Council Preview

By John Swartz

Monday’s council committee meeting has a closed session happening before the 4 p.m. public meeting. Councillors will be making decisions on recommendations from the commemorative awards committee for 2021 Order of Orillia recipients and some appointments to committees of council. They will also be getting a report on contract negotiations (the bargaining unit for clerical staff has been negotiating a new contract and parks and rec staff are due to start negotiations).

On the public agenda, three items are on the consent portion and expected pass all at once because they are routine. The City was the recipient of a $25,000 grant from the New Horizons for Seniors Fund, a federal program, which recreation and youth services applied for. Staff suggest establishing a capital account to fund seniors programming at the Orillia Recreation Centre. In this case the money granted is for a lift and other equipment for the pool and there will be enough left to cover part-time staff for a seniors program for one year. The City received similar funding in 2017 which was used to pay for the pickleball court at Homewood Park.

Another item on the consent agenda is a report on the condition of the development charge account. The City received $3.38 million (up almost $1 million from 2019). There are 16 accounts under the development charge header (fire, police, parks, roads etc.) and the money is meant to be used to fund capital projects that are needed and can directly be tied to growth because of development (i.e. not for upgrading or repairing existing infrastructure, but expanding because more people live here).

The City has borrowed from the account for other projects, but reduced the outstanding deficit balance by $2 million to $13 million in 2020. Municipalities are required to charge developers and at some point an amount equal to the negative balance will have to be spent on intended uses, but will come from the capital tax levy routed through the development charge reserve.

A report later in the agenda recommends the City extend its development charge moratorium to December 2022. The moratorium started in 2010 to encourage development in commercial/industrial development and $1.4 million in charges have been waived during that time. Orillia currently ranks behind Springwater, Ramara and Severn Townships in this development regard. The City just finished installing services for 25 acres of employment lands next to the Horne Business Park it is trying to sell.

And, the annual statement of expense for council and committees is out. Total salaries for councilors and mayor are $402,863 ($39,785 each – except Ralph Cipolla who was penalized over a parking ticket issue last year – and $85,341 for the mayor.  Expenses for 15 boards and committees were $20,512.

In 2020 reimbursed expenses to council and committee members was reduced considerably because travel expenses are normally the biggest amount. Total expenses were $4,254, with the mayor accounting for $1,320. Councillors Ted Emond, Jay Fallis, and Tim Lauer had no expense reimbursement and Rob Kloostra had $2,041for attending the Ontario Good Roads annual conference before the pandemic hit.

Port Of Orillia
Port of Orillia Opening Day 2020
Port of Orillia

Last year was not
financially good for Port of Orillia operations. The chamber of commerce operates the port under contract to the City. There are two reports to deal with a budget deficit and contract changes are on the agenda.

The operation lost $8,000 on the year. They were not allowed to open as usual in May and even when allowed to in June, traffic was not at normal levels. Under the contract the operator pays the City $41,429 from net revenue, which with an $8k operating loss isn’t possible. The chamber is asking the amount be forgiven. It is likely if council does so the amount will be charged to the $1 million emergency fund council set up last year.

The Island Princess will be departing soon and so too the revenue from renting the dock space. The port boundaries are from that dock to the boat launch parking lot. They would like to have the ability to sell docking along the boardwalk between the Island Princess dock and the port building. Aside from finding a replacement for the Island Princess revenue, the chamber would like to find a water taxi service, fishing charters, and make room for Lake Country Airways charters.

The chamber would also like to ability to control parking in the lot adjacent to the port building and restrict use to those who are paying for moorage. They also want to be able to use 40 slips for long term moorage (for smaller boats so as not to compete with area marinas); the parking in question would not be for those with long term slips.

Single Use Plastic Ban

Council previously deferred action on a staff request to support in principal a federal ban on single use plastics and to put onus on producers for reducing plastic packaging. It’s back on the agenda.

Council previously required retailers charge for the use of plastic shopping bags in 2010, but that by-law was rescinded in 2012.

Numerous studies have shown around 90% of all plastics produced are not recycled and end up in landfills. Furthermore, China stopped taking North America’s waste plastic two years ago, leaving many municipalities with growing stockpiles of plastic meant for recycling and no market or capacity to recycle.

Single use examples are straws, cutlery, cups and food containers. The pandemic has increased the use of plastic take-out containers and bags. The recommendation in the report only goes as far as supporting the federal government’s proposal and does not include a local ban, but that might change Monday night because the reason for delaying action on the report was for comment by the environmental advisory committee. EAC favours taking action locally and not waiting for higher levels of government.

A letter supporting approval in principal from the Couchiching Conservancy is new to the information package council has. However, the conservancy also supports the second option in the report to begin public consultations for Orillia to come up with its own plastic reduction strategy. Another letter from Sustainable Orillia offers to undertake a study find ways to manage plastics locally.

Department Reports

A study by Hemson Consulting Ltd. regarding a land needs assessment for the city shows that to meet growth projections for housing, the City needs an additional 120 hectares of land it currently does not have. That’s just housing, land dedicated to employment activity is short 56 hectares.

Hemson determined land available in the city now will be used by the early 30s, and the study examines needs through to 2051. They suggest three options, change planning to include higher degrees if development intensification (more high-rises), Change designations on some lands the city has that aren’t zoned for development, or annex land from neighbouring townships.

Projections are for Orillia’s population to grow to 49,000 people by 2051. Statistics Canada considers Orillia to be the center of gravity for 119,000 at this time when Orillia’s population is 31,000.

This all changed from previous projections showing Orillia’s growth to 42,000, brought on by new provincial legislation. The City budgeted $150,000 for this study two years ago, and staff got approval for a $200,000 budget to do the necessary studies anticipating annexation last year. A scheduled Official Plan review budget request for $180,000 is in the cards for 2022.

Council will also hear from Dr. David K. Potter about cyber security with an eye toward economic development. The information indicates there will be a world-wide shortage of 3.5 million people to work in the sector in 2021, which are high paying jobs.

The study outlines there are a number of existing resources in Orillia (OPP, Hydro One, Bell Canada, Georgian College) along with a new Lakehead faculty member who specializes in cyber security which could be capitalized. The idea would be to create a center in Orillia of professionals.

The report shows cyber security job growth in health, government, communications and energy utilities – all of which Orillia currently is invested in – are high, along with transportation, banking and safety. The suggestion is if the City developed a strategy to develop economic activity, job growth, even by 50 people, would add more then $5 million to the City’s annual GDP.

The report is the result of an agreement Lakehead University the City made in 2019 to work together on strategic opportunities. Staff are asking to allocate $25,000 from the COVID emergency relief fund to supplement academic grants in order to further study the feasibility of pursuing a cyber security job growth strategy. Also asked for is permission for City Staff to work on this project. The total commitment would then be from $50,000 to $100,000.

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)


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