By John Swartz
Orillia council meets today and they’ve set themselves up for a long series of meetings beginning with the final 2021 budget session at noon, a closed session following at 1:30 p.m. and then the council committee meeting beginning at 4 p.m.
In the latter the consent agenda has three items. One of special interest is a move to expropriate at 70 Front Street South. While some might think they already own the land, and they are right, there are some lease aspects involving Metro and Subway the City wants to take back in order to move ahead with extending Coldwater Street to the waterfront.
So far the City has spent $320,155 of a $585,000 legal budget on this matter. Metro lost a judicial review of the expropriation process and was ordered to pay legal costs of $79,522 to the City.
The City is working with Subway to find a new retail space and Metro will not lose its lease rights for the north side of the property. The city will have to pay each market value for their lost financial potential. Those amounts have yet to be determined.
Another item is to renew a multi-year governance agreement with Metrolinx. Essentially it’s a purchasing agreement and 46 other communities participate in the program. In the past the City bought 9 buses and two specialized buses at lower cost through Metrolinx. The new agreement term is to 2024.
The City also is establishing new vendor fees for the Farmers’ Market. They are going up from 5 to 20% depending on the season, and introduce a new student vendor rate to rent a stall. The City’s rates are currently below rates charged at three other nearby farmers’ markets.
The affordable housing committee has a report regarding youth homelessness to give to council. The committee has been speaking with the YMCA about what will happen with the Peter Street building now it is closed. The committee is interested in establishing a youth hub which would have a transitional housing component.
The committee wants council endorsement in order to proceed more formally with the YMCA, and involved the Simcoe County affordable housing advisory committee in order to create an atmosphere for a three party (City, County, YMCA) funding financial package. The committee also would like to have staff resources made available and to have the director of the Orillia Youth Opportunities remain involved.
Another report from development services responds to a council request to increase littering fines and for litter management strategies. The fine is $300 and 4 tickets on average are issued per year. The report outlines there are number of garbage cans in the downtown, a lot, and a grand total of 12 in the waterfront parks (which are locked in the winter), as well as on trails. The department wants council to endorse by-law officers conducting ‘blitzes’ during the spring, summer and fall season and leaving the fine at $300. A second option is to increase the fine to $500.
Some changes to the tree preservation by-law are being presented by development services. The new by-law eliminates several parts in order to make it only apply to properties larger than half a hectare and to trees larger than 2 inches diameter. It also implements a new permit fee of $250 to remove a tree.
Despite recommending changes, staff comment: “As the options in this report are contemplated, Members of Council are asked to turn their mind to whether comprehensive tree regulations are warranted at this time.” And continues with: “There is also no data to suggest that people are removing large trees without the need to do so.” They are definitely not in favour of a second option to have the by-law apply to all properties regardless of size with tighter removal rules and a requirement to pay $350 more if a replacement tree cannot be planted on a property where a tree is being removed.
Insurance Rates Up
Because the number of insurers has been contracting in recent years, and provincial legislative change which puts municipalities on the hook if there are other parties to a claim and those parties cannot pay judgments or claims, rates being charged compete with Elon Musk’s desire to go to Mars for altitude.
The City’s premium for 2021 will be $812,557, compared to the 2020 rate of $528,248. This is a 54% increase.
Another factor is increasing property and equipment values, and including the new recreation center for coverage. Staff are recommending council accept the last year of a 5 year term with their insurer, rather than going to tender. The City will have to go to tender in 2022 and staff are not looking forward to it based on the experience of other municipalities who have tendered recently and had drastic increases.
The province is changing how municipalities get policing by the OPP such that every municipality is automatically counted as covered – and gets a monthly bill – unless they have established their own police force.
Orillia doesn’t have its own police department, but has contracted to have the OPP serve as the municipal force. This is ending Dec. 31.
Under the new regime, the Orillia Police Services Board will be dissolved and replace by a detachment board. This means the surrounding townships also served by the detachment will get to have representatives, and presumably Orillia council members and appointees from Orillia will not have control of the board.
The 2021 price tag for this is $8.8 million. The City paid $8.2 million in 2020.
There are five items on the agenda. The Front Street plaza referred to above has some confidential legal discussion involving the City’s legal team and contract negotiations with employee unions on the agenda. There are also two land issues relating to the Horne Business Park and 2 Hunter Valley Road, and a review of boards and committees appointments.
This council meeting is a video conference and the chamber is closed to the public. The public can watch it live, on Rogers TV.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)