There was a slight change in the tax level last meeting, although it was relatively insignificant. Due to the couple of items they had put back on, it had gone 2.25% to 2.39%, for a value of about $26.43 per average household per year. That doesn’t include any changes for the education portion, but there have been indications that their portion is to be held at last year’s level.
Before the main budget discussions started, Council passed, as one: a contract with Venture Niagara to provide tourism services for the City ($60,000); the cost of providing services for the Lock Seven Centre ($10,000); the possibility of paying for students for tourism ($15,000), which may not be needed and; money to help the Historical Society to set up a museum at the Lock Seven Centre ($20,000). Putting it all together in one motion (it’s all related) seemed cause quite a bit of confusion for a while, but it passed unanimously.
In the course of tackling the budget, they discussed the idea of hiring an IT manager to take care of the City’s telephone and computer facilities for an estimated $100,000 per year so that the City can better automate their services. In the end however, after some discussion, it was decided to leave it for now.
Tuesday night was a great deal of discussion with very little to show for it but a lot of ideas, some good, some not so great. For instance, a discussion came up about what to do about the Darlene Ryan Port Robinson Community Centre because part of the ceiling in the kitchen came down recently due to an ice dam. The Centre requires a great deal of work and it was noted that “the only thing holding the ceiling up is the light fixtures.”
No Councillor was talking about repairing it, but Councillor Handley suggested that, since there is a concern about the strength of the floor in the bays at the Port
Robinson Fire Station #3, they could house the trucks in a large Quonset hut with a façade and have the Community Centre in the redone bays. That, however, crosses over into Fire Dept. territory and the Fire Services Review which is being done to replace the one we paid for previously, which didn’t have any great options.
Under that plan, or any that moves the Community Centre, the present one and its land would be sold. It should be pointed out that the main part of the Centre is designated for its heritage value.
The topic then turned to the City’s other ailing buildings and quickly zeroed in on Chestnut Hall, which has over $400,000 in deferred work and which the Building Dept. estimates would cost about $800,000 to restore (it too is a heritage property). There was a move to take $100,000 from reserves for either structural reinforcement or demolition. Councillor Handley suggested separating it from the Library and selling it. There would be costs associated with that as well however as all of the Library’s services (hydro, gas, water, etc.) are hooked up in Chestnut Hall and all the programmes take place in the Hall’s meeting room, requiring an extension to the Library. The motion about the $100,000 was dropped.
At this point Councillor Neale suggested that it was pointless to attack this piecemeal, as it would only end up costing a great deal of extra money. He requested that Council have an all-day meeting to discuss the various buildings, what the implications might be for various actions and how projects might be incorporated with others for maximum efficiency. The meeting was agreed to but no date has been set.
Councillor Ugulini felt that the City was missing out on revenue with only one by-law enforcement officer on the street and the other desk-bound at City Hall. He also felt that they should be providing weekend coverage so that noise and parking complaints can be dealt with. The Chief By-Law Officer replied that one person with knowledge of the by-laws is required inside to deal with the public. That led to a host of other discussions, including Councillor Handley asking whether the Operations supervisors can still ticket cars blocking snowploughs (they can’t) and Councillor Long suggesting the possibility of using a service like the Commissionaires, so they can get more coverage for their money. The Chief By-Law Officer was asked for a report on the possibility of Operations supervisors once again writing parking tickets.
To wrap up the evening, very little was accomplished in the way of settling the budget. It did, however, generate some interesting discussion which, if nothing else, gave an insight into how the members of this new Council think.
There will be a special General Committee meeting in the Council Chambers on Saturday, March 14, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. to discuss the futures of the City of Thorold’s buildings. Budget Meeting #3 will be on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30.