Council Preview

By John Swartz

Monday afternoon’s council committee meeting at 4 p.m. is preceded by a closed session in which they will deal with two matters. One is disposition of land in the Horne Business Park and the other is a legal issue relating to the new Orillia Recreation Centre.

Afterward, the most important item of six council will discuss is recomposition of the Orillia Police Services Board. The province changed regulations for municipalities which have the OPP as their police force with the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act,2019, and in order for Orillia to maintain public oversight by way of a board, neighbouring municipalities (Severn, Oro-Medonte, Ramara) now get representation on the board.

Orillia OPP Detachment

Orillia remains the lead municipal body, but part of the change is administrative costs will be shared by all. Currently each municipality pays for police operations, but not administration of the board. Staff estimate the cost of administration will be $59,000 and if costs are distributed equally, Orillia’s share would be $14,750; if proportionally by population Orillia’s share would be $31,325. This is a detail to be worked out later.

Council has two options, creating a 10 person board with one elected official (mayor or designate) from each municipality and one resident from each municipality plus two provincial appointees. The second removes citizen appointees form Severn and Ramara and increases Orillia’s citizen appointees to 2 resulting in a 9 person board. All municipal staff from each municipality favour the 10 person board.

The province wants to implement the new board composition across the province this fall. At this time municipalities are not required to choose people to sit on a board, just what they want it to look like.

In a related matter, the Orillia OPP detachment commander, Insp. Veronica Eaton has been promoted to superintendant and will be working at general headquarters. Insp. Jason Nickle, who currently commands the communications center, will become the interim commander until a permanent replacement is selected by the OPSB.

Rising Costs

The program the City has to replace lighting at several facilities with LED’s has hit a snag. Council approved a $340,000 budget in 2020 to replace lighting at Rotary Place, the water and waste water plants, and the operations center n James Street – which has been done – leaving the City centre yet to do.

The problem is the some of the parts available before the pandemic are not available now and substitutes are more expensive. The portion of the budget for City Hall was $113,448 and staff say it needs to increase to $148,448 in order to finish the work. Staff also say the amount for the City Hall part of the project was approved in full from the capital budget, but there is a $36,000 grant from the province which has not been applied, which is a little more than the increase, so in effect council does not have to allocate additional money from this year’s budget.

Bayview Sewage Pumping Station

Meanwhile a plan to refurbish and upgrade the waste water pumping station on Bayview Street has also run into a problem. There is an ongoing program to keep things up to speed; however during the RFP process to hire a consultant to determine what the next steps for maintenance should be the three top bids all said the City should do an environmental class assessment to determine if retrofitting upgrades is worth it in the building as it exists now. The station was built in 1947, requirements under the Ontario Electrical Safety Code and National Fire Protection Association have changed and new electrical equipment known to be needed may not fit without significant change to the structure.

The need for the additional assessment was not part of the additional budget, and to include it council needs to allocate another $50,000 to the $150,000 budget. The agenda item also would award the contract to Tatham Engineering for $177,924.  The balance would cover taxes, contingency and staff time.

Council could stick to the original budget, but no changes to the building structure can be made and would possibly limit the amount of work possible.

Coat Of Arms

A report asked for by councillor Jay Fallis about the City’s Coat of Arms, specifically the colour of the paddler is back to council. The issue is the paddler is coloured red. Many assume the image is to represent a Native person.

The report only references the original artwork was done by John Emberson and may leave the impression the way it reads it was his responsibility. However, as noted in a previous story, two things are important. First the paddler was not intended to represent a Native person and the original colour was more of a generic skin tone. Changes were made at the chief herald’s end. It should also be noted the official Armorial Ensigns from the chief herald of Canada goes into detail about many elements of the design, but says nothing about the paddler other than he is red in colour.

Nevertheless, impressions do count for something, and staff recommends feedback from the Chippewas of Rama be solicited before going any further with changes. Another option is to get the feedback and go ahead with changing the Coat of Arms. Staff estimates the cost of making official changes (many municipalities, while having Coats of Arms, or crests, have not designed or used them with a stamp of official approval)  would be about $3,400, which does not include changing the Coat of Arms as it hangs in council chambers now.

Another report on matters of art is about the piano at the Opera House. Things that don’t get used tend to decay and the piano hasn’t been used in 14 months, or longer. It was a used instrument when the Orillia Concert Association bought it and donated it to the City. There is a charge applied each time it is used and that money is put into a reserve for maintenance. The concert association also has a reserve to help pay for periodic maintenance.

Staff did not intend to go through a maintenance cycle until 2022, but the hammers have deteriorated so much from lack of use they need to be replaced. Pettit Piano Service of Beaverton won the bid for the job at $8,850, the concert association will contribute $2,500 toward the cost. Conveniently, there are no bookings which might require the piano until at least November, so there is a window of opportunity now to get the work done without disruption.

Accommodation Tax

Culture and Tourism staff have a report on the relatively new municipal accommodation tax municipalities got the ability to impose a couple of years ago. It was scheduled to take effect here in Orillia just as the pandemic happened and council deferred implementing it until September 1, 2020.

Revenue generated is to be used for tourism marketing, all of which was cancelled when the delay happened. There was $64,000 collected in the remainder of 2020 which Orillia and Lake Country Tourism and the City split.

Revenue in 2021 is far short of budgeted amounts and staff has revised the total budget from $500,000 to $332,000 in revenue. Any money after expenses is being put into a reserve to used for marketing when things return to normal ($12,000 actual plus $64,000 project for 2021).  

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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