By John Swartz
Orillia council’s 4 p.m. committee meeting is preceded this week by a 1 p.m. closed session. There 6 items on that agenda. Of primary interest is a report on negotiations with FRAM regarding waterfront development. Lawyer Rick Coburn of Borden, Ladner, Gervais, LLP will be on hand.
Also from the waterfront development team is a report about the City’s expropriation of lease rights process.
It appears the city has sold some land in the Horne Business Park because there is a report about disposition of land there. Also, council has a report on an arbitration award with the professional fire fighters association (there is also a report on this matter in the committee portion of the day’s meeting).
Council will also get an update on Centennial Drive reconstruction and it’s tagged legal. Council will also be making some council committee appointments.
When council begins their online meeting they will deal with 5 items. The firefighters arbitration award report gives a lot of detail about the contract the union has with the City. Starting this month all classes – fire fighters, prevention and communications employees – get a 5% salary increase. The previous contract expired December 31, 2017 and the arbitrator, M. G. Mitchnick, also awarded 1% increases every 6 months retroactive (except in 2019 a 1.5% increase was awarded). He also awarded a contract term to end December 31, 2023, so the pay for a first class firefighter (for which all other salaries are based on a percentage) goes from $96,652 to $108,259 at the end of the contract.
The arbitration order also increases benefit maximums, (vision, dental, physiotherapy, mental health and etc.). Firefighters have a 50% co-payment, which other union employees working for the City do not have to pay. The new contract does introduce out of country coverage in line with what management gets.
Also included in the order is a new clause relating to disciplinary records be written into the new contract, which gives a 24 month of 36 month time limit for black marks to be removed.
Accordingly the pay for captains and the chief fire prevention officer increase from $112,116 to $125,580 over the life of the contract.
The increased pay award brings the Orillia Fire Department into relative parity with departments in surrounding municipalities.
Water In And Out
Staff are asking council to approve the city join the Ontario Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network. This is a mutual aid and assistance group which allows municipalities to share best practices, training and information about inventory and staffing in case of emergencies. There is no cost to join the network and no municipality is obligated to respond to emergencies if they do not have the resources to help.
The concept started in the United States and almost all state and provincial jurisdictions have established networks or have decisions pending. In Ontario the most uptake for the program is with municipalities east of Orillia.
Out With the Cold
Staff are reporting to council following an enquiry motion to advise council on the logistics and cost to operate daytime warming centers.
Staff request permission to open one at the Orillia Recreation Centre to operate on weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at the Orillia Public Library Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They also recommend Mayor Steve Clarke write to the Lighthouse board to ask them to consider opening the Lighthouse as a warming center. Presumably there is no additional cost because those buildings are already open and staffed during those times because report does not include any costs.
City policy already has delegated authority to open warming centers (and cooling for extreme heat) to the fire department. Several municipal building shave been designated for that use. This applies to normal daytime operating hours when staff are present. The report says nothing about what happens outside normal operating hours for City facilities.
Do We Have Any Money Left?
Is a question jokingly asked of the City’s former treasurer, Jim Lang whenever encountered. According to the consolidated financial statement for the year 2020, The City is in pretty good shape.
Looking at the balance sheet, under assets the jump in investments includes proceeds from the sale of the Orillia Power Distribution Corporation. This is different from the $23 million shown as investment in OPC (which includes cash and equity value the City has as owners of OPC – now OPGC).
On the liabilities side, it is worth noting the $6.2 million of long term debt. This is for the debenture regarding street lighting and the balance of the loan the city took to build the library, Market Square and other capital projects (in other words the original $20 million was not just for the library). The $7 million figure for employee benefits is the total cost the City is liable to pay if all benefits were paid out at once for retiree benefits, WSIB and accumulated sick leave at once; the city actually budgets for expenses and benefits paid annually and those were respectively $885,000 and $599, 200 in 2020.
Regarding non-financial assets, tangible assets includes land, buildings, vehicles, and things of a capital investment nature the City owns. Other assets are things like supplies (stocks of paper clips) used in operating the municipality.
Also contained in the report is a statement of reserves. Despite a $12 million deficit in the capital reserve account, which always captures everyone’s attention, combined with the value of other reserve accounts the City has established, the City is on the healthy side to the tune of $49.5 million.
Under the enquiry motions header, Mayor Steve Clarke wants a report staff investigate the feasibility of establishing transit fares for seniors. Many municipalities have lower rates for seniors. This may or may not be related to a letter the City received asking for one fare free day a week for seniors, which several municipalities offer.
Council meetings are done by video conference and the chamber is closed to the public. The public can watch it live on Youtube.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)