Sutherland challenges closed meeting procedure

Written by  Wednesday, 12 December 2018 12:09
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South Frontenac Council began their COW meeting an hour early, in order to hold a closed Session prior to the main meeting. The four agenda items for the closed session were listed as:”Litigation; Matters concerning an Identifiable Individual (listed twice, as two separate items); and Matters subject to Client Solicitor”. This is South Frontenac’s usual way of introducing “in camera” sessions.

This week Councillor Sutherland attempted to make a motion challenging the minimal nature of the information given to the public concerning the nature of the matters to be discussed, prior to going into closed session. Quoting the Ontario Ombudsman who said the motion to hold a closed meeting must: “give as much information about the subject as possible, without undermining the reason for closing the meeting,” Sutherland contended that telling the public what the general subject of the meeting is to be, would increase transparency and openness. He registered his disapproval at what he saw as ‘improper procedure.’

Mayor Vandewal reminded Sutherland that this was a Committee of the Whole meeting, and motions could only be voted on at Council meetings. He deferred to CAO Orr, as the authority on procedure. Orr said he had ‘sought advice’ on the issue, and felt Council was acting appropriately. “We are following the procedure we have used for the past nine years.”

“I will bring this motion back,” said Sutherland, as Council moved into closed session.

Splash Pad Report
Recreation Supervisor Tim Laprade presented a feasibility report on a splash pad park, prepared at the request of the Loughborough and Portland district recreation committees. The report listed preferred locations, benefits, risks, capitol and operating costs, and included comments from other municipalities. There seems to be strong support from the increasing number of young families in the area, and almost all the municipalities that have installed splash pads report that they are extremely successful and well-used. However, there is little question that they are expensive to build, and have high ongoing operating costs.

All the returning Council members were reluctant to move forward without first taking into consideration the rest of the Township’s recreational costs and needs. Councillor Morey asked whether any community groups had shown interest in doing serious fundraising for the project. Laprade said there had been ‘some awareness’. Sleeth was not in favour; “There are lakes everywhere we look.” (One of the proposed sites was Harrowsmith, where there is no nearby lake.) Revill, though listing some of the pending costs for maintaining the Township arena, said the demographic was changing. Mayor Vandewal said “There will always be large-ticket items; I’d like to see a more strategic long-term recreation report, which would include (this proposal) as well as other pending recreation needs. if we’re putting this off for now, the public needs to know why, and what our long-term vision is.”

Skate Park Feasibility
Laprade’s second report recommended Council increase the budget for a skateboard feasibility study from 2018’s (unused) $5,000 to a maximum of $15,000 for 2019. The study was not done last year, for study proposals from skate park companies had ranged from $13,500 to $50,000.

For several years, there have been delegations and petitions to Council asking for a skateboard park in South Frontenac. A feasibility study based on consultation with the skate park advisory group would provide a concept plan, a draft implementation plan including costs, funding opportunities, and location recommendations.

Mayor Vandewal said that the increasing number of young families meant that a splash pad would have more ‘uptake.’ Sutherland said the skateboard group is a poorly-served population, and Roberts said that there have been skateboard requests coming to Council for many years, now. Revill said a feasibility study would give Council ‘something to work with.” Laprade’s recommendation will go forward for budget consideration.

Fire Services: Operational Review and Recommendations
Fire Chief Darcy Knott spoke to a 51 page report with 25 recommendations. (“I trust you have all read this,” said Mayor Vandewal to Council.) Saying that “The current state of the department is good and has a potential to be great,” Knott outlined the needs for an increase in the level of service to residents, greater accountability, and steps to mitigate liability. Some of these issues can be attributed to changes in legislation, and some to lack of full amalgamation of the Township’s fire services.

Knott listed his top priorities:

Hire an Assistant Deputy Chief of fire prevention,

Recruit 25 more firefighters, using a publicity campaign and orientation sessions,

Close Station #9 (off the Burnt Hills Road, East of Battersea.) It is moldy, unused and full of rodents,

Repurpose Station #8 (Sunbury) and construct a new station a few km north, to serve Battersea and Sunbury,

Surplus the old station #6 Perth Road,

Get budget to buy a demo Air Trailer Unit. This would be used to refill the Department’s 100 air bottles, both annually and after each use. Usual cost of such units is between $135,000 and $155,000 new: Knott has an option on a lightly-used one for $32,000, fully serviced and warranted. Currently the Township has the use of a non-mobile unit on short-term loan.

Spare pagers: some are needed for reserve when the present ones need repairs.

Council agreed that Knott should not have to wait for the budget process to get the Air Unit: reserve funds could be used now, and replaced from the 2019 budget. They also asked him to get prices on a bulk purchase of pagers to serve present needs and to supply the anticipated new volunteer recruits. Knott will bring this information to next week’s Council meeting.

Cataraqui Trail Restructuring
Councillor Sutherland reported from the Cataraqui Conservation Authority that there had been a restructuring of the responsibilities for the Cataraqui Trail. Though the Trail has always been owned by the Conservation Authority, it has until now been maintained by a volunteer work group of Friends of the Cat Trail. However, due to some major need for expensive repairs (especially several washouts), the Conservation Authority will assume responsibility for the trail upkeep, with continuing assistance from the volunteer group.

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