By John Swartz
Orillia City council has its first committee meeting of the New Year at 4 p.m. Monday. There are seven items on the agenda. First is a referral from the 2022 budget committee meetings regarding security at the Orillia Public Library.
The library board originally was going to ask for money to hire a security guard to deal with issues some people have been causing. Many of the problems are coming from those with mental health and addictions issues. An accompanying report by the security bureau of the OPP references a drug overdose happening in the public washrooms.
The library board had the security bureau do a review of the library to help the board determine what could be done to keep staff and library users safe. Among the many recommendations in the report is to instead of hiring a security guard a community resource worker be hired and the position could be funded through a budget other than the library’s. Alternatively space could be made in the library for an existing community organization to have a presence in the library building.
At budget the conversation was more about the suggestion the City be the entity hiring and funding an outreach worker rather than the library. Among the reasons for taking off the library budget were the Downtown Orillia Management Board has complained about similar issues in the downtown and city staff referenced a similar need at City Hall and the recreation center. Council did approve $73,000 pending a report regarding how an outreach worker could be utilized beyond the library, which the report on this agenda accomplishes.
Staff are proposing a working group be established with representation from the OPP, the DOMB, library, a community representative with some background in social services, and a representative from the Canadian Mental Health Association or the County of Simcoe (Orillia is paying the county $9.3 million from the 2022 budget which includes a variety of social and health care services). The working group would come up with recommendations to council how best to use whoever gets hired in the new position.
The report also notes the Police Services Board is applying for two grants from the Community Safety and Policing Local Priorities fund and the Community Safety and Policing Provincial Priorities fund to be able to hire two OPP officers dedicated to the OPP’s Crisis Outreach and Support Team. The OPP currently has one officer for this purpose. Presumably the split in funding is to have one officer for the City’s needs and one for the detachment which also covers the townships. The OPP also has a community mobilization unit with five members that responds to calls of the nature the staff report addresses.
911 System Replacement
The City of Orillia operates a 911 call center for itself and surrounding communities. In 2020 council approved a $30,000 budget to replace the call recording equipment, but staff say other priorities kept the replacement from being done. Now, the cost of doing so is $46,867 and staff recommend taking the additional amount from the IT reserve.
The contract will be awarded to Point to Point Communications to supply and provide support for an American made Eventide call logging and recording system. Eventide is the leading supplier of such equipment. The new equipment would replace the system in use which was originally installed in the 1990s and no longer can be serviced and parts are not available for repairs.
Ontario 55+ Winter Games
The business development culture and tourism department has a report and is asking for permission to notify the ministry of heritage, sport, tourism and culture of interest in hosting the 2024 games.
The City already has a bid to host the 2023 games. The City already hosted the 2018, 2020, Winter Games and bid for the 2022 (awarded to Renfrew County, postponed to 2023) and 2024 Winter Games, which demonstrates the ability to host the 55+games. The ministry moved the date of the 2023 55+ Games to 2024, which is why staff want to resubmit the City’s bid.
The 2018 Winter Games generated $4.2 million of economic impact ($1.1 million of visitor spending) and the 2020 games $6.1 million ($2.2 million of visitor spending).
Gas Mileage Reimbursement
City policy requires the gas mileage reimbursement rate be reviewed and adjusted annually. It appears this is one of the things that was not a priority during the pandemic and was not before council in 2020 or 2021. Staff are recommending setting a new rate according to the Canada Revenue Agency rate, which is 61 ¢/ km, and that the policy be amended to follow the CRA guideline so this doesn’t have to come to council every year.
Councillor Jay Fallis has an interest in two motions. With the first, he is asking for staff to report on the feasibility of implementing a water softener plumbing rebate program to offset the cost of installing equipment to hot water systems in residences.
And along with Councillor Pat Hehn, another motion asks for a report on the logistics, options and costs of operating a temporary daytime emergency warming center for weekends when extreme weather alerts are issued. They would like staff to report back by February 7.
Council meetings are done by video conference and the chamber is closed to the public. The public can watch it live on Rogers TV.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)