West Nipissing Council highlights


Meeting held April 4, 2023

Need for Palliative Care volunteers

Scott Gardiner, Hospice Coordinator with the Near North Palliative Care Network (NNPCN), presented the looming crisis in palliative care across Ontario, along with a plea for volunteers for his organization. The service NNPCN provides is free of charge to the public because it is volunteer-based. “By 2046, there’s going to be one out of every five Ontarians age 85 and up… about 4.6 million people…  Currently we have around 4500 palliative care beds in the entire system – between hospitals, long term care facilities and residential hospice.” The NNPCN is a “visiting hospice”, where people go out into the area communities to provide aid to those nearing death. “We’re obviously facing a crisis in palliative care at the moment and it’s only going to get worse. So, what can we do to help to stem the tide of this crisis?” Gardiner outlined the training his organization provides free of charge: palliative support, grief and bereavement, “And we offer training called NAV Care Training, which helps people to help their clients, their friends, their loved ones, their family, navigate through their own illnesses, where to find certain services.”

His hope is to develop “a small army” to ease the burden of the stretched healthcare system, to “let the client stay at home for as long as possible, and who among us wouldn’t prefer to be in our own home rather than a hospice or a hospital bed?” The volunteers also provide relief to family caregivers. Gardiner asked the town for support in publicizing and promoting the services and the call for volunteers. The training modules are online and range from 6 to 10 hours.

Mayor Kathleen Thorne Rochon didn’t know the organization existed before the presentation, and was eager to help. “You mentioned also that the training was available not just to people who are looking to volunteer, but also to primary caregivers to help them maybe manage the care of palliative or elderly family members and loved ones… I think what you’re doing is excellent… I will try to reach out to some of our other community partners.” Coun. Kris Rivard commented on the aging population, noting that “In the north, the aging population is higher than southern Ontario,” and consequently the crisis is greater. Coun. Jamie Restoule emphasized that if anyone wishes to take the training, it can be done at their own pace.

Tax ratios reviewed

Director of Corporate Services Alisa Craddock provided an overview of how tax ratios work to distribute the tax burden between residential, commercial, multi-residential and industrial sectors. Simplified, the tax ratio is a multiplier, so if the residential rate is 1:1, and the commercial rate is 2:1, it means that the commercial rate is twice the residential rate.  Ratios serve to distribute taxes across the property classes, and is reviewed every year when the levy is determined. Craddock advised council that property assessment impacts the “level of fairness”, and the province of Ontario has made adjustments in the past to promote that objective. “Multi-residential is one that back in 2018, the province started to force our hand on and forced [municipalities] down to that 2:1. We were a little bit higher than that and they brought in this new class called New Multi Res so multi residential properties built after May of 2017 are [rated at 1:1].”
After considerable deliberation, council decided to maintain the status quo for this round, excepting Industrial, which will be lowered to be more competitive with surrounding municipalities, to encourage industrial investment in West Nipissing. Council requested further comparators for the next meeting, prior to determining the final level of reduction. Craddock said of Industrial, “We’ve had some inquiries, that’s why I’m bringing it to Council; if you make the change now, it doesn’t impact anybody because there’s nobody in that group.” Currently the industrial rate is 6.7:1, which investors found prohibitive. That rate is a carryover from when the mill was operative in Sturgeon Falls.

Mayor Thorne Rochon said, “If there are opportunities on the horizon, I think it’s really important that we remain competitive with neighboring jurisdictions… We do tend to be a more attractive place for development because our planning department is very efficient and does try to get things through quickly and we also have zero development charges… We want to try to be investment friendly and development friendly. … Especially since it has no impact on anybody in the community currently, it’s not going to change anything for anybody, now would be the time to do it if that’s Council’s will.” Councillors Dan Gagné, Roch St-Louis and Kris Rivard were in tandem, suggesting a rate of 2.75:1. In addition, multi-residential built prior to 2017 (7 units or more) will see a reduction of 2%.

Procurement policy

Council approved a procurement policy to allow departments to spend on normal operational activities pre-budget approval. Alisa Craddock stressed that the policy does not allow departments to spend on new projects without council approval. While agreeing to the process, Coun. Dan Gagné indicated he wanted to see a draft budget earlier than currently provided, “Before the end of the year, if possible,” which would help avoid any confusion over legitimate expenditures. CAO Jay Barbeau agreed that was the plan, as long as council understood that administration doesn’t receive agency (ie. DNSSAB) budgets until later, and the draft budget would be based on assumptions and estimates. “Miss Craddock and I have indicated that we will be meeting and starting our process in September and hopefully having Council come to the table in November”, and that administration would not proceed with any extra-budgetary expenditures without bringing it before council.

Sale of property in River Valley

A small road allowance in River Valley that was appraised at $15,000 value had a counter-offer of $4500 approved, on the basis that the land’s real value was ultimately determined by the potential purchaser, in this case Daniel Giroux. Coun. Anne Tessier questioned the need for an appraisal, which was not required according to the by-law, to which CAO Barbeau responded that in the interest of transparency and accountability, it was considered advisable to get an opinion of value before selling public lands. “It could become a slippery slope with respect to ensuring that this Council is acting according to the wishes of the owners of that land, which is 14,500 people, so we have always erred on the side of caution.” Tessier countered, “If that property falls under that exemption, to me, my opinion would be that we would follow that exemption as far as the offer … by Mr. Giroux without having to have to go through the appraisal process.” Barbeau reiterated that “The reason we … exceeded that policy is we’ve been very careful, and especially in smaller communities, to ensure that we’re playing things by the numbers so that there’s no ill perception on how we operate, but, as I indicated, if the Council wants to accept $4500… Council certainly can… I don’t have an opinion on that.”

Coun. Kati Nicol said she went to view the site and “In my opinion, I feel like it’s only of value to Mr. Giroux. The municipality can’t really do much with this parcel; I feel it would be a good idea to accept his offer. He has plans to build.” Coun. Jérôme Courchesne agreed, “Working in the real estate sector, something is only worth as much as what someone’s willing to pay for it. At the end of the day, I think we have a bona fide offer in front of us and I would be comfortable in accepting it as such.” Coun. St-Louis told council he approved of the administration going the extra mile to get an appraisal, to ensure fairness for all.

Council Term Plan

Council received a Term Plan document devised after several sessions in which members determined their goals and objectives for the Municipality over the next 4-year term in office, with a chance to provide a final review. Coun. Nicol said, “I think they encompass all our ideas really well.” The strategic plan, or Term Plan, will be available to the public upon finalization, and outlines all the individual and collective objectives of council. Coun. Gagné called the plan “excellent. My only question …how are we going to [evaluate progress]?” In answer, CAO Barbeau said, “It’s now my role to operationalize it. …This is now the Bible that I will be reporting on with the initiatives that fall under those categories and others. These are great strategic directions; the mayor is owed a lot of credit …This crew of staff are going to be working at fulfilling those expectations that Council has to the best of our ability.” Mayor Thorne Rochon indicated her pleasure at receiving the document and the hope for regular reviews, every 6 months or annually, as “it is a living document”.

Too much Crime Stoppers signage?

Following a previous presentation by Crime Stoppers, who indicated they could provide free signage for the municipality and private enterprise, it appears the demand was a bit excessive. CAO Barbeau commented, “We can run a risk to [be perceived as] the Crime Stoppers capital of the world,” and while he said it was “a great initiative, it could also be sending a different message with respect to crime.” He was asking Council to review locations for the signs, signaling landfills as being a particular problem, “We are having issues with our landfills and breaking into the lots and getting steel stolen, and different things.”

Coun. Rivard said that the signs would not impact the aesthetics of a landfill site, and added, “Our public beaches, because people leave their cars unattended for quite a few hours and I know at the Clear Lake beach there’s been some kayaks stolen, some cars broken into and things like that.” He also suggested that areas with frequent illegal dumping could be targeted. Mayor Thorne Rochon suggested that members Gagné and St-Louis bring the matter forward at the Police Services Board, on which they sit, “Because the OPP, with their crime stats [could] identify other areas which may benefit from signs where we have higher rates of property crimes or vandalism.” The signs are also available to private enterprise; the mayor suggested the Chamber of Commerce could consult with their members. Coun. Restoule suggested setting some kind of criteria. Council agreed that each member would provide some requests.

Proposal to lease OVR land

Council denied a proposal to lease lands along the railway in Verner by Coloured Aggregates (north of River Valley) so they could deliver product by truck, stockpile on site and transport from there by rail. The proposed area was deemed unsuitable as the unopened road allowance is too close to a residential area in Verner. The issues of dust, noise, excessive truck traffic, potential hazards to children playing in the area, were all discussed. CAO Barbeau commented, “I don’t want to be perceived as being anti-economic-development or anti-small business support, but we also have to be cognizant of land use adjacent.”

Coun. Fern Pellerin agreed, “I think it’s a business that’s got no business in the residential area. That type of business anyway, because, like you say, coming down on Cartier St. …where it’s situated. The winds in the summer time, 95% of the time it’s south-southwest and it’s definitely going to the people in town. The noise is the same thing. Then they proposed to carry out on Riviere St. I was just there tonight talking to a few residents at that street… The houses are 10-12-15 feet from the road with quite a few young families. The kids got their hockey goal in the street, because it’s a dead end. So, it’s not the type of operation for that area at all… If that company will do something like this, we should maybe approach the industrial park.” Coun. Tessier suggested an open forum between the business and local residents. Most members thought the residents would not appreciate the truck traffic, with Coun. Gagné expressing concern over how it might affect the quality of the water in the Veuve River, and other councillors suggesting looking for a different site.

Water Education suggested

Manager of Water & Waste Water, Peter Ming, tabled his annual report for the water plants in Verner and Sturgeon Falls, which will be posted to the municipal website. The reports summarize water treatment processes, test results, a management review and operating procedures. Discussion arose from Coun. Kris Rivard commenting on high water usage dates around certain weather conditions. “It just kind of grinds my gears when I’m driving around – people…watering their lawn right before [it rains]… a waste. And the chemical cost, the operating costs, it’s all very high, right? … I’d just love to see some sort of educational opportunities or any conservation opportunities out there. Some towns [use] the rain barrel system… [which could] alleviate some of those strains on our water system.”

Peter Ming agreed, “Education would be a key for that. More so for the Verner system that has more difficulty handling these drought conditions than the Sturgeon Falls location. …It’s something that I could look into.” There are regulations around watering lawns, and it was suggested this would also be a function for the new bylaw enforcement officer. Coun. Pellerin asked for an overview of what water meters would cost. Council was told the price has lowered. CAO Barbeau said that an analysis of costs would be a good idea to bring to a future meeting.

By-law Enforcement Officer hired

The successful candidate for the posting of a by-law enforcement officer for West Nipissing is Patrick Rainville. Mayor Thorne Rochon said, “I’d like to welcome Mr. Patrick Rainville to the municipal team and we’re very happy to have him with us.”

Club Calumet funding request

Council received a request from Club Calumet that the town subsidize their rent, which is $3,790 per month. CAO Barbeau said that the town does support certain charitable organizations, but “Never have we supported a private club like this, despite their providing community benefit.” Coun. Restoule added, “I find, with all due respect to the club and the members and the francophone community, it seems like a high amount …You know we’re going through challenges in terms of tax amounts and it’s quite a high amount in times when we’re trying to find savings …for our residents.” Coun. Rivard agreed, “I know they’re a great group that does some great things. I signed up for my first membership this year and attended two events… It seems very high for a private club … That’s $50,000 – a fair chunk of change to be supporting one group.” He added that he would like to see some justification for that expense. CAO Barbeau called it a “slippery slope” with respect to donations. “I, as an administrator, would caution council.” Coun. Roch St-Louis said an approval would open the floodgates for similar requests from private organizations. The request was denied.

Water & Waste Water and Solid Waste rates

The rates for Water & Waste Water, and Solid Waste, were discussed at previous budget meetings and approved at this council meeting. A single-family dwelling in West Nipissing will pay $1,481.66 for both water and sewer this year. Multiple dwellings will be the same amount for the first dwelling and a further $740.85 for each additional dwelling. Cache Bay residents not connected to sanitary sewer will pay $320.89/yr. A swimming pool will cost $80.47 per year.

Solid Waste rates for 2023 are broken down according to community. Every household unit in Sturgeon Falls, Springer, Cache Bay, Verner and Field will cost $295, with each additional unit or seasonal units costing $177 each. In outlying areas where garbage pick-up is provided, the cost will be $265 per household unit. Where only a landfill is provided and the household has to transport their own waste, the bill will be $157/yr.  Lodges, trailer parks, restaurants, grocery stores, will pay $430 per year.

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