by Theresa Peluso

Council Highlights – May 19, 2020:  90 minutes of smooth sailing and compliments

This meeting was quite congenial, and went without a hitch, as recounted below.

Two items from the May 5 meeting; namely the Health and Safety Volunteer Policy Report, and the Adopt-a-Park Policy, were approved.

The staff members in charge of presenting these policies (Dan Cousineau, Facilities/Health and Safety Coordinator and Recreation Director Calvin Murphy) had ensured that the concerns of residents were fully addressed and modified the restrictions and the application forms accordingly.  Our Councillors were generally quite appreciative of the work staff had done and felt the resulting documents were well done.  Councillor Cynthia Guerard felt that the paperwork required for volunteers was still too onerous, as did Deputy Mayor Rickey Minnille.

Vulnerable sector checks

Mayor Christa Lowry questioned why the $41 cost of a vulnerable sector check (required if a volunteer is to work with children or people with mental or physical challenges) would be at the expense of the volunteer requiring it since the volunteer was providing his/her services at no charge.  It was generally agreed that the municipality should cover this cost, especially since this check is rarely required for volunteers.

When the time came to vote, all the Councillors agreed to support the Health and Safety Volunteer Policy Report, except for Deputy Mayor Minnille.  All the Councillors supported the Adopt-a-Park Policy.

Fire emergency responses

A request by Mississippi Mills Fire Department Chief Chad Brown was up next for discussion.  Fire Chief Brown explained that there are essentially two kinds of fire emergency responses.

The first kind, Mutual Aid, applies to situations (usually quite rare) where a fire department responds to a call, but then may request additional help from neighbouring fire departments because the first department is unable to get this particular fire under control without assistance.  Such services are always provided free of charge, as part of being a good neighbour.

The second kind of fire emergency response, termed Automatic Aid, applies to a pre-agreed arrangement with another fire department to provide its services automatically for certain situations.  This kind of response may happen frequently. At this time the Mississippi Mills Fire Department has an Automatic Aid arrangement to provide assistance free of charge to Lanark Highlands Fire Service, specifically for calls in the White Lake area within Lanark Highlands boundaries, which is easier to access by our Fire Department.

This situation is complicated by the fact that Lanark Highlands Fire Service is in the middle of completing a Fire Service Master Plan.

Fire Chief Brown basically wanted advice from Council as to how long his Fire Department should continue providing this Automatic Aid for free.

The Councillors generally felt that, while they didn’t want to leave Lanark Highlands high and dry, financial compensation of some kind was needed.

It was decided to set a deadline of September 1, to allow Lanark Highlands sufficient time to complete its Master Plan, after which time this free Automatic Aid arrangement with our Fire Department would end.  This motion was unanimously approved.

Roads and Public Works

The Roads and Public Works report went smoothly this time, with quick approval of the change to the traffic lights at the intersection Paterson Street-Menzie Street-Ottawa Street which consists of providing a short advance-pedestrian signal to give walkers and cyclists a head-start for crossing Ottawa Street.

Alignment of the stop bars to enable pedestrians to be more visible to motorists at the intersection was also approved.  A second item, restricting the parking around Orchard View Manor on Paterson Street, was also approved.  Several Councillors made a point of thanking staff for their work.

Covid-19

The Interim Report on the Financial Implications of Covid-19, covering the two-week period since the previous report, was presented by Treasurer Rhonda Whitmarsh, and quickly approved, as it held no surprises.

Service Delivery Review

The last main item on the agenda was the award of the Municipal-Wide Service Delivery Review to StrategyCorp Inc. in the amount of roughly $125,000. Late last year, if you recall, Mississippi Mills received a $626,000 grant from the Ontario government as part of the Municipal Modernization program, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how municipalities deliver services to their residents.

StrategyCorp Inc. has been tasked with providing a report, by the end of this August, that will consist of identifying our Municipality’s strengths and weaknesses and suggesting improvements. If Mississippi Mills comes up with a satisfactory assessment as a result of this report, we may be eligible for more Provincial funding, in addition to the grant we’ve already received. This means that the report must include a detailed work plan, management strategies, and feedback from all stakeholders.  External elements such as new technologies should also be taken into account.  The outcome of this report will be a roughly four-year process to implement the recommended changes.

Both Deputy Mayor Minnille and Councillor Denzil Ferguson had questions about whether the Municipality’s ability to deal with situations such as the current pandemic would be assessed, to which the answer was yes.  Several other Councillors asked good questions, and said they were pleased with the plan as CAO Kelly presented it.  All, except Deputy Mayor Minnille, approved the motion to award the contract to StrategyCorp Inc.

Final thoughts

My general assessment is that this meeting went smoothly, without any disagreements, with all Councillors voting together on the various items, with the exception of two, Deputy Mayor Minnille being the hold-out.  Wanting to stand out from the crowd, perhaps?  In any case, it had absolutely no effect on the outcome of the decisions, which seemed to be well-thought-out.