Council Preview

By John Swartz

Monday afternoon’s council committee meeting begins at 4 p.m. It is preceded by a closed session at 2:45 p.m. On the closed agenda is an update on negotiations with the union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents environment services, parks and rec, Orillia Power Generation and other City Hall staff. Council will also discuss appointments to committees.

Out in the open, the agenda is loaded with reports from environment services. One item is regarding a ban on single use plastics. Those would be shopping bags, stir sticks, 6-pack rings, straws, plastic utensils and other hard to recycle plastic items.

The federal government is proposing a ban by the end of 2021 and the province is changing the blue box regulations so industry is responsible for waste plastics. The motion recommended is for council to support the federal ban.

Because China and Taiwan are not taking North America’s plastic for recycling municipalities like Orillia are unable to unload plastics they have collected; there are few recycling companies regionally or nationally because we instead relied on China to take care of the problem.

If passed, this will not result in a local ban of single use plastics.

What could be considered a companion issue is the subject of another report outlining what is yet to be accomplished with Orillia’s waste minimization plan. A condition of the City’s license to operate a landfill is having a 5-year minimization plan. Of the 22 recommendations from the 2016 plan, 4 are not done and staff is recommending they be passed to the new plan later this year.

The 4 unfinished recommendations are; developing a staff training and incentive program; finding the feasibility of recycling window glass, porcelain and ceramics;  reporting on options to manage recycling of plastics which have not been assigned a recycling code and for shredded paper; and establishing an incentive program for people to use reusable diapers, reward those who recycle more than they put out as garbage, and providing free compost.

One of the recommendations not implemented yet, but not part of the above report, is to require citizens to use clear plastic garbage bags. The target date for change is February 2022. The reason is because where clear bags are mandated recycling increased by about 10%. Orillia recycles 64% of what is picked up at the curb and has a target of 70%.

The city already has the ability to reject tagged garbage bags which have recyclable items inside and leave them at the curb. It happens a couple times a month. Staff suspects there are still a sufficient amount of recyclables in tagged bags and switching to clear ones would make it evident who is not recycling enough, or at all.

If council approves, the new policy would allow for 10% volume of recyclables in tagged bags and there would be no fine attached to the move. Residents, however, would be stuck with taking their garbage to the landfill themselves where staff would have the opportunity to do some recycling education.

Economic Recovery

The economic recovery task force is asking for another $60,000 from the $1 million emergency fund be allocated. The money would be used for this year’s downtown pedestrian mall, extend the shop local marketing campaign  and to help business adapt to new business practices should emergency measures (or some form of) remain active this year. If approved, this would make $120,000 of the fund allocated.

Affordable Housing

Simcoe County made a request at budget for the City to waive fees and other charges for an $80 million affordable housing project on the former ODCVI site.

The report notes other communities have granted similar requests from the county, but they don’t have formal policies for affordable housing financial incentives and Orillia does.

Orillia’s policy does not include all the items such as covering the costs of legal fees, infrastructure hookups and making property tax grants for a 20 year period. The recommended option is to receive as information, which is a do nothing option. Staff would prefer the county make a formal application for the relief they want, which can then be vetted in detail by the affordable housing committee.

As it stands, there is no cost associated with the county’s request, but staff estimates it could be shy of $350,000, which is more than the balance of the affordable housing reserve account. Also, once the project is completed the county will no longer need offices at the City Centre for which it pays $117,000 annually. The City currently pays the county $1.8 million annually toward the county’s housing program.

Staff provided two other options to fully, or portionally accept the request, but they do not recommend those.  

The regular 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; Images Supplied)


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