council-april-13-fullby Anne Finlay-Stewart

Before councillors took their seats before the cameras they had already been meeting in camera for more than three hours, primarily discussing local property issues. The regular council meeting involved some real rearranging of the agenda, so I have been a little more thematic in my notes for clarity.

The meeting began with a pleasant duty for Mayor Ian Boddy - recognizing the Owen Sound Volunteers of the Year.

Among them, this year's honourees have over 120 years (to which they will admit) of combined service to their communities. Eugenia Rawn was primarily nominated for her work with the Quota Club, and Ann Kelly for the Festival of Northern Lights, but between the two there was hardly a community cause or committee to which they had not made a contribution. Barbara Olmsted, manager of the Auxiliary-run gift shop at Grey Bruce Health Services, spends as much time on her duties there as any full-time employee. Of course, being the gracious women they are, all three Volunteers of the Year thanked and credited others for their success.

Mayor Boddy had to explain to his attire to the assembled multitude. He was settling a wager with the Mayor of Guelph over the hockey finals by wearing a Guelph Storm jersey. He will also be providing said Mayor with a case of the best from Owen Sound's own Kilannan Brewing Company.

While council did not approve the request of the Bluewater Curling Club for a municipal tax exemption, they did ask Director of Finance Wayne Ritchie for a report on the possible implications of such a decision. Ritchie said that this was the first such request he had seen in his tenure with the city. Summerfolk requested, and received, the waiving of a new $200 fee for set-up and tear down days which was added this year to the $1200 or so they pay for the use of Kelso Beach that week in August.
The case was made for both the benefit the Festival brings to the city and the good management they have shown in making Summerfolk sustainable, but it was acknowledged that this would not be the last time council would be asked to make tough decisions, weighing the need for dollars against the need for special events.

The Downtown Improvement Area brought their approved 2015 budget to council. This year the DIA will contribute $25,000 to the city to keep parking on 2nd Avenue East "complementary". They are working with the Economic Development Committee on some strategies to encourage private owners in the downtown to be creative with their empty storefronts.

The Branningham Grove decision – responding to the Community Heritage and Planning Advisory Committee's unanimous to designate the building under the Ontario Heritage Act – was tabled until the April 27th Council meeting because, apparently, the "owner is going to be in town this week" and meeting with city staff. A demolition permit was issued March 5 with a 60 day fuse.
The committee did have some good news on the heritage investment front, approving grants to the owner of a designated home and to Casero, a new eatery in the former Vern's Donuts location, to create a facade reflecting the building's history as a bakery. Downtown will be the place to be on the first Fridays of each month as business owners build and expand on their First Friday celebrations with expanded hours and offerings through the summer.

Household hazardous waste collection was up about 10% in volume this year which is good news for our ecosystem, and collaboration with neighbouring municipalities seems to be effective both operationally and financially.

Mayor Boddy was clearly frustrated by the provincial officials who "ignored us for six weeks" while the city was in a water crisis which which will have cost us over $1 million dollars before it is over. Ken Becking, Director of Operations, outlined the requirements for receiving support through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program. The funding is intended to deal with immediate expenses of a disaster, and to return to its pre- state. That means even if our application is approved, the city will be responsible for the cost of upgrading the one-hundred year old water system to today's standards. While the "running of the taps" is coming to an end, the split water mains and resulting road work will continue, and the estimate for resurfacing what has been opened to date is estimated to be $187,000. Keep that figure in mind when you consider this. Owen Sound has 650 "road sections". In 2013, before the last two brutal winters, 180 of those sections were deemed "poor, failed or at risk of failure". That number may now be closer to 250, or even more. The $100,000 designated for paving in the 2015 city budget would pay to resurface two of the ten worst of those roads. At that rate of infrastructure investment, it would take a hundred years to get caught up. And by get the picture. And of course the money is now needed for the roads we just dug up to get to the water mains.

Our waste management contracts – for collection, transfer, disposal and recycling – are all coming up for renewal on May 31, 2016. The Operations Advisory Committee has recommended that the city prepare to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) soon, and include a costing for source separated organics in the proposal.

Our really huge project, the wastewater treatment facility, is still on budget and on time, demonstrating the "high quality and calibre of the contractors' work" according to the Director of Operations.

The Library board reported that 15,600 people were through our library in this brutal January, and checked out over 25,000 items. Patrons can now download dozens of magazine titles to their mobile devices and soon they will be able to "borrow" seeds for their garden from the Library too.

News from Grey County Council included the awarding of a tender to create architectural drawings for an $11 million addition to the sound but crowded county building. Councillor Richard Thomas moved that staff be directed to approach the County about the possibility of locating city offices in the building, a motion that was approved unanimously.


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