By John Swartz
Orillia council has four meetings scheduled for Monday. First up is a noon time meeting to ratify the 2022 budget. Taxpayers will have a 2.94% increase next year on a $65,140,755 budget.
Following is a closed session meeting. This is normally a committee week, which is when council has it’s closed meetings, but this week they are doubling up and also having their regular council meeting after the committee meeting.
The closed session includes Grant Hipgrave of the Orillia Power Generation Corporation in attendance to discuss refinancing, debt consolidation and asset acquisition. The OPG owns three generating stations they acquired from Shaman Power, in which they took over $11 million of debt and it may be today’s discussion involves refinancing because some of it is due, or better interest rates can be had.
Another closed session item is about an annual membership review for the City’s boards and committees. The extent of this review – whether council has an opportunity to remove or add people to various boards – is not known because there haven’t been an annual review before.
Only In Orillia
When the committee meeting begins following the above, council will have 6 items to debate. One of the items of most interest to citizens is a referral by way of a November enquiry motion for staff to report on the feasibility of lowering speed limits on all local roads to 40 KPH.
Staff reports there are 260 local roads totalling 100 km in length. Local roads are akin to neighbourhood roads and not roads like Mississaga Street or Memorial Avenue. The Highway Traffic Act states: “No person shall drive a motor vehicle at a rate of speed greater than 50 km per hour on a highway within a local municipality or within a built-up area.” Municipalities can lower speeds provided it applies to all roads.
Staff also report there have been no accidents involving a pedestrian and a vehicle exceeding the speed limit, or other accidents on local roads involving speeding. Staff also cite several studies showing speeds actually driven are influenced by road design, density of surrounding land use and the amount of traffic; that lowering speeds alone is ineffective unless increased enforcement is also included; and drivers will lower speeds at first, but will eventually return to the previous speed limit. Lowering speed limits independent of acting in concert with other municipalities also creates confusion regarding what the actual limit is.
For those reasons staff recommend council receive the report as information and do nothing. If council wants to do so, staff recommend limits be lowered for 2023 because it will cost $635,000 to post 1350 required signs (speed limit signs are not required for 50km zones because it is universal in Ontario) – which is not in the 2022 budget – and add $65,000 annual to the budget for maintenance. The first time cost is equivalent to approximately one percentage point of the annual budget.
Council also has a report from the human resources department about installing a ‘Save Station Tower,’ donated by the Peggy Hill Team, which operates out of the Remax Hallmark Realty brokerage of Barrie. It would be installed at the Port of Orillia building. The tower houses an AED defibrillator and electronic gear to monitor its use and track the device it leaves a determined radius (i.e. stolen). Staff want council to allocate $1,500 for the installation costs from the human resources health and safety budget. The unit would be installed on the north side of the port building.
A staff report requested in April 2019 is hitting the agenda. The Orillia District Chamber of Commerce asked the City to approve a $20,000 for dredging and too get an opinion from the environmental advisory committee about the use of a Be Gone ceramic diffuser to control the growth of vegetation at the Port of Orillia.
The diffuser is actually several units which would be installed at the port to circulate the water on the west side of the break wall, reducing the ability of seaweed to take root. The system would cost $90,000 and staff have found no reliable sources to confirm whether or not it works, therefore they are not recommending proceeding.
Council will also set its 2023 meeting schedule consisting of 14 each of committee and regular meetings. They will also approved a 12 month renewal of its general insurance for 2023 at a cost of $891,044.
The formalization of committee decisions is on the agenda, as well as, a report from the grants committee to approved funds as follows:
- Orillia Concert Band $1,500
- Telecare Distress Line of Greater Simcoe $1,500
- The Comfie Cat Shelter $ 500
- Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Orillia and District $1,500
There is also a report from the grants committee regarding funds from the partnership program for cultural festivals and events. These groups will receive grants:
- Images Studio Tour $2,500
- Orillia Jazz Festival $2,500
- Orillia Scottish Festival $2,500
- Roots North Music Festival $2,500
A report council deferred action on in November is back on the agenda. It deals with eliminating crossing guards at the end of 2021 at the following locations:
Brant Street East at Laclie Street
West Street North at Orchard Park Public School
Westmount Drive South at George Street/Argyle Avenue
Councillor Tim Lauer has a notice of motion to establish a Centennial Park boat launch area design working group. This stems from a budget committee discussion where several councilors expressed unhappiness with a design staff offered for funding in 2022. Staff said there would be no public consultation for a much smaller and reconfigured parking area and this move is to be able to have public consultation.
The working group would be Councillors Lauer, Hehn and two additional members of Council, the general manager of development services and engineering and the manager of park planning and development. They will report back to council by April 25.
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)