Council Preview

By John Swartz

Monday’s 2 p.m. Orillia council committee meeting has 8 items on the agenda.

Staff have a report to award a contract to build the new West Orillia Park to Pine Valley Corporation of Maple, Ontario. They are asking for a budget increase of $190,090 to be funded from the capital contingency reserve and development charges.

Proposed West Orillia Park

The project was approved at budget this year for $2.9 million and $105,000 has been spent for surveying, design and contract administration. Four bids were received and Pine Valley was lowest at $3,050,870. Staff met with the company to find ways to reduce the cost and removed $65,000, but there will still be a $190K shortage.

There are also two optional items, a covered pavilion ($79,400) and a splash pad ($68,700) council could add to the project.

The complicating factor is the development charges reserve has a -$16 million balance, and the park development reserve and parkland purchase reserve are overdrawn as well; the reserves are projected to have enough funds by 2021. Council could delay the whole project, but that would mean re-tendering and possibly redesigning, with no guarantees a new construction price will be any less.

Soldiers’ Economic Impact

Staff was asked for a report of, “The scope, scale and costs of commissioning an economic impact study,” regarding Soldiers’’ Memorial Hospital. One of the proposed options to rebuild the hospital is to do so on a greenfield, presumably outside the downtown core. The economic development department is asking for a $40,000 budget from the operating contingency reserve.

Such a study would try to identify the direct and indirect effects Soldiers’ has on the downtown core and is expected to take 8 to 12 weeks to complete.  There is an option to refer the matter to the 2020 budget, rather than start now.

The economic development department is also asking for $6,500 to prepare reference plans and survey work relating to the waterfront development project. Council previously approved $7,500 for this work, related to the sale of 70 Front Street North, however because the placement of a re-aligned Centennial Drive has been shifting and the number of easements negotiated and issues of expropriating lease rights more work is involved and the surveyor estimates it will be $14,000 to complete the work.

Hotel Tax

The City’s new municipal accommodation tax (4% added to charges) doesn’t become effective until April 6, 2020, but council must make a decision now how to allocate it’s 50% share of the tax revenue.

Staff are recommending 60% be used to enhance current tourism budgeting and 40% be directed to a new reserve account. The City expects more than $200,000 annually from the new tax. Staff say some of the new revenue could be used to spend on marketing in the GTA, video and photography services for use in marketing, financial support for one-time events like the Ontario Winter Games, and waterfront beautification.

The reserve could eventually be used for things like a tourism event trailer, festival and event infrastructure, investment in sport tourism and etc.

Staff are positioning the new tax revenue as ‘in addition’ to what is currently budgeted. The argument is, should tax revenue be less in any year, then core service funding would not be affected. A second option would direct 50% of the revenue to the general coffers (35/15% split to tourism as described above); and a third option is direct all the new money into general accounts and apply to current tourism budget spending. The latter two would have the effect of lowering the property tax levy

Right To Appeal Being Removed

A report from the manager of legislative services, Shawn Crawford, outlines what is involved to repeal the appeal process of Orillia’s clean and clear by-law. 

(Photo by Gregory Culmer – unsplash)

Currently the City enforces the by-law on a complaint basis, though by-law officers can initiate action on their own in the case of abandoned buildings. There is a 14 day appeal period for compliance orders and most of those are mailed, so 5 days are added to the appeal period. By the time the City hires a contractor to do the work it can take up to a month to do that work.

By removing a property owner’s right to appeal staff will be able to demand or take action sooner than 19 days and the City will save $175 for the appeals hearing.

Other Items

The statement of council expenses for the first half of 2019 is out, and councillor Ralph Cipolla claimed the lowest amount of those submitting expenses, $122 – however councillor Tim Lauer was the only one not submitting expenses and his total is $0.

Councillors Mason Ainsworth and Dave Campbell had the highest totals of $1,349 and $1,304. Ainsworth’s are for attending OSUM and AMO conferences, Campbell’s for AMO training courses and conferences attendance.

Councillor Pat Hehn has an enquiry motion asking for a report, prepared in conjunction with the Bee City working group, regarding options, logistics and costs of building pollinator gardens and for education opportunities to promote pollinator habitats.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, or submitted)


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