Council are continuing to meet via video-conferencing using Zoom and even presentations are done that way. Last night’s meeting kicked off with a 45 minute presentation from Oscar Poloni of KPMG. He is the consultant hired to review Cobourg’s service delivery to see if it could be made more efficient. He went through what he expected to achieve with a timeline of completion by September in time for the 2021 budget. The only other significant agenda items were 1) to prepare an emergency policy for floods and 2) to allow the Farmer’s market to open despite Social Distancing policies. Both of these were because Councillors had made “notices of motion” which add items to the Council’s agenda – the first by Councillors Chorley and Beatty and the second by Councillor Bureau.
Emergency Flood Plan
The existing Emergency Plan covers emergencies in general and was invoked for the Covid-19 crisis but it says nothing about what to do about floods that threaten properties in the Town. A flood emergency plan would be an appendix to the main plan and would determine actions by the Town in the event of a flood emergency. On April 14, the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) issued a flood watch that compared this year to 2017 and 2019. Specifically, they said:
…the water level of Lake Ontario is currently at 75.27m above sea level (as measured at Cobourg) which is 43cm above normal and 65cm below the record high set in 2019. Water levels are expected to continue to rise for the next several weeks as runoff from snowmelt and above average inflows from Lake Erie continue to make their way through the system. Lake Ontario is forecast to reach a peak water level of 75.56m by the middle of May under average rainfall, while wetter conditions would result in higher levels. The peak level of 2019 was 75.92m and 2017 was 75.88m.
The GRCA is not responsible for taking actions on the shoreline – they simply warn – municipalities are responsible for any actions, hence the emergency plan. Council passed a motion to direct staff to prepare a flood emergency plan by September 14. There was some concern that staff may be too busy with the Covid-19 crisis but Emily and Nicole said that the date is flexible. The motion needs to be confirmed in the regular council meeting on April 27.
Opening of Farmers’ Market
Adam presented a motion to open the market as usual on May 2 but Staff (Brent Larmer) recommended a delay until the state of emergency ends. The proposal from Adam on behalf of the Farmers’ market included a large number of restrictions that would enforce social distancing but also included a suggestion that customers could order food in advance for pickup. Councillors were generally in support of the market but picked up on online ordering as the only viable solution. There was discussion about whether the market is considered an essential service. Although not designated as an essential service, food production and sales are essential. However, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin pointed out that many of the 24 vendors do not sell food but would be considered artisans – this is especially true at the start of the season which is before the growing season.
Reference was made to the local REKO network which is already doing online selling of food. Councillor Burchat asked Cobourg’s IT manager Ron Jeschke about using Cobourg.ca for food e-commerce but Ron thought it not to be workable. Instead, it was proposed that the Town’s web site include pointers and links to Farmers’ market vendors.
In the end, a motion was passed that directed staff to come up with a short term solution using on-line ordering and curbside pickup to be presented to Council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on May 11. Meanwhile, the market will not open on May 2.