by Shaun McLaughlin

first published in Shaun on Council

Being this is the start of a New Year, it is a good time to examine Town Council events that may be of interest.

Beginning with our first 2013 Council meeting, we embark on a new schedule. Where we had five regular meetings a month previously, we will now have just two. We will attempt to cram five into two without going longer than three hours per meeting. The theory is, if we are properly prepared (more in-depth staff reports) and we ask for staff clarifications by phone or email before meetings, we can make this experiment work.

I predict a bumpy start.

The 2013 Town budget is ready for its standard public meeting, January 8 at 6 PM in the Council chambers. The 2013 budget begins to implement a long-term financial plan that mandates a 7% annual local tax increase. As I have written before, I feel we should look for program savings before we embark on the 7% solution.

In 2012, eight people attended the budget open house and asked collectively just a few questions. I hope to see more people this time who present good ideas for spending restraint.

The Enerdu proposal to add a larger powerhouse at the first waterfall in Almonte, and to retain the high flashboards may get its final approvals this year. You have until February 1 to comment on the environmental assessment report. Copies are available online from the consultant OEL-HydroSys.

The Enerdu project will have both aesthetic and environmental impacts. The large, new powerhouse will significantly shrink the distance between the Barley Mow pub and the old powerhouse. Construction of the new plant, which includes lowering the river bottom above and below the dam, will disrupt the river habitat, at least temporarily.

Note: A meeting of water management reps from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), Mississippi Valley Conservation, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, the Mississippi River Watchers and other stakeholders in the Mississippi River watershed in November resulted in a recommendation to MNR that the water management plan for the river between Appleton and the Enerdu dam should be opened up and adjusted. The higher flashboards, in place since 2004, may have drowned the riparian forest.

Council Size
At the Mayor’s behest, the Town will hold a public meeting (probably this spring) to discuss changes to Council composition. The idea is to reduce the number of elected councillors for the next election and to create the position of deputy mayor to be the second rep on County Council.

I have written on this subject before. While I have always favored an elected deputy mayor, I was not convinced last time that a reduced Council size presented an advantage. With the new meeting schedule, smaller may be better.

Amendments to the Community Official Plan (COP) are pending as part of the mandatory five-year review. I expect we will have a public meeting on the COP some time in 2013.

By the end of 2013, expect completion of a new Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan. Public consultation is part of the process. Watch for announcements in the usual places.

If the Town gets the grant funds requested, we will complete the second phase of the cultural mapping project. The result will be an online resource of our cultural assets that is easy to use and update.All the best in 2013.