Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia council meets Monday at 2 p.m. for its bimonthly session. The first order of business is to hear a deputation from Kathy Barnard, president of the Save Your Skin Foundation. The purpose is to inform council of a month-long campaign is to bring awareness to melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancers, and ocular melanoma.

That is followed by the public forum and a closed session item regarding a legal update about the wastewater treatment centre process optimization and tertiary treatment.

When council returns to the public meeting the first item stems from this year’s budget meetings where council asked for a report from the transit advisory committee to provide an, “analysis of current bus routes that explores ways to improve their productivity, efficiency, scheduling, and costs.”

There were three specific areas of inquiry: a bus route analysis, the bus shelter program and equipment replacement. The latter two were approved at budget, pending at the report at hand. The shelter program item was for $54,000 and the replacement program for $1,320,000.

The first point the committee makes is, “Orillia Transit has performed exceptionally in terms of ridership growth,  efficiency, and effectiveness, when compared to the peer group of eight municipalities, all with a population below 40,000, and a similar service area and population density.”

orillia transit

The first recommendation is council approve a teen pass (ages 13 to 19) for free use of the system for a one year pilot program. The argument is it is expected ridership by that group will increase and therefore also increase the amount of grants from gas tax and other funding programs.

The second recommendation is to reduce fares for seniors from the current 15% discount to a flat $2 per ride. This effectively doubles the discount. The committee says such a move would decrease revenue by $19,000, but can be made up by adding 354 new senior riders. Council approved the 15% reduction at this year’s budget meetings.

Recommendation number three is to have free days to coincide with municipal or downtown events. The idea would be to pursue sponsorship of such days.

The fourth recommendation is for council to establish a working group to investigate an on demand service. There are few details at the moment how this could work.

The fifth recommendation relates to the route investigation. The committee is recommending a change to the Laclie route, taking the bus off Maple Drive and sending it down Sundial Drive instead. On one hand the density of housing is higher along Sundial, which will increase with proposed housing projects, on the other by direct observation of this writer (who was one of the architects of the 2009 Orillia Transit overhaul) there hasn’t been a time a person got on or off the bus on Maple on any trip taken. It may come as a surprise to many, aside from students there are people who go and leave work at homes on Maple.

The sixth recommendation is for council to start an on demand booking system for OWLS – the wheelchair bus service. While the report doesn’t state so, it can be presumed this would be a computerized system, which could have benefit for analyzing requests for service and scheduling routes more efficiently. This also carries with it a recommendation to forward further reports to the 2024 budget committee.

The committee also had discussion and rejected reducing weekday operating hours by one hour and moving those hours to extend Saturday service by 3 hours and Sunday service by 2. They had input from both Georgian College and Lakehead University, which revealed night classes fo to 10 p.m. and many students rely on buses at later times.


Council has a report about the reconstruction of Laclie and Tecumseth Streets. The project has changed from the original schedule of three phases. It is now four phases, the first stretch being Neywash to Borland Streets (instead of to North Street). Both projects involved replacing underground infrastructure.

Not surprising is the cost of $7,613,605 came in $878,000 over budget. The winning contractor is Arnott Construction. Arnott was the contractor for the Front Street redo and is involved with Centennial Drive reconstruction. Additionally staff recommends administration of the project be given to Burnside & Associates Limited, who did the environmental assessment and design work for these projects. The reason given for hiring an outside firm to oversee the project is the City does not have enough staff to do the work given the number of construction projects currently in progress.

Apparently tenders are now called quotations, and contrary to past practice the bids of other companies for the work is not given in the report.

Regarding the report of last week’s committee discussions, one of the decisions made was to have staff prepare a by-law to regulate and license   short-term property rentals. This comes with a $25,000 cost for legal advice. Staff did recommend council wait until litigation happening in other communities with existing by-laws conclude in order to know how far regulations can go.


Council previously postponed a decision for official plan and zoning amendments for a 1,300 unit residential development of a large tract of land in the West Ridge. There were a number of letters received objecting to various aspects of the developer’s (Charter Construction and Mark Rich Homes) plan. Objections relate to traffic and parking patterns/problems in the adjacent subdivision being amplified with the new development; pointing out the area of land to be protected left out some observed areas wildlife inhabit; and no consideration for public transit.

Councillor Tim Lauer has an enquiry motion to have the parking advisory committee and the Downtown Orillia Management Board report on the feasibility and costs to increase the number of on-street parking spaces downtown.

The meeting can be watched live on the City’s Youtube channel.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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