Northeast Town and Council Notes

Swing Bridge heritage

Like all of Manitoulin’s municipal councils, Northeast Town council reviewed a letter from Stantec Engineering on the Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the Little Current swing bridge.

Mayor MacNevin gave a synopsis of the report. “In a nutshell, an HIA is done to see if a structure can be preserved.” He noted that they already know the bridge can’t be saved and needs to be demolished. He explained that the consultants are seeking input on other ways to commemorate the storied bridge.

The mayor made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Gore Bay take the old bridge, “and open it every two hours.”

Councillor Bill Koehler asked if any thought was given to leaving the old bridge where it is and leaving it open. The mayor told him he thought that had been ruled out.

Councillor Al Boyd said he had heard from numerous members of the public that it would be nice to see the old bridge kept somewhere on display, suggesting Goat Island as a location. He said he realized that the cost of doing this, both in terms of which government body could be responsible for such a move and its ongoing upkeep, raises questions.

Councillor Dawn Orr suggested council first find out what is available to maintain from the old bridge, such as the bridgemaster’s house.

Fire Department report

Fire Chief Duane Deschamps gave the fire department report at the January 18 meeting of Northeast Town council. He informed council that the department had responded to four calls for service in January: a carbon monoxide call on Sheguiandah First Nation, a structure fire on the Green Bush Road, an alarm call at the hospital and a chimney fire in Little Current.

Community Services report

Manager of community services, Reid Taylor, gave his report to council, reminding councillors that the rec centre remains closed as per provincial orders. An outdoor rink has been installed at the rec centre tennis courts with potential plans for a second outdoor rink at Low Island, at Nolan Sisson Park, weather permitting.

The Drive Test program continues to operate from the recreation centre.

Mr. Taylor shared that the tender results for a new ice resurfacer and edger came in with staff recommending the bid for a new Olympia ice resurfacer and edger in the amount of $98,298.70, including HST. Two bids were received.

Councillor Jim Ferguson asked where the money was coming from to pay for the new rec centre purchase, and asked what an edger was.

The funding is coming 75 percent from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation with the remaining 25 percent from ice resurfacer reserve account. Mr. Taylor explained that the new edger is self-propelled, a walk-behind tool that shaves the ice along the edge of the boards to match the level of the rest of the ice surface.

Public Works report

Ed Steeves gave the January public works report, noting to council that daily road patrols, plowing and sanding, sidewalk clearing and snow removal are all being carried out and that landfill operations are going well.

Councillor Michael Erskine asked Mr. Steeves if the new 40 km/h rule that applies to provincially-contracted plows pertains to the municipality. Mr. Steeves explained that the municipal trucks don’t have the same governing system and that it did not apply here.

Councillor Barb Baker thanked public works for doing a great job on keeping the Water Street sidewalk cleared.

Building controls report

CAO Dave Williamson gave the municipal building control report for the year ending December 31, 2021. One hundred and two permits were issued in 2021 with six renewals. The total value of the construction to date is $15,856,000 with a total building permit revenue of $190,803.

Mr. Williamson shared with council that this is a new record.

Councillor Erskine asked when the municipality might see a return through new assessments. Mr. Williamson said it typically takes place the following year.

Code of conduct review

Staff recommended three changes to council’s code of conduct: that under the informal complaint procedure heading, the timeline to address issues be changed to three months from no timeline and under mediated complaints, that it be changed to 30 business days from 15 business days to convene a meeting with the complainant, “if the councillor agrees that mediation may resolve the alleged issue.”

Lastly, also under the mediate complaint procedure, paragraph d) was deleted, which states, “A copy of the minutes of the meeting shall be made available to the complainant and the accused councillor.”

In camera

Following an in camera session, council passed a motion to stop up, close and sell a piece of property on an unopened road allowance between 219 and 229 Highway 540 in Little Current.

January 11

Financial reports

At its January 11 meeting, Northeast Town council approved its December 2020 payroll expenses at $107,293.19 and its accounts for payment, $599,378.72.

December 2021 brought the municipality’s tax account down to $215,640.95 owing in taxes. Treasurer Sheryl Wilkin told council that this is the lowest rate of tax receivables she has ever seen at year-end.

Likewise, for water and sewer, December 2021 held a negative balance of $18,966.25. Ms. Wilkin explained that this was thanks to the uptick in use of pre-authorized debits for water and sewer payments and the fact that the new water bills had not yet gone out.

Borrowing bylaw 

and tax levy

Council passed its annual borrowing bylaw, to open a line of credit for $2 million at TD Canada Trust in case it is needed until taxes are collected. CAO Dave Williamson noted to council that in his 17 years with the municipality, the line of credit has only been accessed once.

Council also approved its annual tax levy, which allows the municipality to make the first of the tax bills at 50 percent of last year’s property owner’s taxes, and that any difference will be made up on the last tax bill of the year.

Snowplow tender results

Council reviewed its sole tender for a new snowplow, a 2022 automatic, tandem-axle Western Star valued at $329,900 plus HST.

Councillor Jim Ferguson asked why it was a tandem axle and not a single axle.

Manager of public works Wayne Williamson explained that it is a rural plow, so it holds more sand as it has more kilometres to travel on its lengthy routes.

Mr. Williamson also noted that the plow is an automatic as drivers of standard vehicles are becoming harder to find.

In camera

Council went in camera for “a proposed or pending disposition or acquisition of land for municipal or local board purposes” and for “personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local employees.” 

One motion was passed out of camera, that the municipality renews its five-year lease with Canada Post, which occupies a portion of the lower half of the municipal building on Water Street in Little Current.