On a motion moved by Councillor Dale Scott and seconded by Councillor Pat MacDonald, council approved the contribution of three $250 bursaries, one for each ward, to the Manitoulin Secondary School Student Aid Fund.
Planning board minutes accepted
Council voted to accept the minutes of the Manitoulin Planning Board on a motion by Councillor Derek Stephens and seconded by Councillor Alex Baran.
“Is Little Current (Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands) still part of the Manitoulin Planning Board or have they pulled out?” asked Councillor Derek Stephens.
“They are still there actively participating,” said Mayor Richard Stephens.
CPAC minutes generate discussion on policing costs
Council passed a motion moved by Councillor Derek Stephens and Councillor Dale Scott to accept the minutes of the Community Policing Advisory Committee following a lively discussion on the significant increase the municipality is experiencing in policing costs with the new OPP funding model.
“There has been quite an increase in policing costs,” noted Councillor Dale Scott. “Does the caseload have a big impact on the cost?”
Councillor Derek Stephens pointed out that there had been a major police investigation into a murder in the past year and that may have played a role in the increase.
“Constable Al Boyd came to a MMA (Manitoulin Municipal Association) committee meeting to explain how they come up with the costs,” noted Councillor Patricia MacDonald. “The costs are set on the number of residences.” She pointed out that the properties do not have to have people living on them and there is no accommodation in the model for seasonal occupation, but that the investigation of incidents follow a set rate. She gave the example of break-ins at cottages located on islands where the cost of investigation is much higher, but the service charge remained the same as for a mainland cottage.
Councillor Stephens noted that many municipalities have concerns over incidents playing a role in the costing. “Billings gets upset because they have the school and we get upset because we have the hospital,” he said. Councillor Stephens pointed out that the municipality’s policing bill in 2011 was $328,788 but 2016’s bill will come in at $514,800. “It’s a big increase over five years,” he said. “It is one of the things in our budget that we have no control over. The major expense in the report is the wages.”
Councillor Dale Scott asked what year the policing costs were downloaded, to which CAO Ruth Frawley surmised it was about a decade ago.
Councillor Dale Scott noted that policing costs have risen dramatically in part due to the cutbacks in social services that were placing police officers in the role of filling in the gaps. “They have to respond to issues of poverty and abandonment,” he said. “It isn’t only about crime these days.”
Mayor Stephens noted that the recent reports from the Sudbury and District Health Unit are highlighting reductions in Personal Service Workers.
“One (OPP) constable was telling me that when they bring someone into the hospital who is psychotic, they often have to sit with them all that day and the next night until they are placed,” he said.
“So true, the costs of social services are placing a burden,” agreed Councillor Alex Baran. “I don’t for a moment believe that an appeal process would make a difference, but a small incursion into see if we can get an adjustment. A vacant property doesn’t place a 911 call.”
“The counter argument they put forward is that a crime can be committed anywhere,” supplied Councillor MacDonald.
CAO Frawley added that “50 percent of our vacant lots are in Carter Bay.”
“Back in the day they had the red sticker program where the OPP would check cottages and apply a red sticker to show they were there,” said Councillor Stephens. “They are not really supplying any services now.”
Councillor Stephens responded to Councillor Baran’s suggestion on lobbying efforts to have the model amended to take summer residents into account. “That’s all been tried,” he said. “The municipalities went after the MPPs and ministers. We did it.”
“We did have a session with LAMBAC the other day where this issue came up,” said Mayor Stephens. “Our regular population through the year is a little less than 2,000, but our voters are 3,200.”
Councillor Scott noted that the policing costs run to 10 percent of the municipal budget, presenting a significant challenge to the municipality in holding the line on taxation or reducing the levy.
Spring bear hunt return applauded
On a motion from Councillor Linda Farquhar, seconded by Councillor Derek Stephens, council elected to respond positively to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry with comments on the return of the spring bear hunt at the behest of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
“This is a pet peeve of mine (the original cancellation of the spring bear hunt), I am a sportsman,” Councillor Stephens said. “They did bring it back as a test, but Manitoulin wasn’t one of the included units. It is an economic benefit. I am in full support (of the spring bear hunt). Spring bear tastes much better than a fall bear.”
“I think we should support it,” agreed Councillor Linda Farquhar. “Bears might not be such a big problem on the Island, but Sudbury has had a lot of issues with bears recently.” Councillor Farquhar noted that “it is a big issue with tourism operators that counted on that hunt.”
Lottery licencing officer appointed
Council approved a motion from Councillor Derek Stephens, seconded by Councillor Ted Taylor, to appoint Sarah Bowerman as the municipality’s lottery licencing officer.
“How many licence requests do we have in a year?” asked Councillor Linda Farquhar. CAO Ruth Frawley responded that the number was between 24 and 30. “I thought it would be more,” said Councillor Farquhar.
“Anytime you want to raffle off anything, even a quilt or to hold a 50/50 draw, you have to get a licence,” said Councillor Stephens.
Councillor Derek Stephens appointed to Kagawong water level committee
The thorny issue of Lake Kagawong water levels is likely to be the main item of interest at a meeting of the Kagawong Advisory Committee. Although Councillor Patricia MacDonald had attended a meeting of the committee in the past, largely as the lake falls within her ward, she announced that she would not be able to attend due to the short notice.
“A lot of the controversy with the committee has to do with the amount of water being drawn off of the lake to produce power,” she said. “Maybe it is better now.”
That happy thought was dashed by Mayor Richard Stephens, who noted that the municipality had fielded a number of calls regarding the amount of water being drawn. He pointed out that while, to his knowledge, the utility controlling the water flow has never exceeded the allowable amount, “it had seemed to much” to the residents along the lakeshore.
Councillor Derek Stephens, who also represents that ward, said that he would endeavour to attend the meeting on behalf of the municipality.
Council preliminary budgets project $277,000 increase
Mayor Richard Stephens gave council a brief executive summary of the 2016 budget deliberations, noting that the current proposed levy would come in at roughly $6,595,000 compared to roughly $6,318,000 in 2015, about a $277,000 increase he pointed out, but cautioned that at this point in the process the council “hasn’t deleted anything.”
“We will be looking at that in detail in January,” he said.
Councillor Derek Stephens queried whether the increase matched the cost of living.
“It is higher,” confirmed Mayor Stephens, “about $100,000 higher.”
As the assessment numbers have not come in from MPAC and the capital budget has not yet been determined, the actual impact on the total levy is difficult to determine.
“Hopefully, we will be in a position to set the tax rates by the end of January,” suggested the mayor.
Councillor Stephens queried whether the municipality would still be able to meet its target of an eight percent reduction in the tax rate.
“I think it is doable,” replied Mayor Stephens. The mayor pointed out that the municipality was able to reduce the mill rate by 17 percent last year.
“There are too many unknowns at this time,” agreed CAO Ruth Frawley. Ms. Frawley pointed out that the OMPF (Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund) funding from the province has risen by a paltry $7,000 this year.