Most of the topics at Monday night’s Committee of the Whole Council meeting were about changes in Cobourg brought about by the virus pandemic. To start with, the agenda was expanded by three last minute additions. One was about cancelling yet another event and the other two were about the obviously large impact the pandemic has on the budget. Since the Waterfront Festival has been cancelled and the Highland Games were postponed to August, it was clear that the Canada Day Parade would also get cancelled – and that’s what happened. Council action on the financial impact consisted of quick verbal reports from Department Directors on the status of their Capital projects plus an agreement to hold a Special Budget review meeting in May. This would look into what might need to be cancelled, changed or deferred.
The quick review of Capital projects indicated that purchase orders for many projects had already been placed or they were tied to grants from the Provincial or Federal Governments. Major projects would require Council approval before any money was spent so the review did not mean a whole lot. I would think that the Operational budgets would be more critical and Interim CAO Ian Davey said that Department Directors were already reviewing these.
But there was a long debate on the original motion to cancel the Canada Day Parade because the first draft included a requirement to also install a fence to stop beach access until the end of July and maybe longer – this was primarily aimed at visitors on hot summer days. The motion was soon divided and the parade cancelled with little debate. But most councillors were unhappy with the idea of fencing the beach. Concerns included:
- What kind of fence – snow fence or event fence?
- People can just climb over the fence
- Since walking on the beach in groups of less than five is allowed (with social distancing), how would these still be permitted?
- It’s not needed – the police can stop groups – already two people have been fined ($750 each)
- What’s needed is better signage – not just an exhortation to maintain social distancing
- It might be needed in June, July and August but not in April or May.
It was recently announced that the Marina and Trailer Park would remain closed until May 29 and to better align with this, in the end Council agreed that no fence would be built with a review by May 29.
But the debate did highlight the confusion about access to parks like the beach. Town Clerk Brent Larmer explained the laws and regulations: Congregating in groups of more than 5 is not allowed and social distancing must be maintained; use of facilities like tennis courts and exercise equipment is not allowed but walking through a park is certainly OK. So walking on the beach and boardwalks is allowed. It’s not clear if the Police fully understand this distinction.
Since this was a Committee of the Whole meeting and not a special meeting, all the Senior staff were in attendance (see image above) although apart from Interim CAO Ian Davey, they had little to say except for the review of their Capital projects.
Council did discuss other issues – stay tuned to this site for details (or watch for emails).