Increased Safety in Hillsdale
Solving the problem of greater safety in crossing Hwy 93 in Hillsdale advanced a significant step closer last Council meeting. Hillsdale resident Ms. Lynne Worrall Wright took the time and effort to find the agenda on the Township website, read the staff report, prepare comments, attend the Council meeting, make a presentation in question period and engage with Council and Staff as the item was reviewed. Lynne has given back to the Hillsdale community by serving as its crossing guard for the past 12 years and she provided valuable input to this discussion. After great dialogue and information exchange, Council passed a resolution receiving the report and accepting the Provincial MTO proposal for the new pedestrian crossover for Hillsdale and requesting it be expedited by September 2017. This is a great example of community in action assisting Council to make the right decision and accomplish significant improvements. Thank you Lynne.
Traffic Calming Policy
Council reviewed a Staff report on traffic calming and reducing speeding and had good discussion and questions. This is a common problem in the Township and one that Council realizes needs to be addressed. Council decided to defer this item to provide further consideration of comments received by members of Council as well as the Ontario Provincial Police. Staff has been directed to provide a subsequent report to Council in December.
Midhurst Community Sign
In May, a delegation appeared before Council to request the installation of an electronic sign at the Midhurst Library Branch. With the sale of the former Fire Station 2, $10,000 was put into a reserve fund back in 2008 for the installation of a new community sign at the Midhurst Library. For various reasons, moving forward with this has been deferred in the ensuing years. Costs of digital community signs has reduced over recent years. The sign would be programmed by the Communications Coordinator and a Township policy would be established to define the types of events/announcements that could be displayed on the sign. After discussion, Council concluded that the Midhurst Community Sign be included in the 2017 Capital Signage Program.
Further to this, Councillor Coughlin proposed a motion, which was passed at Council this week, to direct staff to prepare a report regarding an electronic signage program for all settlement areas of the Township and that the projected cost for the signage be considered in the 6 year capital plan.
Official Plan Update
Springwater is reviewing its Official Plan, the key policy document for planning and land use in the Township. This review is also an opportunity to ensure that Springwater’s Official Plan reflects the needs and aspirations of our community. The first step will be to define the community’s vision for Springwater for the next 20 years. It is important for you to attend one or more of the visioning exercises/workshops for the Official Plan Review Update, which have been scheduled as follows: November 22, 6:30pm, at the Elmvale Community Centre, November 28, 6:30pm, at the Administration Centre and November 30, 6:30pm, at the Minesing Community Hall.
Springwater Class Environmental Assessment (EA) Phase 3 & 4
On October 18, 2016, a public information session presented updates on the EA Phase 3 & 4 findings thus far, relating to Midhurst Secondary Plan (MSP) water, wastewater and transportation considerations. Public comments are invited until December 1, 2016 per the Township website or in person at the Township. An update will be presented to Council in January 2017. Another public meeting will occur in March 2017 and this will initiate a 30-day public review period. Depending on whether there is a request for and granting of a Part II Order by the Ministry of Environment, the EA could be completed from between April 2017 to the completion of a Part II order by the Ministry. After this, the Township will proceed with the Class EA Phase 5- Implementation (detailed engineering design).
The EA involves detailed studies in the areas of archaeological assessment, natural heritage, water supply and treatment, waste water treatment and transportation studies. The Township engineer consultants, Ainley & Associates, continue to consult with the Township on the EA process. The detailed results of the EA are critical to the impact of the MSP development and the effect it has on the Township. It is important that we are 100% sure of the issues, impact and costs the MSP will have relating to our environment and on the long range financial plan of the Township. It is for this reason that I put forward a motion to Council, to be reviewed at this week’s Council meeting, that that staff prepare a report for Council to consider a request for proposal to engage one or more consulting firms to conduct peer reviews of Phases 3 and 4 of the Class Environmental Assessment (EA) and report to Council, and that Council consider consulting firms be retained by December 31, 2016.These will cost the Township some money but I feel it is vital to make sure we have considered all aspects and repercussions of the environmental assessment issues and decisions, which will affect the Township for years to come. This was reviewed and discussed by Council, which voted unanimously in favour of it, with the exclusion of the timeline date.
Organics and Materials Management Processing update
These projects are now being referred to by Simcoe County as the Environmental Resource Recovery Centre (ERRC) for planned situating on the selected Horseshoe Valley Road site. Approximately a dozen studies are being completed by County as part of the zoning application to Springwater and communications with Ministry of Natural Resources and Nottawasaga Conservation Authority. Archaeological artifacts from the estimated 1840 to 1880 period were found on part of the site, thought to be household objects from a possible farmstead occupation. Further archaeological studies and assessments are ongoing and some mitigation will be required. It has been recommended to shift the planned location of the plants slightly south and east on the property, to preserve these findings and to maintain a buffer distance of 350 to 400 meters. This development has added an estimated extra 80 days to the projected timeline. The County is targeting November 18, 2016 to submit planning applications to Springwater; April 2017, presentation of preliminary business case and organics management options; November 2016 to June 2017, planning application review period; May 2018, presentation of final business case for the OPF; June 2019 commissioning of the MMF and June 2021 commissioning of the OPF.
To date, approximately $195,000 and $180,000 has been spent on development of the OPF and the MMF projects, respectively (to end of September 2016). Remaining 2016 expenses relating to project development are estimated to be $750,000 ($130,000 allocated to the OPF and $700,000 allocated to the MMF).
The first draft of the 2017 Simcoe County budget was reviewed by County Council in its November 8th meeting. Recommendations arising from the budget discussions will be considered by County Council at its meeting on November 22, 2016.County budgets affect the municipalities. Of each Springwater dollar of taxes, approximately 40% goes to Simcoe County as its portion of the tax levy charge. Previous direction by a majority of County councillors had agreed on one of the 2017 budget parameters being a property tax increase of 2%, similar to 2016. Consumer Price Index % growth for 2016 is estimated at 1.5%. Staff’s initial budget increase of 2% represents $2.970 million tax increase or an additional $5.98 per $100,000 residential property assessment value for 2017. The financial position of Simcoe County remains strong and positive. The County employs more than 1,750 full and part-time employees including seasonal staff, which equates to approximately 1,357 Full Time Equivalent (FTE). Increases of 8.6 FTE are proposed in the 2017 budget, which contains gross operating and capital expenditures of $469 million.
The 2016 full-year County forecast for operating and capital results in a surplus of $1.3 M, and this compares to a surplus of $3.1M in 2015 and $4.0M in 2014. For this term of County Council, the tax rate increases have been 2% in 2016 and 1.1% for 2015. Last year at budget time, I tried to pass a motion to reduce the 2016 tax rate from 2% to 1%, and this was defeated. Again for the 2017 budget, I supported a motion to reduce the 2017 tax increase proposed from 2% to 1% but this was defeated by a majority of County councillors last week. I believe the 1% or $1.5 million of extra taxes (from 2% to 1%) can and should be found through expense reductions and further efficiencies. As previously stated, this will be voted on at the November 22nd Council meeting.
Springwater Council will be starting the review of the Springwater budget this week and I will comment on this in future.
Protect Our Water
On November 9, 2016, Margaret Prophet organized a gathering for a presentation by Maude Barlow on issues facing Canada’s water reserves, including long-outdated water laws, unmapped and unprotected groundwater reserves, agricultural pollution, industrial-waste dumping, boil-water advisories and the effects of deforestation and climate change. This well-attended event was very informative and her new book, Boiling Point, serves as a wake-up call to all. We need to become more informed of our abuse of our water resources and work toward making changes to protect this.