Council Briefs June 6, 2023



Long-term plan for capital spending

Director of Corporate Services Alisa Craddock provided council with a draft policy intended to expedite capital works projects during the construction season, by formalizing a 5 to 10-year planning period for large projects, to be reviewed periodically. “It sort of encapsulates some best practices and some things that we need to move towards or strive towards, so we have some consistency in our capital planning across the departments … for the future of the municipality. … Council will be required to review asset management plans every year… The directors and managers are going to give us all that information so that we can make good choices …[so] at least we have some idea of the financial commitment over the next five years and somewhat of an idea over the next 10 years.” The policy rates projects in terms of importance and is geared to longer term thinking, taking into consideration funding opportunities, consequently creating an environment in which future budget deliberations will have a “rhythm” that is progressively easier to manage.

Craddock mentioned that year-over-year projects would allow capital spending before the annual budget approval. “It’s already approved, it just keeps rolling. …If the project has been approved, there’s an assumption that it’s carried forward to the next year.” With a forecast of 5 to 10 years, it provides a planning tool for future budget expenditures, debt repayment and potential reserve fund needs. The policy also ranks projects, with 5-stars being a project that must be completed to meet statutory or mandated requirements, down to 1-star, which would be a project of general benefit to the municipality but which may not have the funding – “nice to have” items. “We’ll actually look at these projects if all the really heavy projects are taken care of.”

Mayor Kathleen Thorne Rochon thought it was a “great initiative”. “I think it’s a great tool, not just for us, but for future councils … something that I think will make us more effective.”  Coun. Jérôme Courchesne also liked the policy but asked for a provision for reviewing it at set intervals. CAO Jay Barbeau had the view that “Policies get reviewed when there’s a need to review them, if they don’t work, or if there’s something that needs to be brought back.” He noted that some organizations have a policy on regular policy review, which drew a few groans, but added that, “I think it’s good to review our procurement policy on a regular basis …so that everybody’s aware of what our authorities are and what Council authorities are and the public knows.” As for this particular policy, the mayor said, “The plan itself will be updated annually, so every year we will have a new five-year outlook… the actual items on that list are constantly evolving.” Council approved the policy.

AMO delegations

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference requires delegation requests to meet with provincial ministers on site. CAO Barbeau suggested a delegation on behalf of West Nipissing Power Generation. “We talked about our plant being rated at 8.6 megs. We have the capacity, with the flick of the switch, to get 10 megs right now… a change with the organization called IESO.” The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is the coordinator and integrator of Ontario’s electricity system, monitoring the energy needs of the province, balancing supply and demand and directing the flow of electricity across Ontario’s transmission lines. Barbeau told council, “I believe there might be merit to introducing the subject with the Minister of Energy and discuss the benefit of the power plant to the community.” He suggested that the upgrade would have positive dividends for the sustainability of the facility and a quicker payback of loans.

Coun. Dan Gagné noted that the stated priority for the provincial government was affordable housing, and wondered if it was timely to have a delegation regarding the old mill site. CAO Barbeau said it wouldn’t be timely for a “quality pitch”, however, “We have our housing study and we can share that with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and indicate that if there are funds available for affordable housing… [but] unless we have something concrete and a target or a niche proposal …it might be premature.” Director of Economic Development, Stephan Poulin, added “It might be more of an awareness thing with the Minister, to at least plant that seed… at least the Minister is aware in future years we …have a firm detailed plan … from a housing development side and also an economic development side.”

Mayor Thorne Rochon also raised the possibility of a delegation on behalf of Au Château. “Last year Mr. Dupuis of the Château had submitted an application for the additional building for the seniors’ apartments… I don’t know whether there would be any place for us as a municipality to bring that project forward because it is ready to go, or whether we would be stepping on toes.” Barbeau told the mayor it was a “perfect project” to advocate for and suggested to consult with the board and the director. “In general, if we advocate on behalf of a community partner and assist them in any way, shape or form, this is the municipal council that represents everybody, so that’s certainly within the bounds of what you can request.” In any event the mayor pointed out that not all delegation requests are granted, but it never hurts to ask. “Be reasonable about it because it does take staff time to prepare the materials just to make the delegation request,” when 444 other municipalities are going to be doing the same.

Request to purchase property at 130 Montreal Street

In 2022, then council declared lands at 130 Montreal St. as surplus. The land was evaluated at $10,000, and a prospective purchaser offered $5,000. Municipal Clerk Melanie Ducharme said of the lands in question, “They are located behind existing residential properties on Ottawa St. One of them is currently used for parking. The other one is largely rock. It was widowed and isolated when we sold property to the school board for the expansion of Jeunesse Active. There was this lot left over which is landlocked municipal property that has no access to any other municipal property nor any road, so they’d like to buy it for expansion to their existing holding.” The lot in question is 66×132.

Coun. Fern Pellerin said he thought, considering the lot size, $10,000 was very reasonable. Coun. Kris Rivard pointed out that a much smaller piece of surplus land in River Valley sold for more, and he felt it should sell at market value, but “At the same time, if it’s of use to nobody else…” Ms. Ducharme said it could not be built up as it has no access to services, water or sewer. Coun. Rivard pointed out that once the land is merged “They’ll be able to extend water from their current property.” Ducharme said that potential was there, but the land “is virtually solid rock.” Mayor Thorne Rochon noted she didn’t like to undersell municipal properties. “I don’t think $10,000 is really a lot of money for an area of land that size.” She asked for a show of hands to determine if council would accept the $5,000 offer, which was refused.

Request to purchase municipal land 61 Riverfront

The former owner of a residential property on Riverfront built a structure on vacant municipal property and the current owner asked to purchase 5 metres to cure the encroachment. They wish to build another shed further down the property. Clerk Ducharme said it was a very deep property of about 179 meters. The town had yet to get a valuation of the land requested, the first step in the process to transfer land. Coun. St-Louis questioned whether the sale of the land, which abuts a park and soccer field, would create an impediment for parking in the area. Ducharme responded, “The parking area is delineated. It’s quite a far distance away from what is being sought and it wouldn’t impede on any of the use of the property by the public at all. This location is just bush.” Two metres would cure the encroachment, Mayor Thorne Rochon pointed out, “I’m just a little confused as to why they want the extra?” Regardless, council approved pursuing the process for the transfer, starting with a valuation.

Lang’s Park to be sold

Council previously asked Administration to periodically come forward with potential surplus properties for sale, in order to consolidate resources. “One of those properties that we’re bringing forward … is the excess trailer parking that was formerly called Lang’s Park.” The land was developed as a parking lot for the Fiddle Fest and was also formerly used for dumping snow. The 2.86 acres is by the railway tracks at 261 Coursol Rd. and ideally situated for a commercial or housing opportunity. “But if it just sits in our hands, vacant as it is, then it really doesn’t serve anything,” said Barbeau. The suggestion met with general approval by council, with Coun. Restoule suggesting a reserve bid to keep it fair to taxpayers. “It’s a prime piece of land,” he noted, with water and sewer access. Barbeau said the land would be appraised.

Coun. Rivard called the current condition “an eyesore” and suggested it would be ideal for non-profit housing. CAO Barbeau responded, “I don’t know of best use… whether you get more activity or bang for your buck just leaving it to the market and seeing what commercial development can happen. But certainly, that is a Council discussion, if that’s what you want… We’re bringing forward properties that we feel surplus to our needs. How we get rid of them is entirely council’s decision, but our position would be that the easiest way would be to sell this to a potential developer and create some commercial activity. If Council wishes to go a different route, that’s fine.” Rivard reconsidered and said, “It will take a long time to work affordable housing. …It’s a large chunk of land out of our community so I think I might agree that it might be better to go commercially.”

Mayor Thorne Rochon added, “It’s kind of close to everything. In some of the conferences that I’ve attended, it’s clear that the priorities of both provincial and federal levels of government in the funding that they’re putting out is really geared towards housing. … It would be great to get a valuation on it. Once we know what the value of the property is as it stands, as commercial property, that may impact on what we decide to do. Getting a valuation alone does not commit us to selling or even declaring it surplus.” Council decided to move forward with an Opinion of Value, and bring a motion to declare the land surplus to the next meeting.

Summer Council Meetings

Meetings for the summer will be reduced to one a month, July 11th and August 15th.

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