West Nipissing Council highlights


Meeting held February 7, 2023

Crimestoppers delegation

Council received a delegation from the Near North Crimestoppers, specifically Jean Lemieux, the Police Coordinator, and Michelle Gerrie, a board member who also resides in West Nipissing. The purpose was to bring awareness of the service, which is to give people opportunity to provide information to policing authorities without having to talk to the police. Jean Lemieux explained, “People are afraid they might have to automatically go to court and will be discovered… Crimestoppers allows them to provide information anonymously… Anybody who provides info, we will never know who the are, and that’s why the program is so successful.” He clarified that the organization is not directly involved in policing but does work hand-in-hand. The program started in the United States, initiated to solve a particular murder in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1976. “Right now we are in 22 countries, with 88 programs in Canada – 37 in Ontario… For every crime committed someone knows something about it – people know stuff, people hear stuff,” said Lemieux.

If a tip helps to resolve a case, a reward is offered, but Lemieux noted that 75% of people do not want the reward. Over 35 years, the Near North Crimestoppers has received 21,739 tips resulting in 1,772 arrests, $216,000 in rewards paid out, $4.4 million in property and cash recovered, and $57.5 million in drugs seized. There are 16 board members representing the coverage area, who also support fundraising activities, participate in community events such as Jail-A-Thons and the Parade of Lights in Sturgeon Falls. They also provide bilingual Crimestoppers signs free of charge to any municipality who requests. Coun. Fern Pellerin requested a sign for the Verner area. Board member Michelle Gerrie invited council members to contact her if they require either signage or representation to their area.

Social media policy

Council received a draft social media policy to review, establishing general guidelines. CAO Jay Barbeau noted, “There are some tips and cautions with respect to personal social media… not just directed at council but also staff.” He spoke to instances where staff “innocently wanted to comment on social media” and received blowback. Coun. Anne Tessier mentioned the removal of comments by citizens that were deemed offensive. “Sometimes a person is frustrated, feeling not being heard.” Barbeau responded, “I’m not in a hurry to curtail free speech… It’s rare that we’d remove someone’s post unless it’s targeted at a particular employee and derogatory … abusive. …Everyone has a right to speak their mind as long as it is in a civil manner.” He noted that the town welcomes feedback, suggestions and ideas. Mayor Kathleen Thorne Rochon also suggested that councillors provide terms of use on their community pages directed at their particular wards, “standards of behaviour acceptable for your page”, to avoid inappropriate posts. She suggested administrative staff might compose a standard terms of reference that could be used by councillors. The social media policy as presented was accepted by council and will come forward as a resolution at the next meeting. 

Honorariums for boards and committees

At a prior meeting, Coun. Fern Pellerin asked that the honorarium for volunteer board and committee members be reviewed with an eye to reducing the amounts, and staff was asked to provide comparative information from other municipalities. The general range from the provided documentation showed a wide disparity, but also showed that West Nipissing was well in the median range, if not lower. The suggested options were status quo, different rates for in-person or virtual attendance, and whether mileage should be paid separately. Coun. Pellerin raised his own circumstance sitting on two boards that met back-to-back, for which he received two honorariums, indicating he felt the amount was excessive. He suggested $30 to $40 plus mileage. There was some concern that the tracking of all those inputs would, in the end, prove costly and onerous for administration. Coun. Dan Gagné noted, “I’d rather pay a lump sum if you travel… don’t want to put the burden for those calculations onto staff.” Coun. Kris Rivard supported this position, adding that he did not see the $75 current stipend as an issue. Coun. Jérôme Courchesne (Lavigne area) said he was in favour of mileage. “Coming from Ward 8 it is quite a ways from Lavigne, Monetville to Sturgeon and back again – find a sweet spot between the two.” He suggested renumeration of $50 for central Wards 1 to 4, and $25 extra in travel for distant wards 6 to 8. Mayor Thorne Rochon said, “We wanted to get participation from all areas of the community. Because of geographic size, there is some inequality as to what it costs to participate.” 

Some councillors did not agree with changing the base rate of $75 after filling all the board seats. Coun. Roch St-Louis said, “We already have all these people who put there names forward, they joined with the anticipation of what they are going to get.” The mayor said she tended to agree with Coun. St-Louis, “We’ve done the recruitment at this point, we gave the terms of their volunteer work with us at $75; I feel it is unfair at this point to change the terms.” Coun. Pellerin noted that many applicants indicated they were not expecting renumeration at all.

Also up for discussion was whether those attending virtually should receive the same as those attending meetings in person. Coun. Jamie Restoule pointed out that the time, virtual or otherwise, remains the same. The final draft policy was that there be no change to the honorarium of $75, but that the volunteers from outlying wards of 5, 6, 7 and 8 receive an additional flat rate of $25 to cover travel, which amount will be reviewed over time if travel costs increase substantially. 

Parking fines double

Budget deliberations starting soon

Snowmobile noise complaint

… to read more, click here.

Leave a Reply