By John Swartz
Orillia council meets at 2 p.m. Monday for its committee meeting. A closed session will take place an hour earlier to discuss legal matters relating to Forest Avenue encroachments and the Rexton property. They will also be discussing appointments to various committees.
Two items on the committee consent agenda, which may or may not be pulled for further discussion, are about council meetings. One is a report about closed captioning of council meetings. Closed captioning is expensive, $150 per hour of runtime. Currently the live program on RogersTV is not captioned, but people can see captioned meetings later on Rogers’s Youtube Channel. Only meetings since June 17 are available. Youtube has their own automated captioning filter which is not charged to uploaders. If a charge applied at the rate above, the cost would be approximately $2,500 for meetings already uploaded.
Past council meetings are also available on Rogers’s website, but only for 2018 and to date this year and they are not captioned. Cable companies will be required to provide captioning for all programming in 2025. Only a few large municipalities are paying for closed captioning now and the report states Rogers is planning to arrange cost sharing for captioning with all municipalities when the requirement kicks in.
Staff estimate, based on the average number of meetings council has each year of 4 hours each, the annual cost would be approximately $20,000. Staff recommend no action now because people can watch at least the most recent meetings on Youtube (after the fact) and in 5 year’s time new technology might bring the cost down.
Another report sets the meeting schedule for 2020. It also changes the trial committee meeting time of 2 p.m. to that time for all committee meetings in 2020. New is a change in the regular meeting start time from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Two other options are proposed, to leave the 2 and 7 p.m. times, or to go back to 7 p.m. for both committee and regular meetings.
Did You Cut The Grass?
If council approves, by-law enforcement officers will be out fanning the city with measuring tapes in 2020 checking the height of weeds and grass as enforcement of the clean and clear by-law switches from complaint driven to department driven enforcement of the by-law. The same motion also transfers enforcement of the property standards by-law (applies to building interior and exterior) from the building department to by-law enforcement.
The City will need to hire a full-time and a part-time officer at a cost of $58,000 to do so, and typically fine revenue needs to cover salary expense. The reason for bringing this up now is the amount of time which passes between a complaint being received and action taken. Staff are aware there would be some downside to switching to proactive enforcement as outlined in a chart from the report:
The changes need to make it through budget committee before anything can happen. A second option for council to consider is reducing parking enforcement in the downtown, eliminating the need to hire more staff, but reducing parking fine revenue.
A report from parks recreation and culture is asking for direction to apply for Canada Infrastructure Program grants for work on Brian Orser arena renovations, waterfront park improvements and the Atherley Narrows Trail Connection and Fish Weirs Interpretive Centre. The deadline to apply is November 12.
If grants are approved, projects valued from $5 million to $50 million qualify (depending on project category) and the City could receive up to 73% of project costs (40 percent federal/ 33 percent provincial money). Each of the City’s submissions could get funding, but are being submitted in the order above for priority. If all were approved the value could be as high as $18 million in grants.
Staff are asking for an increased budget for signs at entrance points to the City. The 2019 budget allowed for $150,000 for 5 signs, but staff are asking for approval to included digital displays on two of the signs intended for Atherley and Coldwater Roads, which would add approximately $80,000 to the budget. The motion gives permission to work toward that goal and report back to the 2020 budget committee on costs.
A New Plan
The province has new legislation in 2019 directing municipalities to create community safety and wellbeing plans. Unlike what many would assume this would be, an emergency response plan, which the City already has, this one is intended to address four areas:
“1. Social Development – Addressing the underlying causes of social issues through upstream approaches that promote and maintain individual and community wellness. This includes opportunities for employment, income, adequate housing, access to education and other supports that promote social and economic inclusion.
2. Prevention – Applying proactive strategies to known and identified risks that are likely to result in harm to individuals or communities if left unmitigated.
3. Risk Intervention – Identifying and responding to situations of acutely elevated risk and mobilizing immediate interventions before an emergency or crisis driven response is required.
4. Incident Response – Circumstances that require intervention by first responders such as police, paramedics and other crisis-driven services in the human services system.”
Orillia has already had some participation with the County on a plan and the motion council has is to formalize the arrangement by appointing a staff member and the OPP detachment commander to a committee for the Orillia and surrounding townships called the Geographical Municipal Coordinating Committee. There is no cost attached to the request.