DECEMBER COUNCIL UPDATE
Thank you Midland for stepping up in 2014 like never before. This year saw countless examples of heightened community engagement, great public debate around what matters and an election result that is foundational to Midland achieving its full potential. You wanted change, you demanded a more respectful Council and you insisted on new and better thinking.
The rest they say, is history. Please enjoy our final update of 2014 and importantly, enjoy this special holiday season with family and friends.
Midland’s new Town Council has begun its journey with two business meetings on December 8 and again on December 15. Both were respectful and quite efficient, a hopeful sign of good things to come.
December Council Update:
The first order of business on December 8 was to recognize 8 Town employees reaching milestone service anniversaries. Congratulations to the following individuals for their service to the people of Midland:
P. Quesnelle (Treasury) - 20 year service
M. Bader (NSSRC) - 10 year service
D. Bressette (NSSRC) - 10 year service
J. Brasil (Police) - 10 year service
R. Disano (Police) - 10 year service
G. Caldwell (Fire) - 10 year service
B. Edwards (Volunteer Firefighter) - 10 year service
D. Hutchings (Volunteer Firefighter) - 10 year service
Following these presentations, Council heard a deputation from Mr. Fred Hacker, Chairman of the Midland Cultural Advisory Committee, requesting the Town’s financial support to implement the Midland Municipal Cultural Plan. The Cultural Plan was prepared by an external consultant and was fully funded by Provincial grants. The financial support now being requested is approximately $83,000 (in calendar 2015) for the Town to hire a culture coordinator on a contract basis.
Town Council needs to carefully consider this request in the context of Midland’s 2015 spending budget, which may be finalized as early as January 29th. To help the new Council establish priorities, councillors are participating in a strategic planning session on January 21st. Our view is that Midland’s annual spending is likely at least $2 million more than what is necessary or sustainable. We believe Council needs to approach any new funding requests in a balanced way. If Council feels the Town needs to increase spending on support for culture or any other initiative, it should free up the necessary funds in other areas where Midland overspends compared to other localities.
Culture and tourism are identified as key economic development drivers for our four North Simcoe municipalities, Tiny, Tay, Penetanguishene and Midland. We also believe coordinating cultural initiatives and sharing costs with the other three North Simcoe EDCNS partners is the prudent thing for Midland to do.
There have been several suggestions over the last few years that the Town’s current Sign By-law is overly restrictive and reduces the vitality and appeal of our downtown. Despite the current by-law, Council granted the LCBO multiple exemptions to brand and illuminate their new Highway 12 location with some 20 signs. Wes Crown, Midland’s Planning Director who recommended the exemptions, responded to a question by acknowledging that the LCBO application does suggest the sign by-law needs review.
Council briefly reviewed a report from the Treasurer updating financial results to the end of September. The town is trending approximately 2% under its 2014 spending budget. Despite that, one recurring theme in many departments is legal costs that are exceeding budget.
Midland Community has requested a recap of 2014 legal costs for the entire town including Police, as we believe this is one area of potentially significant savings. While it is clear bad behaviour and questionable decisions helped contribute to 2014 overspending on legal services, it also seems clear a thorough review is required to ensure proper management and accountability for these costs going forward.
SEWER and WATER RATE INCREASE for 2015
Council’s December 8 agenda included a staff report that recommended a 5% increase in sewer and water rates next year. Council deferred consideration of this item to December 15 to hear public submissions on the proposed increase. After receiving submissions from Roy Ellis and George Dixon, Council decided to limit the increase to 2.5% and to thoroughly review the prices Midland charges for these essential services in calendar 2015.
CITIZEN APPOINTMENTS to BOARDS and COMMITTEES
Also on December 15, Council completed its process of appointing citizen representative to various Town Boards and Committees including such bodies as the Library Board, Airport Commission, Power Utility Commission and Police Services Board.
FOLLOW-UP from NOVEMBER COUNCIL
Some Midland Community members are expressing concerns about amendments to the Zoning By-Law that were passed at the November 24th Council meeting. They were passed to implement the Source Water Protection Plan as recommended by an external consultant. The zoning amendments apply to large swaths of land in the Town and prohibit a number of types of non-residential uses without first satisfying a Risk Management Official that the proposed use poses no significant threat to drinking water.
While this appears to be mandated by the Provincial government, MidlandCommunity.ca intends to follow-up on the issue to determine whether there is any over-reaching in our proposed local regulations.
We’re also concerned that the town of Midland continues to “get ahead of” the Province and the County on matters of such great importance.
Roy Ellis for MidlandCommunity.ca
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