January 15 Council Recap

By Kirk Winter

            In a surprisingly short council meeting, the CKL Council cleared the decks of all extraneous business in preparation for three days of intensive budget deliberation the week of January 21.

Letham Elected EOW Caucus Chair

            Mayor Andy Letham was honoured by his election to the Chair for 2019 of the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus. Letham shared that it will likely be a very interesting year with potential for changes to the provincial funding model and transfer payments to municipalities. Mayor Letham stated that the priority for the EOWC this year was expanding broadband availability throughout the region and eliminating cell phone gaps that are impacting business growth right across Eastern Ontario.

Boys and Girls Club Partnership Agreement

            After a very long and successful unofficial partnering for almost 40 years, the City of Kawartha Lakes and the Boys and Girls Club formalized ties with a partnering agreement. Club President Scott Robertson, who retires in February, said the City and Club have been working together since the 1970s when the club serviced but a handful of young people. The Club has grown exponentially and now has more than 8,000 young people accessing their many programs and services.

            Robertson cited the multiple times that various City departments have assisted the Club with their program delivery, accessing specific services for young people and families in time of need, and in the expansion of the Club physically. Robertson gave a special shout out to Chris Marshall at the Building and Planning Department for all the assistance his department has provided as the Club continues to expand its footprint in the old John H. Deyell building on Lindsay Street.

            Councillor O’Reilly and Mayor Letham spoke glowingly of the Club’s success. Letham said, “The Boys and Girls Club have great people and a great team who make the community a better place to be.”

            The Partnership agreement was passed unanimously by Council.

Retail Cannabis Storefronts in CKL

            Council passed unanimously a resolution to allow retail cannabis storefronts in the City. Some councillors, including Ward 5 Ron Ashmore and Deputy Mayor Doug Elmslie, were clearly uncomfortable with the possibility of these businesses coming to the CKL.

            Ashmore asked multiple questions of staff about the potential hidden costs for the City in approving this measure. He was assured by staff and the Mayor that adequate funding had been provided by the Province to help enforce and police these new businesses, and that top-up funding had also been supplied to the local school board and public health department to fund educational programs for young people on the risks of irresponsible cannabis usage.

            Ashmore seemed unconvinced and shared data from other provinces, including Alberta, where it appeared that costs were being almost exclusively borne by the municipalities to monitor and inspect these new cannabis retail operations.

            The Deputy Mayor reflected the general feeling of most of the Council when he said that the drug is already available online, and saying no to storefronts in CKL would simply provide another reason for people to do their shopping elsewhere. He hoped that the City could make the best of a bad situation and said he trusted staff to implement and monitor the ongoing situation properly.

            Ward 7 Councillor Pat O’Reilly added the Lindsay BIA, with a few reservations, supported the arrival of cannabis retail operations to CKL, and the police in their presentation to the BIA believe that they have the resources to deal with this new challenge efficiently and effectively.

            In a recorded vote, the seven councillors present plus the Mayor voted in favour of the measure. Ward Five Councillor Pat Dunn was absent for the vote.

            Across the Province the ministry responsible for granting cannabis licenses has received more than 17,000 applications, including two from the City of Kawartha Lakes. In mid-December, the Province capped the number of licensees across the province at 25, rejecting both local applicants. The reason for the capping process was that there simply wasn’t enough of the provincially grown cannabis to supply any more operations than those. Those successful applicants have until April 1, 2019 to ready their stores for opening, and if any delays slow them they will be facing prohibitively high fines for non-compliance from the Province.

88 Mary Street West – Water Bill Adjustment Request

            The owner of a student rental at this location requested of the City an adjustment of a water bill of almost $26,000.

            The committee responsible for hearing billing complaints had agreed with the landlord to cleave his bill in half to approximately $12,000 because the City should have taken different actions to rectify this situation and not let the unpaid bill payment drag out for almost two years.

            The root of the problem was a broken exterior water meter on the property. The City made multiple requests of the landlord to gain access to the property to fix the meter and gain a truer sense of actual water usage. The City was unable to gain access to the rental in a timely manner and instead chose to send the landlord estimated bills for usage. The estimated bills turned out to be wildly low.

            Andrew Veale, the Ward Four councillor who sits on the billing adjustment committee, shared that it was a contentious decision and a split vote to offer the reduction in the first place.

            Mayor Letham, who initially raised the issue, argued that the City should not approve the credit and that the City did everything possible to gain access to the property and rectify the situation. Ward One Councillor Yeo agreed, and suggested that the bill remain at $26,000, but that the landlord be offered some kind of payment plan to make good on what he was owing.

            Deputy Mayor Elmslie cautioned the Council about overturning a committee decision, but Mayor Letham said that Council has the final say on all City matters. The motion to bill the landlord in full was passed 6 to 2.

City Polluting the Scugog River

            The Province of Ontario has ordered that the City of Kawartha Lakes reduce its solid and wastewater emissions into the Scugog River and that this situation be rectified sooner than later.

            City staff reported the increased emissions into the Scugog more than 2 years ago, and City staff has been working to fix the problem since. City staff shared that to correct the situation was a very involved process, and that it wasn’t just one piece of malfunctioning equipment that needed replacing.

            Deputy Mayor Elmslie wondered why the Province had waited so long after notification to make a decision and issue a cleanup order.

            Staff told Elmslie that they have been doing what the Province has wanted them to do for an extended time period to solve the pollution issue. Staff also stated that the Province has all the appropriate City paperwork so they have been kept in the loop.

            The work continues, and it is likely that this issue will be updated at a further Council meeting.

Requirement to Connect with Municipal Services

            A proposal was introduced at Council to force those who have had septic failure to hook up to municipal services if they are available.

            While that proposal received widespread support, it led to far reaching discussion, led by Deputy Mayor Elmslie. The discussion focused on the fairness of charging the water and sewage levy to those on septics that haven’t failed, which is the current CKL policy.

            Elmslie spoke of one resident who is looking at costs of between $50,000 and $60,000 in additional costs to hook up to municipal water and sewage. Needless to say, the resident has chosen to remain on well and septic, but is still billed a levy by the City for a service he/she will never use.

            Elmslie proposed that the entire issue of hook ups should be sent back to staff with the recommendation that the City bring water and sewage to the property line of residences where service is available. In addition, there needs to be an answer to the implications for people who will never hook up to the municipal systems being spared from paying the levy.

            Councillor O’Reilly said that this was an issue that needed to be looked at carefully, paying attention to fairness for all and the impact on shared costs.

            The initial bylaw that began the discussion was passed unanimously, and Elmslie’s concerns will be sent to staff with a report due sometime in Quarter Three, 2019.

Public statement of support for Canada’s energy sector

            Ward Six Councillor Ron Ashmore wanted Council to endorse a motion made by him that would publicly support Canada’s energy sector in their ongoing difficulties with the Federal government.

            Ashmore went on to say that we in Ontario should only be using Canadian fuel, and that the infrastructure needed to get it to Central Canada should be a national priority. Ashmore said he is tired of Canada’s bounty of natural resources being treated as a curse, and the energy sector being demonized by the bulk of the press.

            Ashmore called it a “feel good motion” and said that his Canada includes Alberta. Ward Two Councillor Kathleen Seymour-Fagan opposed the City becoming involved in issues like this, fearing a slippery slope if this pronouncement was approved.

            Councillor Ashmore asked for a recorded vote, and his request was voted down 6 to 2, with only Ward One Councillor Emmett Yeo supporting Ashmore’s motion.

City HallDeb Crossen