| Dec 11, 2008

Dec 11/08 - CF Council

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Feature Article - December 11, 2008 Central Frontenac CouncilBy Jeff Green

Roads plan deferred; Council moves to freeze budget for 2009 in final CF Council meeting of the year

Central Frontenac Council has asked senior staff to work towards a budget with a 0% increase in the levy to taxpayers for 2009, hoping that infrastructure grants from higher levels of government will help to address some of the $10 million cost of upgrading the township’s crumbling roads and bridges.

“We've got a major economic crisis and a lot of people are going to be let go from their jobs. It will be hard for people to pay their taxes as it is. I believe we need to be very stringent,” said Councilor Gary Smith in echoing the view of Councilor John Purdon, who made the initial case for no increase.

Mayor Janet Gutowski had begun by talking about possible spending to improve the township’s office, saying, “We have a pressure point with regard to our administration building. The rent is $700 a month for the portables where our public works department is housed, for example.”

She was quickly deterred, however. Councilor Norm Guntensperger said, “We need to make sure that investments are really necessary, when we have buildings that are heated, but not used, even if they are located some distance from the township office, such as the former school building in Mountain Grove.”

Gutowski then said “I couldn't agree with you more, we do need to be careful.”

This call for fiscal constraints will have to vie with the needs identified by Public Works Manager John Simcock, who presented a Draft Road Capital Investment Plan to Council earlier in the meeting.

“This is the math that frightens people,” said Simcock. “Central Frontenac has a total road system of 562 kilometres, and on 259 kilometres of the system there is a known need for repairs. They would cost $9,930,000 to repair. That is $1.9 million per year to bring them up to standard. It's not going to happen. We are so far behind we can never catch up, but we have to do the best we can in a methodical manner.”

The plan Simcock presented uses mapping infomation from the township’s IT department, and “from the ground information” that has been gathered by roads department members Crystal Nedow, Steve Reynolds, and Simcock himself. It was also worked on by consultant Hans Munz.

Simcock suggested that because of the detailed information that the township now possesses, a “cookie cutter” approach can be used to repair the worst parts of the roads in all corners of the township.

“In the past, you've picked a couple of roads to fix each year. Now, you have all the information in front of you. It's up to Council to prioritize, and you can develop a five-year, 10-year, or a 12-year road improvement plan,” Simcock said.

Once a plan is in place the township will be able to more easily apply for any kinds of infrastructure programs that the federal or provincial governments come up with, which now look likely in light of recent political noise about spending to counter the much talked about global economic crisis.

A motion that included nine recommendations accompanied the report, dealing with ways to consider and implement the information that was included in the details of the report. Council focused on one recommendation in particular: the call for public consultation. “I agree in principle with this, but I think we have to consult first ... I think we should defer this and move forward with public consultation,” said Councilor Guntensperger.

A motion to table was approved, and some means for public consultation, prior to the 2009 budget deliberation in February, will be sought.

CAO resigns – Mark Hall, the township's chief administrative officer, who has been on the job for less than three months, has resigned.

Hall was hired after an extensive search, and was one of two candidates on the short list for the job. There was no comment from Council regarding the resignation, which was accepted “with regret.” However, concerns had been expressed about a number of instances where Hall was unavailable for work because of migraine headaches.

Prior to hiring Mark Hall, the township was overseen by interim CAO John Duchene for over 18 months, before his resignation in late August.

Cathy MacMunn, the township planning co-ordinator, was appointed acting CAO/Clerk. MacMunn has been serving as deputy CAO.

Tax estimator online – In an ongoing effort to help residents understand the impact of tax assessment increases, the township has placed a tax estimator on its website.

By clicking an icon at the bottom of the township’s home page, the MPT estimator comes up. By entering two numbers, the property tax value from 2005, and the value from 2008, (these figures were included in the property tax notice ratepayers received in October) an estimate of taxation for the next four years comes up.

The results can be surprising. For example, a residence valued at $150,000 in 2005, which has been increased to $200,000 in 2008, would have paid $2,100 in taxes this year, but would see a tax decrease in 2009, to $2060, if the township council itself does not raise taxes.

Even projecting a tax increase of 3% next year, the property would only see a tax increase of $100.

Emergency road work – Council approved an emergency culvert repair for Crow Lake Road, which was awarded to Crains’ Construction for $16,978.50. Four contractors were asked to quote on the project, and two quoted on it. Crains' bid was the lowest.

A short stretch of the Boundary Road between Central and South Frontenac will be raised to alleviate a flooding problem due to persistent South Frontenac beavers. The township will pay $8,245 to Crains’ for the repair, which includes a new culvert, on the expectation that South Frontenac will pitch in for half the cost.

Public Works Manager Simcock said that repeated blasting of the beaver dams in South Frontenac have had little effect, but “I personally think we need to address the immediate road problem, as a health and safety issue; the road is consistently flooded.”

Blown engine to cost $24,554 – John Simcock said that the township was short four trucks during the first snow storm of the season two weeks ago, but is now down just one truck, due to a blown engine. A new engine will cost $24,554 from Oakes Truck Sales. Council approved the expenditure.

Fire department recognised - Melanie Arsenault, from the Fire Marshall’s office, presented a certificate to Fire Chief Mark MacDonald to mark the completion of a comprehensive survey by the township’s fire department, making Central Frontenac one of the first departments to come into compliance with the requirements in the Fire Protection and Prevention Act of 2007, which codifies municipal requirements in fire protection.

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