Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia council begins their committee week with a 2 p.m. closed session meeting. There are two items on the agenda. Senior staff will be growing as they discuss a report from the chief administrator regarding the recruitment process for said position. Specifically which position could have been itemized on the agenda, but was not. The City currently has a vacancy for treasurer, which is a Municipal Act position every City must have.

Another agenda item is from corporate services regarding issues stemming from councillor Jay Fallis’s move to have a judicial review of the report from the integrity commissioners and council’s subsequent action.

When they go to the public meeting at 4 p.m. in contrast to last week’s light regular meeting agenda, this week councillors have an 818 page agenda, 687 pages are from one report, the wastewater system master plan update.

First up is the 5 item consent agenda. Typically one motion takes care of all items because those items are routine, or straight forward and discussion is not anticipated, though any councillor can pull an item for a separate discussion and vote.

From that portion of the agenda, the art and public places committee has a report which requests the installation costs of $3,000 be forwarded to the 2022 budget committee for a sculpture donated by Jimi McKee which will be installed at the Orillia Recreation Centre.

A staff report regarding the new Tree By-law asks for permission to go ahead with creating website and tree planting and maintenance guides at a cost of $8,000 to the 2022 regular operating budget. Members of the environmental advisory committee will create the content.

A report outlining results of the municipal accommodation tax – the hotel tax – shows $192,838 was collected between January and August, which is $139,000 less than anticipated because of the pandemic. Of that, $4,821 was paid to Orillia and Lake Country Tourism as the administrators of the tax system. Statistically, Orillia’s 14 hotels suffered most of the year, but business increased to 67% and 76% occupancy in July and August.

A report from development services recommends council only receive information about reducing speed limits of 40 km/h on local roads, which means nothing changes. This follows up on an enquiry motion by councillor Cipolla from November 2020.

Staff found there were only 8 collisions between January and May this year which involved speeding, three of those involved drunk drivers, and none involved pedestrians. Furthermore, 5 collisions only involved one vehicle. All occurred on major roads.

Staff say research shows reducing speed limits alone does not achieve overall slower traffic, police and camera/radar (i.e. additional expense) are part of the equation. Also research shows speed limits have to reflect the lay of the land for drivers to follow them. So, 40 km/h on University Avenue will likely be ignored by most because it just doesn’t look like a 40 km/h road.

Another report from development services regards council referrals to investigate 4 way stops at four intersections – Matchedash and Elgin Streets; Nottawasaga Street at Douglas and McKenzie Streets; and Westmount Drive and Rose Avenue. Staff’s recommendation is to receive as information.

Staff say a more detailed report contravenes municipal policy and to take staff resources any further requires council waive policy.

Ice Cream Trucks

Council deferred a decision whether to permit ice cream trucks to operate in the City or not from its October 18 meeting.

The report included information there have been at least two trucks operating in town, but both were charged for operating without a license.

Staff wants approval for proposed changes to various by-laws involved before proceeding further. Chief among regulations proposed are trucks not being allowed to operate before sunrise or after sunset; not at intersections, or within 90 meters of a park or school; and not in the downtown. They also want to prohibit trucks from selling while noise making devices are being used (i.e. music used to attract attention). Operators are expected to pay for and follow regulations as any other business in Orillia.

Next, council has a report from the police services board regarding a review of school crosswalks. Development services did the legwork and they are recommending crossing guards be eliminated at the end of December at Brant and Laclie Streets; Forest Avenue and Highway 12; West Street North and Orchard Park Public School; Westmount Drive and George Street. They also want direction to conduct another review of all ten remaining crossings prior to the 2023 school year.

The police services board initiated the request because crossing guards reported few uses of the crossings and most of the people using the crossings are adults. Guards report there are days when no children use the crossings.

Counts were taken and showed Forest Avenue and Westmount crossings being the busiest with the former having an average of 12 crossings on each of three days and the latter showing an average of 7 in the mornings and 11 in the afternoons.

Laclie Redo

The reconstruction of Laclie Street has been on the list of imminent projects and a public meeting (online) was held to present 6 design options ranging from keeping it two lanes to widening Laclie to three plus bike lanes.

Staff are recommending council move ahead with design work and a planned start date in 2023 to keep Laclie two lanes from Neywash Street to just past North Street, and carry on with three lanes and bike lanes from that point to Murray Street. Not a moment too soon because the Laclie roadway is scheduled to fall apart at about the same time. Reconstruction would take place in three parts over three years.

Staff note many respondents told staff bike lanes on the lower portion of Laclie would be unsafe and there currently exists a bike route one block west on Matchedash and other less travelled streets and trails to the east. Another complicating factor is several houses are so close to the road allowance they effectively would not have driveways anymore (one house would actually lose a corner if the road was expanded).

Further north staff say there is enough room to expand the road and putting in bike lanes makes sense since there are no bike routes in the immediate area that would let riders travel to the city center.

Staff also recommends bus lay bys be included in the design for the lower half, but not the upper half. Staff will go back to area residents with detailed options for where to transition from two to three lanes and for expansion options (i.e. expand west or west or combination) for the upper portion.

One of the options was to close up the St. Jean/ Parkhurst/Laclie intersection. There was no clear indication from residents on whether to do so and one property owner said there would be severe negative effects. Staff will include some options to fix the intersection which may not involve closing the intersection.

Lost Dogs and Cats

Staff are recommending to council to renew for 5 years a contract with the Orillia branch of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the amount of $53,000, plus annual indexed increases. This s a significant change to the current, but expiring in March contract which costs $166,168. The OSPCA has told the City they do not want to continue with the animal control and by-law enforcement part of the service, but will continue with the shelter.

The OSPCA said say a shift in operational focus is the reason for not wanting to provide 24 hour a day control services. They also said if they were to continue to provide control services, higher standards of care (health and nutrition) they have to follow mean contract cost would have to increase to $252,000. Staff’s solution is to negotiate with Ramara Township for shared animal control services. Initial discussions with Ramara indicate a contract might cost approximately $65,000 annually.

Wastewater Master Plan

As with all master plans (parks, traffic, etc.) the goal is to figure out how to best maintain a system and get a handle on major expenses down the line. The Wastewater plan gives council a heads up the will more than $3 million in maintenance and upgrades for the City’s 24 pumping stations, a $1.5 million upgrade to the treatment center, and $13 million for studies, a new digester, control building and lagoon expansion which need to take place over the next 30 years.

Expansion of the system is not part of the plan, nor is it needed. Currently the system is operating at less than 50% capacity and can accommodate a projected population growth to 51,000 people by 2049 and still have 20 percent of capacity wiggle room.

There is one enquiry motion from councillor Fallis to report on the feasibility of creating a pedestrian crossing on Coldwater Road near Emily Street in the area of the north side path to Park Street.

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)


Support Independent Journalism