Council chambers packed once again

by Edith Cody-Rice

Council meetings appear to be the best entertainment in town these days. Once again, on March 5, the council chamber was packed to overflowing to hear presentations to, and discussions and votes by, our new council

Potable Water Storage

First Up on the agenda, the question of potable water storage. In a presentation by Mark Buchanan of J.L Richards, we learned that our water systems depends on five groundwater wells, service just over 5,000 people, has about 35 kilometers of watermain piping and is currently meeting water quality standards but will not meet storage requirements during the next five years. The three components of the water system are equalization storage (daily use such as showering, flushing toilets), fire storage and emergency storage. There are three options available:

  1. Do nothing. The service tank has a service life of 74 years remaining
  2. Maintain the existing tower and construct a new at-grade reservoir and pumping station or
  3. Relocate new storage at one of 7 potential locations.

The consultants recommend option #2, constructing a new at-grade reservoir as the most efficient and least expensive. Doing nothing would cost $685,000 and Mr. Buchanan noted that the current reservoir still has 74 years of life.  The preferred option would cost $3.6 million. Commencing February 27, there is a 30 day public review period.

Interesting tip: Almonte water is high in sodium

Local Museums

The three local museums, Mill of Kintail and the R. Tait McKenzie & James Naismith Museum operated by the  Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, North Lanark Historical Society and Regional Museum, and Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, all laid out their accomplishments and programs for council. All are seeking financial support from the town.

Mill of Kintail

More than 8,400 people, including 2,000 school children visit the R. Tait McKenzie & James Naismith museum each year while 25,000 visit the Mill of Kintail conservation area surrounding the museum. It is funded with $14,000 from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport in the form of a Community Museums Operating Grant. The museum also applies to Young Canada Works and Service Canada for grants for summer students in addition to  receiving a portion of the municipal levy

North Lanark Historical Society and Regional Museum

1,781 people visited this museum in 2018. Its total income of $61,242.86 comes from a combination of town support, memberships, souvenir and book sales, donations and the programs of  Canada Summer Jobs, Young Canada works and museum programming. There is currently a deficit of $9,374.

Mississippi Valley Textile Museum

The Textile Museum, one of only two textile museums in the province attracts over 4,000 people per year to its exhibitions, in addition to 2,000 attendees at the very popular Fibrefest held each fall. Fibrefest now has 100 vendors participating.

The museum costs $220,000 per year to run and is funded 30% by the municipality and 7% by the province. The museum is dependent upon fundraising for the remaining 63% .(full disclosure – this reporter sits on this museum board). 

All of the museums have an impressive record of innovative programs and actively apply for grants to fund infrastructure, staff and programming and fundraise to maintain themselves.

Hanging Flower Baskets

Council approved a budget of $8000 for hanging flower baskets in Almonte and Pakenham. These are offered to merchants on a cost recovery fee basis.

Advertising in Gemmill Park and Pakenham Ball Park. 

Council approved a plan to place advertising on park fences. Revenue would be $700 per ad for the season with the municipality receiving 85% of that revenue.

Modification of the Official Plan 

Director of Planning Niki Dwyer presented for information some of the modifications to the Official Community Plan proposed by the county of Lanark. The proposed modifications will be presented over three council meetings. On March 5, Ms. Dwyer discussed modification to significant valley lands, significant wildlife habitat, aggregate resources and natural heritage systems. Some of the proposed modifications are significant and would be costly to research and implement. Ms. Dwyer expressed concerns that some of the recommendations would increase the financial burden on property owners.

Funding Gemmill Park 

In 2018 work was completed in Gemmill Park that included a splash pad, skate park and washroom facilities. Total expenditures were $1,057,197 and an unfunded balance of $502,174 remains to be paid. Part of this was to have been covered by the sale of a portion of Don Maynard Park. Now that this will not take place, the options are:

  1. add the full cost to the 2019 budget which will result in a 5.06% tax levy increase
  2. long term finance the project. Since this project has a long life, long term funding would mean that those benefiting from the park would be the people paying for it. Assuming an interest rate of 4% for 20 years, the annual repayments costs would be $35,360.
  3. sell some other surplus municipal land to defray the cost

Municipal treasurer Rhonda Whitmarsh recommends a combination of options 2 and 3.

A decision was deferred to the next council meeting,

Reserve Funds 

$367,900 was transferred to reserves arising out of capital projects that were incomplete or under spent at year end.

Interview questions for deputy mayor candidates. 

Council decided on the following five questions to be posed to all candidates during the appointment process. All candidates will be given fifteen (15) minutes to respond to the same five questions. The final five questions are:

  1. Please address why you would like to be a Member of Council and elaborate on your long and short term visions for the Municipality of Mississippi Mills?
  2. What do you see as the immediate challenges facing the Municipality and Lanark County and what are your suggestions as to how to address them?
  3. One of the roles of Council is to maintain the financial integrity of the Municipality.  How does your experience lend itself to fulfilling this responsibility?
  4. Council may make decisions that not all members of the public agree with. Outline how you would address an unhappy citizen and explain how your experiences have equipped you to deal with these types of situations. Please include your thoughts on social media.
  5. The position of Deputy Mayor acts as the Mayor in his/her absence. Can you highlight what qualities, attributes and experience you have that demonstrate consensus building and leadership?

Interviews will be held in public on March 25 at 6 pm in the Almonte Old Town Hall.