed that the Smiths Falls Police do a good job delivering service and that exploring different options doesn’t mean anyone involved has done anything wrong.

Pankow pointed out that alternative policing models don’t necessarily mean a lower level of service. “Any model we have could provide the same level of policing if you’re willing to pay for it,” Pankow said, “I think the business plan and service review can work in parallel and the business plan can be an important part of the service review.”

Councillor Jay Brennan said he is not opposed to having an honest conversation with residents of Smiths Falls.  Brennan also pointed out that 88 per cent of the police services budget comes from salaries, and a service review “means that number has to go down.”

Councillor Lorraine Allen said in her experience most people in the community want the police to be there when they need them, and they want to feel safe.

“I want to make sure at lower cost we’re going to get the same level of service,” Allen said.

Smiths Falls’ Police Chief, Robert Dowdall, told council that a service review for police services is different than a service review for other departments.

“We have to meet adequacy standards,” Dowdall stressed.

Councillor John Maloney reminded council that any discussion about police services involves members of the community and that tensions were bound to rise during discussions of that nature.

“There’s people involved…we’ve got to remember we’re creating tension sometimes,” Maloney said, but did note that he believes the taxpayer comes first and at $500 per household for policing costs the municipality could do it for 10 years and save $10 million.

The meeting concluded with a staff direction to bring forward recommendations to the next COW meeting on who will sit on the new task force for the service review.

Correction:  This story has been edited to correct an error indicating the 2008 budget for police services was $3.2 million.  This has been corrected to $2.8 million.

Budget points to zero per cent increase, mayor questions increases from 2014

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 @ 12:03 PM
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BY AMY HOGUE

Council appears to be holding firm to a zero per cent tax increase for 2015, although staff are waiting for final numbers that will complete the budget.

Deputy treasurer, Janet Koziel, presented council with an overview of the draft budget at a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on Mar. 9, presenting it to council as “a balanced budget.”

This fourth draft of the budget saw a number of changes to the operational budget, among which included revisions to the Community Donations budget line that saw a reduction of $27,200; the combination of the chief building official position and bylaw enforcement position which should see a reduction of $48,027 in payroll costs; an increase in costs related to the freezing of water main pipes, of $22,413, and a decrease in the Community Improvement Program of $50,000.

Koziel also pointed to a year-end surplus from 2014 that was “delightfully larger than anticipated” at $141,000. The overall impact of the changes means a total decrease of the operational budget of $50,837, and a decrease of $683,000 in capital expenses which were either deferred or reduced.

Koziel explained the fly in the ointment could come with the County Reconciliation, which is expected to come in at $100,000, but noted that number could fluctuate. Staff are also waiting for numbers from the province, which could impact the final totals for the 2015 budget. If a grant application of $475,000 to the Build Canada Fund is denied, this could also impact the final numbers, leaving council to search for creative ways to make up the difference.

Councillor Jay Brennan thanked staff for their efforts in maintaining the requested zero per cent increase, while Mayor Shawn Pankow questioned the additional expenses the town will face due to the freezing water mains, asking, “are we leaving ourselves pretty tight?”

CAO Malcolm Morris recommended that without final numbers that could impact the budget, council should not give the budget first and second reading that evening (Mar. 9), but wait until staff have received all the information needed to finalize the budget. This could mean early April before the budget will officially be approved by council.

“This will give us time to come back with solutions for the $60,000,” Morris told council, referring to the additional costs the town is facing due to the freezing pipes issue.

Pankow questioned the increases in the 2015 operational budget over the 2014 budget amounts.

“Before we set the budget, I’d like more insight into what’s contributing to these increases,” Pankow said, noting that although there could be real reasons for the increases from 2014, that “we can’t do that every year.”

Morris pointed out that “the areas where we’re seeing an increase could indicate where we should lend our attention to a service review.”

The budget is set to come back to the committee meeting on Mar. 23.

Council Briefs: Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting

Thursday, March 5, 2015 @ 11:03 AM
posted by admin

Reported and Written by Amy Hogue

1) Open air and pit fires permits may soon come to Smiths Falls
Fire Chief Normand Beauchamp hopes to reduce firefighter responses in Smiths Falls with the introduction of open air and fire pit permit fees.  Currently, open air fires and fire pits are not permitted in Smiths Falls, but Beauchamp proposes to introduce annual permits to residents for both types of fires.
“The cost of the permit is just to get it in the system,” Beauchamp assured council, justifying the low fee of $10 per application.
The purpose behind the permit is not to generate revenue, but to reduce firefighter response numbers and, ultimately, costs.  Beauchamp proposes the permit system could save the municipality up to $6,000 in costs by reducing the number of calls that firefighters respond to, only to find out it’s a safe fire pit or open air fire.  The cost for firefighters to respond to a fire call is approximately $600.
Council members discussed the fee, questioning if it should be raised to $25 per permit.  Beauchamp will return to council at a later date with further details.

2) Door-to-door campaign for dog and cat tags coming to Smiths Falls
In a report presented by manager of Planning and Sustainable Growth, Lynda McKimm, the recommendation was for council to approve a door to door campaign for dog and cat tags and to set a tag fee for micro-chipped animals of $5 annually.
The report stated that in 2014 there were 330 tags sold, equalling $3,760 in fees.  McKimm believes that a door-to-door campaign could generate revenue of approximately $28,000.  The calculation, made in cooperation with the Animal Control Officer, is based on the number of residences in the town and an estimate of the number of dogs living within town limits.
The creation of a database for all dogs and cats tagged in the municipality was also recommended, as this would eliminate the need for future door-to-door campaigns.  In subsequent years, notices could be sent to residences who previously had purchased tags, reminding them to purchase new tags for the current year.
The report suggested approaching not for profit groups to sell the dog and cat tags door-to-door, with an offer for commission for tags sold.  An increase in fees beginning after March 31, 2015, was also recommended, increasing the tag fee from $15 to $30.  Because there is no fee for micro-chipped animals in Smiths Falls, McKimm also recommended charging $5 per tag for micro-chipped animals.

3) Procedural by-law changes requested by Councillor Quinn
Councillor Dawn Quinn brought forward a request for changes to the procedural bylaw to reduce repetition at council meetings.  After engaging the clerk for information about how best to accomplish this, Quinn pointed out that under the current procedural bylaw, council must read bylaw aloud for three readings, which could be unnecessary.
Director of corporate services, Kerry Costello, suggested using a similar structure for COW meetings by receiving consent reports.  This would mean that monthly reports received from staff would be accepted by council, and only discussed if there were any additional questions from council.  Costello suggested creating a consent portion of the agenda.
Quinn stressed that this is an important issue for council, pointing out that council currently has a lot on their plates, and any time that is saved could be devoted to other items.
Costello will bring back more information at a future meeting with further suggestions for changes to council’s procedure that could save time.

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