Assiginack Council Notes

Burns Wharf contingent

Assiginack council received a delegation from Marilyn and Elwood Wohlberg of the Burns Wharf Theatre Players (BWTP), as well as BWTP supporter and businessman Al Mattison, proprietor of the Manitowaning Freshmart.

The Burns Wharf stage went dark last summer after the iconic building, which has had many new updates over the years, was deemed to be not compliant with the Ontario Fire Code and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Estimates of approximately $250,000 have been given to see these changes complete.

Marilyn Wohlberg, co-chair and co-music director of the BWTP, began by thanking reeve and council for allowing them to speak regarding repairs to the theatre. She gave a brief overview of the theatre beginning with its inception in 1982 under the leadership and vision of Dave Smith. In 2009 the BWTP became an official entity following the 2008 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘HMS Pinafore.’ Every summer since, until last year, the BWTP has produced a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. She explained that Gilbert and Sullivan fits the group nicely with the added bonus that there are no royalties on any of the plays.

She reminded council that the Burns Wharf is also home to a successful summer concert series, reading festivals, art and quilt shows and a summer recreation program featuring theatre.

“The Burns Wharf venue is very important for the overall enjoyment of the show, for both players and audiences,” she stressed.

Ms. Wohlberg did have some good news, informing council that the BWTP would be back in action this summer, if not at their home. Practice began last week for the 45-minute one act Gilbert and Sullivan play ‘Trial by Jury.’ The second half of the show will feature highlights from the past seasons of BWTP. There will be 10 shows offered with the funds raised going toward the cost of repairs to the Burns Wharf. They are hoping to have the show at Assiginack Public School, but first must have Rainbow District School Board’s approval as this school has been deemed as closed for use in the summer months. The players have also been offered the use of the Mindemoya Community Centre, but it is their hope to keep the show in Manitowaning.

“We are also hoping to have a sponsorship program set up for people to make donations,” she said.

“Reeve and council, we hope the repairs to Burns Wharf Theatre will be high on the list of priorities of jobs to be done,” she said. “We cannot let this jewel go to rack and ruin. The theatre breathes life into this little community. It’s a vital part of this community and it must be preserved.”

Elwood Wohlberg asked CAO Alton Hobbs if Assiginack would issue tax receipts for those wishing to make a contribution to the repair fund. Mr. Hobbs said they could. He also asked if the Burns Wharf could be part of the community’s strategic plan, which council agreed to wholeheartedly.

Mr. Wohlberg noted the funding the facility has received since 2008 and the many funders which have enabled the theatre to install new lighting, a new roof, sound system, elevated seating, new chairs and air conditioning.

“There’s money out there—let’s go after it,” he added.

Al Mattison spoke next, explaining that he came to support the BWTP as a businessman in the community.

“I can tell you that last summer was a bad summer,” he said, noting that the loss of the theatre had an impact on Manitowaning.

“There is certainly a lot of support for that theatre,” he added. “I think it is important we get it done as quickly as possible. I think a lot of communities would give their right arm to have a facility like that and there it is sitting there in the dark.”

Following the delegation, Mr. Hobbs explained to council that the cost of repairs was along the lines of $250,000, not $20,000.

“If someone smelled smoke and 100 people tried to get out that door…” Reeve Paul Moffat said.

All members of council agreed that the Burns Wharf was “a gem” worth saving.

The CAO explained that FedNor, Trillium, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and LAMBAC have all been approached but “the complicating factor is that the building is not in use year round.”

“We’ll just keep beating the bushes,” the reeve added.

Water and sewer warrant program

Council reviewed a report from Assiginack clerk Jeremy Rody on the LAS Sewer and Water Line Warranty Program.

“Residential property owners are responsible for the maintenance of the buried water and sewer lines that run from the public (main) connection to the home. The homeowner is often surprised to learn that it is not a municipal responsibility and their insurance will not cover the cost of this expensive repair.”

Through Service Line Warranties of Canada and endorsed by LAS, an Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) affiliate, the program provides residents the opportunity for a low cost warranty program that will help repair, replace or restore this infrastructure, which is often perceived as the municipality’s responsibility, the report continues. “As such, it helps the municipality address a ‘no win’ political issue.”

Mr. Rody explained that in order for residents to take part in the warranty program, they need municipal endorsement which Assiginack agreed to provide.

The warranty provides protection from the point of entry at the home to the municipal responsibility with external water line coverage of up to $5,000 and external sewer line coverage of up to $8,000. There is no wait period after the enrollment date before filing a claim. For Northern Ontario residents, for both water and sewer warranty, the total is a single annual payment of $129.80.

Municipal Donation Policy

Assiginack council reviewed the newly-created Municipal Donation Policy “to structure donation of municipally-owned resources or funds to non-profit organizations and individuals within the Township of Assiginack’s municipality for purposes related to the well being, growth and promotion of the community. Donations for individuals, groups or organizations located outside of the municipality for a purpose that is in the best interest of the community will be considered.”

The policy lists nine guidelines for donations as well as four markers of eligibility: 1. Applicants must demonstrate the need for the specific request (a defined benefit and outcome); 2. Applicants must be non-profit community groups and/or organizations—individual applicants will be considered; 3. The municipality reserves the right to limit the number of donations made to a particular organization in any given year; and 4. The town council’s decisions regarding eligibility are final.

Council approved the policy and staff will create an official bylaw for official adoption at the next meeting of council.

Ontario’s Default Speed Limit

Council granted permission for CAO Alton Hobbs to respond to the Ministry of Transportation’s consultation on Ontario’s Default Speed Limit. Municipalities were asked to choose their pick of four options dealing with the maximum default speed limit for local roads within urban areas in Ontario (50 kilometres an hour). Council chose option three: “Through a legislative change, permit municipalities to set a default speed limit of 50 km/h or 40 km/h inside municipal boundaries and require the posting of a sign at each entry point of the municipality.”

Fixing our Felines

Following review of a donation request from ‘Fixing our Felines,’ a concerned group of Manitowaning citizens who, through fundraisers such as bake sales and yard sales, have paid out over $7,800 in vet costs since July 2013 and have rescued and re-homed 45 cats, council agreed to donate $200 to their cause.

Animal control contract renewed

Council renewed the contract of Jason Moffat and Animal Control Services for another three years with the passing of bylaw 15-04.

Accounts for payment

Council approved the following accounts for payment: general, $227,767.98; and payroll, $16,214.95.

Cemeteries Act report

David Brickman, an inspector with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, cemeteries regulation unit, provided the Township with a 10-page report on its November inspection of Assiginack’s cemeteries as they apply to the new Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 which came into force on July of 2012.

In the report, Mr. Brickman raises some concerns, among them some confusion on the cemeteries noted as ‘abandoned,’ ‘McKay’ and ‘Hughson.’

“I noticed that the cost of interment rights is extremely low,” he writes. “Based on what I was told, residents pay $50 with the township kicking in the remaining $200 to cover the minimum Care and Maintenance deposit. This amount is very low when compared to other municipal cemeteries. Municipalities have the recruitment to maintain the cemeteries that are under their licence but that doesn’t meant that they cannot have prices for their cemetery interment rights, services and supplies that would assist them in this process. By having such low interment rights, the maintenance cost of your cemeteries is a tax burden on all ratepayers, not just those that use your cemeteries,” he chastised. “This decision is up to your council, I am just making you aware that your prices are very low in comparison with municipal cemeteries.”

He also took the township to task for its investments of its Care and Maintenance Trust monies, which were “providing a very poor return.”

In a memo to council from CAO Alton Hobbs, he explained that Assiginack requires a new bylaw to follow the Act’s revised terminology and formats, interment rights contracts and new price lists, all of which must be approved by the ministry before final adoption by council.

“We have recommended changes to the price list so that we are more in line with the other cemeteries on Manitoulin,” Mr. Hobbs writes. “We have removed the ratepayer versus non-ratepayer rates as in the last 10 years we have charged the non-ratepayer rate only once.”

Following the report, council passed bylaw 15-03, being a bylaw to adopt updated cemetery policies, interment rights contract and the price list for Hilly Grove Cemetery.

Councillor Hugh Moggy asked about appointments to the Cemetery Board to further discuss the changes. (Representatives from Tehkummah and Central Manitoulin also sit on this board, as there are shared cemeteries within the municipalities.)

The municipality is also currently seeking a cemetery specialist and groundskeeper to be hired on a seasonal contract.

Seniors’ housing

Councillor Moggy noted the 2013 ad hoc seniors’ housing committee that has been meeting again with regularity. The committee, of which Councillor Moggy is a part, asked that council consider doing a survey, either through The Expositor or through direct mail.

Mr. Hobbs explained that project and events coordinator Jackie White has submitted a grant for a community action plan for senior citizens, which, if successful, would cover the cost of such an endeavour.

“We really need to do that survey, then find property and a developer,” Councillor Moggy said, noting a developer has already expressed interest in such a project and that the committee is looking at between eight and 10 units.

“We will try and facilitate whatever we can through this office,” Reeve Moffat said.

Accounts for payment

Council approved accounts for payment in the amount of $133,875, general, and $17,204.14, payroll.

Councillor Moggy noted cheque number 0022398 for ‘frontage.’ (When the original water system was installed in Manitowaning in 1975, the homeowner’s share was amortized over a 40-year period. That has come to an end in 2015.)

“I can’t believe I’m sitting here for that,” said a happy Councillor Moggy.

Summer flowers

Assiginack passed a motion to donate $1,000 to the Assiginack Horticultural Society for the purchase of flowers and plants to be placed in municipal beds and barrels.

“The society members get a lot of personal enjoyment and satisfaction in caring for these beds and we trust that it helps to enhance our town and brings joy to others,” a letter from secretary Brenda Newman states.

Councillor Moggy questioned whether he should have declared a conflict of interest at the beginning of the meeting as he is the treasurer of the society.

“Not unless you’re taking the flowers home,” Reeve Paul Moffat quipped.

Museum Committee

Upon review of one committee member’s request to be reappointed to the Assiginack Museum Advisory Committee, council directed staff to place an advertisement in the paper seeking interested parties to apply to fill the spots. All appointments to the committee will be made following the advertisement.

New gear for fire department

Following the review of a letter from Assiginack Volunteer Fire Department Captain Dwayne Elliot, council passed a motion to approve the purchase of a thermo-imaging camera for the department.

Tax bills on their way

Assiginack council passed bylaw 15-02 to provide for an interim tax levy and to provide for the payment of taxes and for penalty and interest of 1.25 percent. This annual bylaw allows the municipality to, before the adoption of the estimates for 2015, levy on the whole of the assessment for real property according to the last revised assessment roll, not exceeding 50 percent of the 2014 tax rate for residential and farm assessment.

Student ice rate

In December, Manitowaning teen Garret Gauthier submitted a request to council on behalf of the ‘youth of Assiginack,’ requesting a lower ice rental rate for students, as the Northeast Town and M’Chigeeng does. The Northeast Town and Mindemoya arenas also have ‘off peak’ rates, council learned.

The suggestion for Assiginack was $50 an hour for students.

Mr. Hobbs’ suggestion to council was to put in place the student rate for the remainder of the season “and see how it goes” with a two hour maximum rental. The new student rate would only be made available for Assiginack residents/ratepayers.

The arena manager raised some questions, such as if there were adults on the ice does the student rate apply?

A motion was carried to institute the student rate with review at the end of the season.

“I hope the kids really take advantage of it,” said Councillor Leslie Fields.