Northeast Town Council Notes

Little Current could be home to a dog park

The Northeast Town council heard a deputation from Sandy Hurcomb last week on behalf of a group of Little Current dog owners who have been gathering signatures in support of developing a dog park in Little Current.

Ms. Hurcomb discussed the benefits Kagawong has seen since the development of the Billings dog park four years ago.

“They are simply looking for support from council and for council to suggest a possible area that could be used for the park,” added Ms. Hurcomb.

A number of councillors raised questions about the town’s liability regarding a dog park.

Council decided to have staff contact the town’s insurance broker and look into the issue and work with the interested parties on a solution before coming back to council for final approval.

Council sends warning to engineering company

During a report on the Ashley drain from CAO Dave Williamson, council learned that K Smart Engineering, the company hired to prepare the drainage report in August 2012, had not yet completed the report.

“We have contacted them and it was not completed in December (2014), January (2015), February or last month (March),” said Mr. Williamson. “Staff recommends to council that they give K Smart 30 days to produce a report and that hopefully this motivates them to finish. If they do not provide the town with a finalized report within the 30 days, then the town will hire another engineering company.”

“This has been going on for a long time,” commented Councillor Marcel Gauthier. “This is in my ward (Ward 3) and people keep asking me what is happening with the drain.”

Council carried a motion which reads, “Whereas K Smart Engineering has been appointed as engineers on the Ashley drain and whereas the engineer was appointed August 8, 2012 and we have not received a report and whereas the Drainage Act provides that after one year council can give a 30 day notice to the engineers to receive a report on the drain or the engineer shall forfeit all claims for compensation for the work done upon the drainage works, and the council may appoint another engineer. Therefore be it resolved that the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands gives a 30 day notice to K Smart to provide us with a finalized report under section 39 of the Drainage Act.”

Town sells old office

Mr. Williamson reported to council that the final signoff of all conditions of the sale of the old Northeast Town office (15 Manitowaning Road) has taken place and that the deal would be closing at the end of April. Mr. Williamson also noted that “council received its full asking price” on the building.

Motion to support volleyball club defeated

Council reviewed a motion from the Little Current Volleyball Club asking for council’s assistance in supporting the club. The group asked that council donate the $170 to pay for the group’s insurance coverage.

In the past, the Northeast Town was able to insure the program, which takes place at Little Current Public School, however a change in insurance companies by the town last year left the group to seek insurance for itself.

“I would put a motion forward to cover the insurance costs,” said Councillor Mike Erskine. “It is a good active program in our community.”

Councillor Marcel Gauthier said he couldn’t support the request as other groups in the municipality have to cover their own insurance costs and it wouldn’t be fair.

Councillors Bill Koehler and Laurie Cook agreed with Councillor Gauthier.

Councillor Erskine requested a recorded vote. The motion to donate $170 to the Little Current Volleyball Club to cover the group’s insurance costs was defeated with Councillors Cook, Koehler, Gauthier, Bruce Wood, Dawn Orr, Melissa Peters and Paul Wood voting against it and Councillor Erskine and Mayor MacNevin voting in favour of the motion.

Northeast Town supports Housing Services Corporation Accountability Act

The Northeast Town council carried a motion to support the Housing Services Corporation Accountability Act. The motion, moved by Councillor Erskine and seconded by Councillor Skippen, reads: Whereas social housing providers in Ontario are currently required to purchase natural gas and insurance through the Housing Services Corporation (HSC) or pay a fee to purchase elsewhere and whereas social housing providers should have the right to obtain natural gas and insurance at the lowest cost to provide value to those in need of affordable housing and all taxpayers; and whereas the HSC should be subject the same level of accountability and oversight as government agencies; therefore be it resolved that the Council of the Corporation of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands supports the Housing Services Corporation Accountability Act introduced by Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman which would remove the mandatory requirement for social housing providers to purchase gas and insurance through the HSC, require HSC to report salaries over $100 000. And give the Provincial Auditor General the authority to audit HSC.”

June declared Seniors’ Month

Council reviewed a letter from the Minister Responsible for Seniors Affairs, Mario Sergio, regarding Seniors’ Month. “June makes the 31st anniversary of Seniors’ Month in Ontario,” reads the letter to council. “To recognize the important achievements we have made together and the important role seniors play in our communities this year’s Seniors’ Month theme is ‘Vibrant Seniors, Vibrant Communities’.”

The Northeast Town carried a motion to proclaim June as Seniors’ Month.

Weighted vote update

Councillor Peters, the Northeast Town’s representative on the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB), updated council on the weighted vote discussions at the last MPB meeting.

“We asked them to reconsider our original weighted vote proposal, which led to a request for a weighted vote,” explained Councillor Peters. “The majority of the board didn’t support our request to reconsider our original proposed weighted vote model and the weighted vote request was defeated. It has now been put on the agenda for discussion at the April meeting.”

Town renews listing for subdivision

The Northeast Town council went into camera to discuss “a pending disposition or acquisition of land for municipal or local board purposes.”

When council came out of camera they carried a motion to renew the listing agreement with J.A. Rolston Ltd and J. James Bousquet Realty Inc. for the assigned lots in the Hayward Street Subdivision at a listing price of $29,900 for a term of one year.

Council reviews financial reports

Northeast Town treasurer Sheryl Wilkin reviewed the accounts receivable for water and sewer and accounts receivable taxes with council.

She reported that there had been $329,118.43 made in tax payments for March. As for water/sewer, Ms. Wilkin reported that there had been $15,045.07 in payments in March.

“There are currently 12 (water/sewer) accounts over $500,” added Ms. Wilkin. “Eight of these accounts have led to the water being disconnected, three due to penalty added for February and one individual who has yet to be notified.”

Remuneration bylaw

The Administration and Finance Committee made a recommendation to council to establish a tax exemption of one-third of council’s remuneration.

Council remuneration to increase

The Administration and Finance Committee discussed increasing council’s remuneration. Staff recommend that if council wanted to increase the remuneration that it could consider linking the remuneration to the annual cost of living or town staff wages.

The current remuneration is a monthly allowance of $300 for the mayor and $175 for councillors, $95 for the mayor and $75 for councillors for council or committee meetings, and $100 for full day attendance at a training session, seminar or conference or $75 for a half day and the reimbursement for expenses of mileage when using a personal vehicle for municipal business, up to $100 for meals when on approved council business outside the municipality and necessary accommodation when travelling on approved council business outside the municipality.

“It is always a contentious issue when you’re going to give yourself a wage,” said Councillor Skippen. “It would be easier if it was automatic and then put the issue to bed.”

“I think it’s time (for a raise),” said Councillor Gauthier, noting that the last time council increased its remuneration in 2011 it was to bring it up to its previous level after council passed a motion to decrease it in 1998. “It has been a while since we increased it.”

“I was in favour when we brought it up last time,” said Councillor Erskine. “It is never a good time. Standardizing it seems like a good solution.”

“I won’t be supporting this,” said Councillor Peters. “I have nothing positive to say about this. We haven’t budgeted for this and it is already to tight. I’m asking for a recorded vote.”

A motion to recommend to council the increase of council’s remuneration based on the annual increase of Northeast Town unionized workers, 3.5 percent, was carried.

Councillors Cook, Koehler, Erskine, Orr, Wood, Skippen, Gauthier and Mayor MacNevin voted in favour of the motion, while Councillor Peters voted against it.

Changes to procedural bylaws

Mayor MacNevin informed the Administration and Finance Committee that an issue had been brought forward by a few councillors and residents, inquiring if councillors were able to claim remuneration for two meetings in the same night, such as a public meeting prior to a council meeting.

“Technically councillors can, there is nothing officially wrong with it, but it has been a practice not to claim for adjacent meetings,” said Mayor MacNevin.

“I don’t think it’s right,” said Councillor Koehler. “If a public meeting is at 6 pm and then we have a council meeting at 7 pm, that’s one meeting.”

“I would not support getting paid twice,” added Councillor Orr. “Normally the public meetings are only 3-5 minutes.”

Mr. Williamson suggested that, even though nothing inappropriate was going on, if it was the will of council, the wording of the procedural bylaw council be changed to define both a council/committee meeting and a session of council which the session of council being defined as “a session of council ends with an adjournment and a separation of the members for a minimum of one hour and may consist of many meetings.”

A motion was put on the table to that effect, but Councillor Cook made a motion to amend it to 15 minutes instead of one hour.

Councillors Koehler and Peters voted against the motion, but Councillors Cook, Erskine, Orr, Skippen, Gauthier, Wood and Mayor MacNevin voted in favour of the motion to recommend to council the changing of the wording of the procedural bylaw to prevent members of council from claiming two meetings in the same night unless there is at least a 15 minute break between the two meetings.

Mayor MacNevin also informed council that staff had informed him that council would be going over its training budget this year as there had been a lot of interest in councillors attending conferences.

A recommendation was made to limit the number of councillors that attend municipal conferences to three councillors and the mayor, with councillors requesting which conferences they would like to attend at the beginning of the year.