A Well-Run Meeting: The Mississippi Mills Council meeting on September 17, 2019

by Theresa Peluso

Now that I have returned from vacation, my plan is to continue with my regular reports on Mississippi Mills Council meetings. Having missed two Council meetings as a result of my absence, this particular meeting was a very pleasant re-introduction to my previous routine of regular attendance.

The first item of the meeting was the announcement that our new Fire Chief, Chad Brown, has been appointed, replacing our previous interim Fire Chief, Steve Giberson.

From the background that Mayor Lowry provided, it can be seen that Mr. Brown is extremely well-qualified and experienced, and I am confident that our Fire Department is in good hands.

This announcement was followed by two delegations.  The first was by Jennifer LaRocque, who described the excellent work her organization Bridging Generations has been doing for the last three years to include all residents in working together to make Pakenham a more affordable, accessible, sustainable, inclusive, and self-reliant community for all generations.  Their projects range from school-garden projects and safe road-crossings and trails to organizing community events that include all generations, working to keep Pakenham Public School open and thriving, and educating the community about protecting their waterways.

The second delegation was by Stephanie Landers of the Ontario Waterpower Association.  Ms. Landers explained the need to promote hydro-electric power as a clean, locally sustainable and reliable source of energy. Ms. Landers, in response to a question from Councillor Ferguson, stated that this initiative was especially important in view of the fact that the Province is beginning to decommission our nuclear power stations. She invited Mississippi Mills to add their name to the list of municipalities who have signed the Ontario Waterpower Champions Charter (OWCC) to promote the refurbishment and development of local hydro-electric facilities.  It is hoped that the OWCC objective “to conserve and enhance our man-made and natural environment” will translate into actions that clearly address the “natural environment” aspect, by ensuring that these dams are run-of-river, and provide ways for aquatic life to circumvent any obstacles created by the dam.

The delegations were followed by two deputations.  The first was by Sally McIntyre, General Manager of the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority (MVCA).  The specific concern was the threat posed by the Provincial Bill 108 to the future of the popular, well-used Mill of Kintail museum (MOKM), which is under MVCA stewardship.  Until now, funding for the MOKM has been provided by a portion of the municipal levies from the 11 municipalities bordering the Mississippi River.  This funding option has been removed, and future funding can only come from one-on-one agreements with each of the 11 municipalities which, needless to say, is very complicated and not reliable.  The MVCA Board has listened to the heartfelt concerns of many residents about losing the museum. These residents have also requested that the Province make an exception to Bill 108 for this internationally-known museum, just as the Province is now contemplating for the Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto.  At the very least, the MVCA Board will request a transition period to enable them to find an alternate source of funding. Ms. McIntyre was hopeful that the MVCA nature education programs would not be axed, as they are clearly relevant to the MVCA mandate.

Councillor Holmes asked if other similarly-affected Conservation Authorities had been contacted to find out if they were following a similar process to MVCA. Ms. McIntyre replied that she didn’t know of any.  Ms. McIntyre did mention that Merrilee Fullerton, MPP of Kanata-Carleton, did approach her regarding the issue.  In the meantime, residents are strongly encouraged to let the Province know of our concerns on this matter, and request that funding for the MOKM be maintained.  Contact the MVCA (mvc.on.ca) for further information.

The second deputation was by Justin Allen, President and CEO of the Ottawa River Power Corporation (ORPC), who presented several persuasive reasons why our Council should support his proposal for a Zero Emissions Vehicle Infrastructure Program, which would consist of installing stations with electric vehicle charging ports (EVCPs) in up to four locations in Almonte (in addition to the EVCPs already installed at the Mill of Kintail).  These would take up almost no space (about the same as for a parking meter, plus the space needed to park the cars being charged) and would not cost the municipality a cent.  One important objective in increasing the number of EVCPs in locations where people live, work and play is to reduce range anxiety for drivers of electric cars.  When Councillor Ferguson asked why Pakenham wasn’t being considered as a location, Mr. Allen responded that, because of time restraints for their Request for Proposal, it was necessary for these spaces to be situated where they could be connected to the ORPC.

In answer to Councillor Guerard’s question about maintenance expenses for the municipality, the response was that there would be none, apart from the routine road-clearing, grass-cutting and maintenance already done by the municipality.  In reply to Councillor Maydan’s question about whether the municipality would benefit from profits as a result of this venture, Mr. Allen replied that those would kick in once the installation costs were paid off.   He answered Councillor Holmes’s question about the popularity of EVCPs by saying that there has already been lots of interest from the public, which is bound to increase further.  Later on, towards the end of the meeting, Council approved a motion that staff work with the ORPC to apply for funding to purchase and install these ports.

The next part of the meeting was the Committee of the Whole (COW), chaired by Deputy Mayor Minnille.  The Consent Items component went surprisingly quickly.  Various reports, including the Chief Administrative Officer’s (CAO’s) report and the Financial Report to August 31, were approved.

Following this, Roads and Public Works’ report on the Almonte Downtown Revitalization came up; specifically, the question of how to proceed with development of Little Bridge Street.  Council quickly agreed to vote on Option 2, to maintain the trestle bridge and roadway.  The Councillors were unanimous that more discussion needed to take place regarding the full detailed design of the Downtown project, which would be done at a special meeting.

Under the section on Building and Planning, the Community Official Plan was on the agenda, but, surprisingly, this issue just whizzed by.  All agreed to wait until Lanark County had finished their review (by the end of the month), and further discussion about it would take place at the next Council meeting.

Again, under the section on Building and Planning, the issue of the new Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), subtitled More Homes, More Choice Action Plan, came up.  If you remember, there was concern that the recommendations for reducing red tape put the ability of municipalities to ensure well-planned, well-built housing in jeopardy by removing many of the existing safeguards.  Information for residents who want to communicate their concerns to the Province – this must be done before the October 21 deadline – can be found at this link. This contact information will also be made available at both Mississippi Mills Public Library branches.   Details on the implications of the proposed changes to the PPS can be found on the municipal website.

Further to discussion about the new PPS, Councillor Ferguson made the point that Council needs to review and comment on the information on it that was provided by the Director of Planning before the October 21 deadline as well.  With the CAO’s input, it was decided to fix the deadline for this as October 7, to allow the Director of Planning to process Council’s comments.  Councillor Holmes asked that other advisory committees be given the opportunity to provide input as well.  During the Council Meeting portion of the evening, it was decided to invite input from the Agricultural and Heritage advisory committees only.

Next up for discussion was the Strategic Plan Process.  Councillor Holmes stated that she was in support of the process, and wanted to ensure that all Mississippi Mills residents had the opportunity to get involved as well by making this information available electronically and through public meetings.  She also thanked the CAO for making this process in-house, rather than hiring an outside consultant.

The section on Information Items also proceeded smoothly.  One of several items of special interest to me was the decision of Lanark County Public Works to buy a remote-control mower to improve roadside brushing control on sloping and wet areas.  I hope that this machinery will replace the use of pesticides, but, at the same time, that it will be used sparingly to keep natural areas intact for wildlife.

Mayor Lowry asked for two items, one advertising the Ontario Heritage Trust Awards and the second, advertising funding from the Province and Federal Government as part of the 10-year, $30-billion Canada Infrastructure Program (CIP), to be selected for follow-up by staff. which, I believe, was readily agreed to.  It’s nice to see that support is available for our historical monuments.  As for the CIP, perhaps, if Mississippi Mills receives this funding, it will be used to expand broadband service?  We can hope!

As part of the Information Item section, Councillor Ferguson asked for a letter from the City of Kitchener to be addressed.  In this letter, the City of Kitchener stated that because so-called flushable single-use wipes were causing all kinds of blockages in their sewers, they had requested that the Federal Government change the packaging labels for these wipes to remove the word “flushable”.  Apparently Carleton Place Council have already lent their support to this initiative, and Councillor Ferguson would like our municipality to add our voice as well.

Under New Business, Councillor Ferguson referred to two letters in the agenda package, one from the Town of Halton Hills and the second from the Municipality of Bluewater, and asked for a motion to support the request that both municipalities had made to the Province.  This request was for the Province to reduce litter and waste in their communities by implementing a deposit/return program for all single-use plastic, aluminum and metal drink containers.  I am thrilled to say that this motion passed!  I would like to thank Councillor Ferguson whole-heartedly for initiating this motion, especially since it took me by surprise.

I look forward to attending the next Council meeting on October 1, especially if I am treated to more of these positive environmental initiatives!