council-mar19-featBy Anne Finlay-Stewart

These notes are just that – observations and musings on what I see, and a little more meat on the thin bones of official minutes. If you want to see what I saw, we post the video of each city council meeting on our City page as it becomes available. When they have been approved, the minutes can be found on the city site or from a link on our City page.

Public meetings – These are opportunities for members of the public to hear about and have a say on issues before council, often mandated by the Ontario Municipal Act. This week there were three such public meetings in a row – about re-zoning property for the residential hospice, small changes in building permit fees, and the 2015 city budget. Not a single comment from the audience.

Deputations – Individuals and organizations request the opportunity to present information or requests in person at council meetings, and the subject matter can be almost anything. This week we gave a facade grant for the improvements in the 2nd Avenue East heritage building that houses Community Living. We heard about the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority's 2015 budget which includes only a 1.7% increase in Owen Sound's levy to cover cost of living increases in wages and benefits, and their plans for repairs to our mill dam.


By Anne Fnlay-Stewart

Owen Sound's water infrastructure dates back to the 1880s. Today the value of the assets in the existing water and waste water systems is $172 million or an investment of approximately $25,000 per customer. The last few weeks have proven just how valuable that infrastructure is to our quality of life.

In 2000, seven deaths and many more illnesses in Walkerton were attributed to contaminated water. The inquiry that followed made 93 recommendations and the province responded with several pieces of legislation including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Water Opportunities Act. The former includes quality standards, chemical levels, training of operators and licensing requirements. The latter legislation and its unfolding regulations are intended to ensure that water services are maintained and improved to ensure that future demand can be satisfied. As a condition of our licence to operate a municipal water system, the city must create plans that include maintaining and replacing infrastructure, risk assessment, conservation, and a sustainable financial plan to pay for it all.

Anne-notes-4-featBy Anne Finlay-Stewart

A full day for council and staff – more work on the Strategic Plan and an in camera meeting that included union issues and the disposition of the site of the former Scopis Restaurant.

  • Deputations showed the breadth and depth of community commitment in this city.

First up were Greg Fryer and John McLachlan from Habitat for Humanity. Grey Bruce had one of the first Habitat organizations in Canada, providing 35 safe affordable homes since 1987. Buyers pay no down payment or interest, but repay the cost of the home at a rate set at 25% of the family's gross income. Those funds are used to build future homes, and the net income from Habitat's three Grey-Bruce Re-Stores pays the administrative costs. Habitat has had generous supplies of materials, services and volunteers, and is particularly looking for land.

  • Councillors got a crash course in the work of the Community Foundation Grey Bruce from Executive Director Aly Boltman. The Foundation currently has $14.5 million in endowed funds – that is, donations which have been pooled and invested in perpetuity with the income – almost $600,000 last year alone – granted to local charities and non-profit groups.

ice-anne-regBy Anne Finlay-Stewart

This was an "other business" item at the end of a long council meeting and a very long day for council and staff, but it is at the top of the list for the more than 100 households and businesses who are without water today.

Director of Operations Ken Becking might just have the hardest job in the city right now, and Councillor O'Leary was the first to express the gratitude of all residents for the tireless work he and his staff are doing to deal with the unprecedented damage this deep freeze is doing to water services in Owen Sound.

On average the city experiences about 25 to 40 breaks a year. Until mid-February, it was business as usual. By the 21st it was evident that public works was unable to keep up with the frozen services, some in areas where there was no historic record of such occurrences.




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