Mayor Don’s Update – August 20
The Township of Springwater participated in the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference this past week. This conference gives the municipality a chance to learn from others, share our experiences and explore how we can build resilient and vibrant communities The conference looked much different this year, as it was strictly a virtual conference, with all seminars, presentations, workshops and networking opportunities held online.
This conference provides an excellent opportunity for Springwater to meet with political leaders and advance important issues within our municipality. Our CAO Jeff Schmidt, Clerk Renee Ainsworth and I had an opportunity to delegate to three ministries on items of importance in our community.
The first delegation was with the Honourable John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. This delegation provided an opportunity for the Township to discuss the purchase of the Hasty Tract located at 1132 Snow Valley Road in Midhurstand how we can move this forward to finalization. The Township has been negotiating the purchase of the property with the Ministry and intends to acquire the property to be used as a Community Hub, including a fire station and multi-purpose recreation complex. We appreciate the support of MPP and Attorney General Doug Downey who also participated in the delegation.
The second delegation took place with the Honourable Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. The Township took the opportunity to discuss the modernization of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This act has remained largely unchanged since its inception in 1990 and Springwater has identified a number of concerns related to the municipality’s statutory obligationsincluding; cost recovery, public vs private interest and legal expenses.
The final delegation took place with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and was on the topic of Compliance Audit Committees (CAC). CAC’s receive and make decisions on applications for compliance audits of campaign finances for Council candidates and registered third party advertisers in a municipal election or by-election. The Township expressed concern with the lack of authority municipalities have to control costs associated with the execution of the CAC’s roles and responsibilities.
All three of these delegations resulted in fruitful discussions and information sharing. We thank the various Ministries for taking the time to meet with us and allowing us the opportunity to present on these items of importance. We will be following up with a further report on the conference in future.
Cannabis Study Project Overview Presentation
A special Council Meeting will be held at 5:00 p.m. on August 24 to receive an update on the Cannabis Study. Council enacted an Interim Control By-law on June 3 which placed a one-year freeze on the establishment of new cannabis facilities within Industrial and Agricultural zones. This freeze would provide enough time for a study to be completed. WSP was hired to complete the study and will be providing an update to Council on their progress at the special meeting. Watch the Township website for an online survey which will gather resident feedback on the subject.
High Speed Internet
I share your frustrations with slow, erratic, and expensive high-speed internet in many areas of Springwater. For the last six years, I have been questioning the progress of the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) initiative, which I mentioned in my last article. It is a non-profit regional broadband project initiated by the Western Ontario Wardens Caucus to subsidize the construction of high-speed broadband networks across Southwestern Ontario. They are advancing the expansion of high-speed networks across our region to close internet service gaps. With the impacts of COVID19, faster, more dependable, and affordable high-speed internet is crucial. We need a community broadband strategy to accelerate progress and work in conjunction with SWIFT. I have been conferring with residents and internet service providers and Township staff are bringing to the next Council meeting on August 24 a report seeking authorization to prepare and issue a Request for Expression of Interest for Community Broadband services on Bids & Tenders, with results of this by December this year.
Community or Municipal Broadband is not typically a service municipal government is engaged in; however, with the right partner, infrastructure and business plan in place it could be a successful partnership in which all parties could benefit, most importantly, the residents of Springwater. If Council approves this, we will be able to better understand what options exist and the related costs and potential funding before deciding to move forward.
Midhurst Community Centre
Discussion has occurred over the past months about whether to designate the Midhurst Community Centre, located at 74 Doran Road, a heritage property under section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act or have it listed on the Heritage Register of Property of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest (not designated). I am sure there are other articles with respect to this in this issue.
The Township Heritage Committee of qualified residents spent a long time doing a formal heritage study of the property and based on this, recommended to Council the Centre be placed on the Heritage Register.
Residents totaling approximately 200 signed a petition that, notwithstanding the findings and recommendation of the Heritage Committee, the Centre should be formally designated a heritage property. Council voted 4 to 3 to do this.
I did not vote for this option but rather, I believe it should be listed on the Heritage Register of Property of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest (not designated). I appreciate the feedback and questions received regarding this matter. I also respect and appreciate all the hard work the Heritage Committee did in the detailed review of this property and the recommendations contained in their thorough report regarding the reasoning behind the recommendations. To not take this into consideration I believe is not giving the credit and respect the committee deserves. There has not been a facility assessment audit done recently on this building and that is scheduled to be completed later this year. This old building is in for some costly repairs in future. For example, the septic system needs replacing and requires frequent pumping. Any future capital and maintenance work on this building will not be eligible for development charge revenue so all costs will need to be raised through debt or taxation.
There were claims by some that it is intended to sell this property and the building would be demolished. There are no discussions or plans in place regarding this in the foreseeable future.
With this uncertainty and potential significant financial exposure, I wanted to see this property listed on the Heritage Register of Property of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest until more facts were determined.
County Governance Review
The item Governance Committee Report dated July 7, 2020 addressing proposed changes to County Council governance was deferred from last week’s County Council meeting due to time constraints to a special Council meeting to follow the September 8, 2020 Committee of the Whole meeting.
This article expresses my thoughts and not those of Council.