Mayor Don’s Update – Springwater News – February 4, 2021

COVID-19

If you have been following the news, you know that the UK Variant (B.1.1.7) of the COVID-19 virus has been confirmed in Barrie. Our thoughts are with all of those impacted by the outbreak at Roberta Place, and all of those who have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus since its arrival in Canada almost a year ago.

The UK variant of the virus appears to spread more quickly and easily than other variants. The health unit is currently investigating to determine how widespread it is in the community. Due to our close proximity to the City of Barrie, the risk of transmission in our community is a very real and dangerous threat. Now it is more important than ever to remain vigilant. Only go out for essentials, this includes groceries, pharmacies, medical appointments, exercise and any work that is not able to be done remotely.

The virus is not able to spread on its own, people need to move it. Therefore, if we limit our movements, we limit the spread of the virus. Although remaining in lockdown for extended periods of time is challenging, doing so is saving lives. Think of your neighbours, families and friends who may be more susceptible to the serious consequences of this virus and just stay home!

Broadband  Update

Council during its last meeting received a delegation from Mr. Jeff Kerk about the Hillview Internet Broadband Project (“Project”) whereby Jeff and neighbours of Hillview Crescent and surrounding area in Springwater have created an internet service providing company (“ISP”) and are developing a fibre-to-the- home (“FTTH”) strategy to bring the best possible unlimited internet access at reasonable prices to their area. Council agreed to support improved access to broadband in Springwater and support, in principle, the Hillview Broadband Project and communicate as such to the Federal and Provincial governments.

I wrote last issue about Springwater’s issuance of a Request of Expression of Interest (REOI) to look for solutions from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to enhance broadband internet services in underserved areas of the Township as part of a Community Broadband Plan. These expressions were received and summarized in a staff report, with the options presented including the option of proceeding to issue a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to the five proponents seeking more detailed submissions and from that, we would be able to consider next steps. This would probably require a sizeable financial investment, along with the finalized ISP partner, and therefore it would require seeking other possible funding sources as the Township could not afford this on its own. Other options discussed by Council included performing an Advocacy or Support Role, advocating for more government funding for rural broadband assistance and support for ISPs to persuade ISPs over a period of time to increase their service offering to areas of Springwater. Another alternative is to do nothing currently and wait to see what happens with the SWIFT development. I support moving forward with an RFP process to determine more details of what a Community Broadband Plan would involve and how much it would cost and possible funding sources. The majority of Council want to refer this back to staff to work with members of Council to provide further options regarding an active advocacy role.

I hear from many of you about the hardships you are experiencing with poor, inconsistent, inadequate, expensive internet and I sympathize with you – especially during these present challenging times. I have had to come up with a customized solution to increase our broadband service given my increased working from home presently. If you are experiencing problems and frustration in this area, please email me details to don.allen@springwater.ca and I will input this into the group working on this.

Springwater December 31, 2019 Year End Financial Statements

Council this week will be reviewing the audited December 31, 2019 financial statements for approval – seems like awhile ago, but as with everything else, the finalization of the audit was delayed somewhat. The results ended in an excess of operating revenues over expenditures for the 2019 year of $1,069, 752. Some of the main contributors toward this were supplementary taxes and fire call revenue plus salary and benefit and road maintenance and other operating  expenses coming in under budget. Staff recommend this surplus be allocated $890,102 to eliminate the increase in debt requirement for the purchase of the 1132 Snow Valley Road Hasty Tract for the coming Midhurst hub – firehall and other municipal infrastructure and the remaining $179,650 to the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve for future.

The 2019 Capital Budget included gross expenditures and sources of funding in the amount of $16.6 million. The actual expenditures incurred amounted to $7.7 million. Many of the unspent funds are attributable to projects being deferred to 2020 or 2021.

Staff and the external auditor met with the Finance and Audit Committee, comprised ofCouncillor Cabral and me, to review the year-end results. We also reviewed the Township debt and reserve fund positions and compared these to other municipalities, cities and towns and Springwater continues to compare favourably. The committee’s recommendation to Council is to approve this proposed allocation of the surplus.

Long-Range Financial Plan

Consultants Watson & Associates (“Watson”) recently presented to Council a highlevel overview of the updated Long Range Financial Plan (“LRFP”). Highlights of it include:

Significant population growth planned for Springwater 23,000 to 48,800 population by 2041 (112% increase);
Majority of development (71%) will occur in the Midhurst Secondary Plan (“MSP”) area;
MSP developers will cash flow the assets for roads, water, wastewater and basic parkland development capital expenditures within the secondary plan area;
An option for Council to consider is the negotiations with developers for additional pre-payment (accelerated payment) and front-ending agreements to be utilized for growth-related projects for the MSP and other developments in Springwater;
Further funding agreements will need to be negotiated with the developers to manage debt increases to a manageable level;
Financial policies will have to be considered and tailored to afford what we can afford and when we can afford it. This may include slowing (deferring) certain aspects of growth, as required.

Using this preliminary report, staff will continue to work with Watson to prepare a final report to Council in February for discussion and targeted approval of the LRFP in March.

The development process and timeline occurring with the MSP to date is in line with what occurs with such developments and is in no way considered fast tracking the process. What has occurred to date has been subject to checks and balances and approvals by staff and Council. Further unnecessary delay would be regarded as delaying the process and subject to potential challenge and litigation. The process Council is following and the further agreements that will result will continue to be manageable and prudent, with the right adjustments being made. I will be reporting on this more in future.

what3words – OPP Location App

The Ontario Provincial Police have started using a new mobile application called ‘what3wordsto help locate people in need when a caller cannot describe or does not know where they are located.

The app uses a global mapping system and labels every three metres2 with a unique three-word location string, which can be converted into latitude and longitude coordinates. This allows dispatchers to locate the lost caller with increased accuracy.

what3words is a free application available on android and Apple devices. It works off the cellphone’s GPS when connected to a data signal or offline without mobile data if the caller had it downloaded prior to losing signal.

You are encouraged to download the what3words app to save precious time and allow the OPP communications centre to provide a rapid response in an emergency situation.

Please practice what I referred to above regarding COVID practices and stay well.

These are my thoughts and not necessarily shared by all of Council.