Monday’s regular Council meeting was mostly about two proposed bylaws to increase enforcement of social distancing required for management of the Covid-19 pandemic in Cobourg. One by-law was to add penalties for not meeting the recommended separation and the other was to add additional by-law enforcement officers by re-deploying existing staff. Usually such initiatives are introduced at the Committee of the Whole meeting but these were first seen at this regular meeting so there was considerable debate. Town Clerk Brent Larmer explained that the by-law adding penalties was needed because the Province had a law banning groups of more than 5 but had only recommendations for social distancing. More enforcement officers would be needed because of increased workload, partly because of this addition.
Proposed By-Law enforcing Social Distancing
The by-law proposed would mean that on Public Property (e.g. Parks) or in Public Spaces (e.g. supermarkets) – but not private homes – By-Law or Police Officers could hand-out tickets for failing to maintain a 2 metre social distance. Fines would be $300 for individuals or $600 for property owners. The fine for obstructing an officer would also be $600 – that included refusing to provide ID to the officer. It was intended that implementation would be preceded by a two week education period. It was rationalized by Mayor Henderson that “we continue to get complaints that people are not observing social distancing” although other Councillors said that it appeared that Cobourg citizens were generally in fact being quite compliant. Further, it was observed that the number of cases in Northumberland was low. Adam Bureau was strongly against the idea and moved to table (kill) the motion to approve the by-law. His motion passed and the By-Law to add penalties will not happen.
Proposed By-Law adding By-Law Enforcement officers.
Currently, by-law enforcement is done by one By-Law officer working 7 days on a nominal 35 hour week – plus Police officers. He is clearly overloaded – not just with Covid-19 issues but also with other things like Fishing concerns. Town staff (Town Clerk Brent Larmer and Interim CAO Ian Davey) wanted to re-assign 3 employees: Carrie Richards, Pharren Wilson, and David Johnson. Their department and existing assignments were not named although it was said that they do have the required skills and would get training specific to their new role from Brent. Initial reactions from Councillors were:
- Since personnel matters were involved, a closed session was required and this needed notice so could not be at the current meeting (issue raised by Adam Bureau)
- More time was needed to evaluate
- Why not hire the full-time person approved in the budget (Suzanne Séguin)
- Let’s schedule a special meeting (presumably closed session) on April 30 at 6:00 pm.
But staff strongly put forward that staff look after personnel assignments (and re-assignments) and that this only came to Council because any By-Law Officer needs Council approval. In previous years, Staff recommendations on such appointments were approved with no debate.
In the end, Adam’s motion to amend the original motion and defer a decision was defeated – 4-3 – with only Adam, Suzanne and Emily in favour. But then, surprise(!), a recorded vote on the original motion was approved unanimously. That means three personnel will be re-assigned to help with by-law enforcement. Brent conceded that this could extend past the end of the emergency.
Other Council News/Decisions
- Council passed a motion from the Committee of the Whole to create by September 14 a “Flood Mitigation and Response Plan”. It will be an appendix to the Emergency Plan. Councillor Darling commented that “Citizens should not have false hope” and that “Sandbags will not help erosion”.
- A GRCA letter recommending banning fishing was discussed. Although municipalities do not have the authority to do this, they can do what Port Hope did and completely close relevant parks (such as Peace Park). Since there no longer seems to be a problem in Cobourg (it’s apparently moved to Clarington), no action was taken.
- A citizen’s letter wanting Council to ban recycling bins being left on front porches was “received for information purposes”.
- A citizen’s letter asking that Cobourg Beach be fenced off was also “received for information purposes”.
- A citizen’s letter asking that rights and freedoms be considered when mandating self-isolation was also “received for information purposes”.
Councillor Coordinator reports – news and highlights
- Councillor Beatty – discretion is allowed and planning work can continue on major projects.
- Councillor Chorley – The Ontario Pickle Ball Championship that was planned at the CC has been cancelled; Dredging has started and will deposit sand on the beach (as in previous years); Provincial Parks are closed until May 31.