Well, the end of the first half of this decade and the first full calendar year of this Council’s term has come and gone. This was to have been posted New Year’s Eve but, well, it wasn’t done. In any case, during that year, we got:
- 20 meetings of Council and 31 meetings of General Committee, 11 of which were budget meetings (6 for 2015 and 5 for 2016);
- 6 new committees: Fire Services Review Committee (they didn’t like the one the previous Council paid for and I don’t blame them); Downtown Parking Committee; Age Friendly Committee (senior age that is); Canada Day Celebrations Committee (I don’t know if anyone’s on it yet); a Region-Wide Transit Review Committee; and a City Operations Review Committee;
- The budget for 2015 gave us all a tax increase (City portion only) of 3.8%;
- 2 special meetings to discuss Thorold’s aging buildings which at least produced a priority list for projects, being (1) the Arenas, (2) the Operations Centre, (3) Fire Station #1, (4) the Library and Chestnut Hall (they’re connected), and (5) the Darlene Ryan Port Robinson and Allanburg Community Centres. This list is subject to change, of course, should there be specific grants of which to take advantage, or if they change their minds;
- 8 budget overruns and 1 pre-approval for this coming budget. I may have missed some, but that’s what I found in the agendas;
- Trees disappeared from Thorold streets almost as fast as dandelions grew, the ash trees falling to the culling that’s required to try to control the spread of the emerald ash borer. I know it was necessary, but my street, which used to be almost like a green tunnel in summer, this year looked almost barren;
- Council budgeted $1.2 million (financed) for repairs to the Doherty (New) Arena. The work is done and our Chief Building Official managed to save enough money on it to do some extra work, including repairing the roof on the Old Arena. If Councillor Ugulini has his way, there’ll be another $1 million this year;
- As seems to have become a Council tradition, the Hydro reserve and its companion report were trotted out for this term’s Council and then put back to bed untouched;
- Thorold’s new Tourism Advisory Committee worked with new Tourism Agent Susan Morin of Venture Niagara. Council was sufficiently impressed with the results to give Ms Morin a new two-year contract;
- The question of live streaming of Council meetings arose once again and it looks like it may be going ahead this time, to start on an experimental basis sometime this spring;
- After a great deal of campaigning by City politicians and staff, cycling groups, and other interested parties, the Region agreed to pay for half of the cost of the operation of the Port Robinson Ferry plus the same amount again to improve hours of operation. The City had asked them to fund it all but it’s better than nothing. The City now has 2 years to find some way for the ferry, known locally as ‘Bridge-It’, or talk the Seaway into living up to its moral obligations (it’s business of course – no morality involved);
- On a request by Councillor Handley, Council got another look at the 2013 Council Remuneration Report which had several options for raising their pay, all of which were turned down by Council at that time, except for the raise for the Mayor. It may not be dead just yet;
All in all, they did fairly well this year, bearing in mind how City Hall functions, better than some I’ve known.
So, does the outlook for 2016 look any better. Sorry, I checked my crystal ball but saw only smoke and haze. I don’t know whether that’s the prediction or if the processor in my crystal ball needs replacing. All I know so far is that budget talks are still not done and there are a number of carry-over issues that haven’t been resolved yet. So, all I can say is, good luck to us all and…
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2016!!