Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia council has three meetings Monday. First is a public planning meeting at noon, followed by the annual Orillia Power Corporation shareholders meeting at 2:45 p.m. and the regular council meeting at 4. The first two will not be carried on Rogers TV, but recordings will be available afterward.

The planning meeting is for draft amendments to the City’s official plan and zoning by-laws for 2 Borland Street East. This is the former ODCVI site. The County of Simcoe is proposing to build a community service hub with offices for social service agencies and related businesses – and a 6 storey building along West Street and a 4 storey building along Borland Street which will have 130 affordable housing units.

The document runs to 159 pages for this complicated application. To view it go here.

Annual Shareholder Meeting

This will be the last shareholders meeting from Orillia Power Corporation because on January 1 this year the OPC amalgamated with its subsidiary, Orillia Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) and took the latter’s name. The City of Orillia still owns 100% of the company.

The sale of the distribution subsidiary was finalized in September last year. The sale price was $26,350,000 and was paid out to the City as a dividend. An additional $2,060,000 was paid by Hydro One representing the difference in value of assets acquired by them from the initial offer in 2015 to closing date in September. In the months before closing land assets valued at $3,583,000 were transferred to the City and $9,762,000 representing the City’s initial investment in OPC was returned to the City (the interest on the latter amount represented part of the annual interest and dividend payments to the City). In total the City’s cash position improved by $38,172,000, plus the $3.5 million in land.

The City’s investment in OPGC now stands at $5,034,000 (original investment of $15 million less the $9 million above).

After expenses the distribution side earned $1,806,000 on revenues of $34,425,000 to August 31, 2020. The generation side had net revenue of $3,998,000 on $10,144,000. The combined profit for 2020 for a full year of generating operation and 8 months for the distribution business and gains to the company from the sale is $15,815,000.

In October, 2020, the new company acquired 100% of Shaman Power Corporation for $2,475,000. This is the company OPC was in partnership with to build a new hydro generating station at Bawatik (Near Peterborough). OPGC gained 4.6 megawatts of generating capacity with this buy. The price of the shares was $11 million, but because of debt owing to Shaman the cost was the lower figure above. OPGC has planned $648,000 for upgrades at two of its generating stations.

Normally the OPC announces the amount of annual dividends and interest it pays to the City at this meeting, but those amounts are not included by the OPGC in the report this time as they have been in the past.

Regular Meeting

June is National Indigenous History Month and last year council adopted a Land Acknowledgment statement similar to the same we’ve heard at many functions. It is to be read at council meetings each June and at the inauguration of new councils. Ted Williams, Chief of the Chippewas of Rama has been invited to participate and offer remarks.

There are two deputations on the schedule. Lakehead principal Dean Jobin-Bevans and McMaster University professor emeritus David Potter will be in to discuss the status of the Orillia and Area Innovation Hub concept.

The project was created in June 2019 to improve strategic connections to Lakehead. So far, Simcoe County has invested $26,300 and the City $4,000 to the project. During the past year four focus groups met and analysis of the input showed community economic development and engagement are key activities to benefit from connections between businesses and the university. Keeping skilled people here is another objective. Input also revealed the committee should be the coordinator of existing resources and help create connections to investors.

The report states the recent cyber security cluster development plan council signed on to in March and developing an Orillia and area arts strategy as initiatives to emerge from the committee’s work. The committee is looking for $16,000 of funding to continue it work, but there is no indication in the report how much the City may be asked to contribute.

Post Office 2nd Floor Redevelopment Plan

The second deputation is by Adrian Dingle who is the director of housing for Raising the Roof. He will outline a plan to create affordable housing in unused space at the Peter Street post office. Currently the second floor and basement are unused.

They propose to create 20 bachelor and one-bedroom apartments on the second floor and construct a third floor for 20 more. The post office would remain in the building. Construction would start in early 2023 and be complete by year’s end. They have a $1.35 million equity grant for CMHC, a further CMHC SEED grant of $118,000 and committed $300,000 in private grants. They will be applying for the City’s affordable housing grants (tax deferment, etc.). At this stage they are asking for council to prioritize staff time to report on parking issues. Typically developers need to have a proportional amount of parking for residents, but the developer believes only 15% of tenants will have cars.

Report From Last Week

The report from the committee meeting last week includes details from the closed session. The City has sold 9 lots in the Horne Business Park at $412,371 per acre. They also chose a direction for contract negotiations with clerical and technical union staff and avoid another strike by City employees; later under by-laws, one will be enacted to accept a 4 year contract (Jan 1, 2021 to December 30, 2024) with the IBEW local 636.

The City adopted the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan as presented. All municipalities are required by the province to create something by July 1. Cost have been forwarded to the 2021 budget.

An update to the tree by-law passed, accept for one proposed change – exempting listed species of trees viewed as invasive; that is referred back to the environmental advisory committee for a report. What’s new is a $250 permit fee to remove trees larger than 25 centimeters in diameter on properties larger than .5 hectares. The parts of the motion presented relating to creating an education program, a canopy study and a forest management strategy, will form budget submissions over the next three years also passed.

Also significant of last week’s items is a decision to allow inclusion of all types of investments for money received from the sale of Orillia Power Distribution in the Legacy Fund. Previously, investing strategy was limited to generally safe placements like certificate or treasury bond types of investments.

Centennial Drive Reconstruction – Elgin Street Portion

Councillor Tim Lauer wants to reconsider Phase 2 of the Centennial Drive reconstruction project. He failed to get votes to do so at the April 19th meeting. Phase 1, reconstruction of Elgin Street and building new sewage pumping station is already underway. Settlement of the final piece of the puzzle, locating the pumping station, happened in 2018 and the project was years in the making.

Lauer thinks it’s been so long since approvals were given and a development plan for waterfront parks has since been approved, and with current negotiations for redevelopment of the west side of Centennial underway, councillors may have forgotten details, and don’t have perspective how everything fits together.

In the consent agenda is a letter from the Mariposa Folk Foundation about the memorandum of understanding it has with the City regarding grants and working relationship. They are proposing an adjustment for 2021 that an additional $10,000 grant meant for the 2020 60th anniversary festival be deferred indefinitely, and that the 2021 $50,000 grant to the festival be redirected to Tudhope Park capital improvements; some of the work planned for 2020 was not funded and the MFF believes adding its earmarked festival grant for 2021 to park improvements now can mean it will be done this year.

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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