Busy Council Meeting – Feb 19

The Committee of the Whole (C.O.W.) Council meeting last Tuesday was a marathon.  It followed a public meeting to get input on Community Grants and some of the grant applications spilled over into the C.O.W. time.  In addition, there were seven delegations scheduled – one of which also requested money from the Town.  Apart from those, there was also a presentation by Derek Paul, C.E.O of L.U.S.I. explaining why water rates were going up so much plus a number of contentious issues were decided.  But although the Agenda included the much requested Q & A session in the form of an “Open Forum”, no-one asked anything!  This was possibly because by the time it came up at 10:15, there was almost no-one in the gallery.

Presentations and Delegations

Water Rates

Derek Paul
Derek Paul

At the previous Council meeting, an agenda item was to increase water rates in Cobourg by 9% (usage) and 4% (Base charge) for an average residential increase of $23.72 per year.  But some councillors wanted justification so the decision was delayed. The resulting presentation by Derek Paul simply went back to the original “Watson report” as presented in 2014 that said that because of high Capital costs, steady increases of rates are needed until 2023. (See Cobourg News report Dec 2014).  They said that despite this, Cobourg pays less for water than comparable municipalities.  One of the big capital items is the need to provide redundancy on the clarifier at $6M although the existing one may also need replacing.

In a subsequent vote, Council approved the rate increase as submitted.

Northwood Drive Sidewalk

In June of 2017, residents of Abbott Boulevard objected to the Town’s plan to install sidewalks (see link below).  They convinced council who then asked staff to create an objective plan to decide when sidewalks should be added to a street.  This was done and top of the list was Northwood Drive.  But citizens there objected and Donna Wood represented them with a passionate presentation to Council. The main reason she gave was that the criteria of distances from parks, schools, transit etc should use actual walking distances and not aerial distances.  They also object to not being consulted – but see Donna Wood’s presentation and delegation material via the links below.  Suzanne Séguin moved that construction of sidewalks be put on hold pending a report about the Northwood drive sidewalk based on actual walking distances,  This report to be provided by September 2019 in time for consideration in the 2020 budget.  Laurie Wills commented that measuring such distances would take a lot of time but Emily Chorley suggested using Google Map’s walk feature.  Suzanne’s motion passed.

Sustainable Cobourg and Bicycle Action Committee

They gave a description of who they are and what they do and asked for priorities for 2019 – 2023. See their presentation in links below.

Lift-in/Lift Out of Marina Boats

Mike Hubicki and William McCrae gave presentations promoting the idea of a travelling lift for use at the Marina and by Yacht club members (and others).  They emphasized volunteer labour and how the Cobourg Yacht Club is inclusive but that the Town has gradually taken over responsibility for lifting boats in and out.  Fees are collected for this and there is a good business case for buying a travel lift.  Will McCrae made some key points:

  • The change to the Town from the Yacht club is partly because Yacht Club members are ageing
  • Closing the East Pier has made the current method of using a hired crane more difficult
  • Some boats are getting too big for the current method
  • Liability insurance may become too expensive
  • A travel lift is a natural progression and a revenue opportunity
  • A travel lift would use a ramp west of the current launch ramp. The harbour would need dredging here to accommodate larger boats.
  • The current lift-in/lift-out operation needs 34 people – a travel lift would require 3.
  • The availability of a travel lift would create opportunities for businesses to service boats.

John Hill, re liability with floating playground

John Hill is a retired lawyer and felt there would be liability issues with a floating playground.  He pointed to the possibility that children who were not authorized to be on the playground would trespass on it and therefore be a Town’s responsibility.  In the same C.O.W. meeting, Council voted to not continue with the project. (Water Park Voted Down)

Town Criers Provincial Championship

Cobourg’s Town crier Mandy Robinson said that because the host of this year’s championship (in the summer) has withdrawn, Cobourg and Grafton are being asked to step in.  Bill McKee of the Ontario Guild of Town Criers will be MC and will help organize it although an ad hoc organizing committee will be setup.   Mandy is asking $500 to $700 in-kind contribution from the Town.  This is too late to be considered for a grant but may be available from the Mayor’s budget.

Other Items on Agenda

Pregnancy and Parental Leave for Members of Council

Town Clerk Brent Larmer said that Provincial Bill 68 requires a policy on this.  A policy providing 20 weeks was proposed by staff but Councillor Emily Chorley wanted the more usual 26 weeks.  The policy was approved with 26 weeks specified.

Physician recruitment

The informal organization of the Northumberland Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee needs to be changed to a formal board.  Cobourg Council approved this change but it will also need approval by Port Hope, Hamilton, Alnwick/Haldimand and Cramahe.

Accessible Taxicab Licence

Staff suggested that a new taxicab licence be approved for accessible cabs.  Currently, the total number of cab licences is capped at 1 per 1000 population (19) and the proposal would add one to this limit specifically as an accessible cab.  But Adam Bureau pointed to wait times as long as one or two hours and moved that the limit on accessible cabs or ANY cabs be removed.  He also asked for a review of the bylaw to allow ride-sharing (like Uber or Lyft) with consultation with the public and taxi-cab drivers.  Brian Darling also reported that he knew of long wait times.  Adam’s motion passed.

Reports received

Several reports were received:

  • Vitalization up date by Downtown Coalition (report on this by Cobourg News Blog here)
  • Mayor’s award Policy – See link below
  • Trinity Housing application for Official Plan amendment – approved to be taken to next step

Four decisions by the committee of adjustment were approved and approval was given to proceed with buying some land needed for the future Kerr Street extension although an actual build all the way from Division to D’Arcy will be some years yet.

The last item was the controversial Water park project covered in an earlier post here and here

Council continued with a closed session to choose members of advisory committees – look for an update at a later date.

Links

From Town portal site

From Cobourg News Blog or Cobourg Internet

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cornbread

If the boaters want a “big city” facility, let them start paying “big city” annual dues and fees for their services.

Bryan

JD wrote ” But although the Agenda included the much requested Q & A session in the form of an “Open Forum”, no-one asked anything!”

The recently passed procedural bylaw provides for:
Open Forum shall occur following every Committee of the Whole Meeting, to allow any individual to address Council to make informal inquiries or to comment on matters of municipal business. Persons
speaking at the Open Forum are required to sign the Open Forum Register held by the Clerk prior to being permitted to address Council, and shall be limited to a maximum of five (5) minutes each.

This allows questions of COUNCIL, not staff or delegation presenters.
Questions are not included in the minutes and therefore have no official status for followup, only the “goodwill” of Council to do so.

It seems likely, in most cases, that Council will not be able to answer open forum questions and, as open forum is at the end of the meeting, Council has no opportunity to ask the presenter(s) additional clarification questions.

As Council and the public gain experience with Open Forum, some adjustments will likely be needed to make Open Forum a useful means for public engagement.

Small Town Lover

Uber!! I hope it happens. Majority of cabs here are filthy, smelly and should be taken off the road. More and more people are realizing drinking and driving is not an option anymore. Residents of Cobourg and Port Hope need a reliable, safe way of getting home after sharing a lovely bottle of wine. Also, it’s very difficult getting a parking spot downtown in the summer and an Uber would be a great option.