Just a couple of comments about last week’s Council meeting.
The Mayor introduced a “Guidance Target” for staff in the the upcoming budget process. It originally sounded more like a limit of a 3% increase, with at least 1% to go to infrastructure projects or funds. However, he made the unusual remark about the figure not being carved in stone, and then created the aforementioned title for what he was doing. I understand the sentiment, since Council puts a lot of demands on staff for funds, and sometimes they come in within the limits then to have them thrown out because of all the things they want done. But is it wise to tell staff in advance that they’ll be forgiven for going over?
Council renewed the lease for the Quonset hut on Wellington Street for use as a “temporary” base for Parks workers. But it has been temporary ever since the old Parks Barn was condemned some time ago ago and was supposedly no longer to be necessary once the Public Works was redone. Whatever happened to that project, which has had money earmarked for some time now?
Paid parking in the downtown is coming. Thorold, one of the last holdouts for paid parking, at least at this end of the Peninsula, is surrendering to the need to create more parking spaces to meet demand. Once the new Parking Plan is implemented, there will be machines like at the hospitals and in St. Catharines and some lots will have paid monthly parking passes. The intention is to get all-day parking out of the downtown, especially the lower level, where students park to catch the bus to save themselves parking charges at Brock. It’s also to make the building (or rebuilding) of the lots to start paying for themselves. I don’t know how popular this will be among downtown residents and employees, who will have to buy passes or park down by the Book Depot (no charge planned – so far). The good news is that, if you’re a customer, the intent is that the paid parking won’t kick in until after two hours.
Speaking of the Parking Plan, there was a minor flare-up at Council over the plan. Councillor Whelan, who is a member of the Downtown Parking Committee, wanted the report put off until there are costs. Councillor Ugulini, who is also on the committee, noted that the this report was just to give direction to staff to go ahead and start getting the pricing. Then, when Whelan persisted, Ugulini blew his top (it had been a rather long night, what with four public meetings), and pointed out heatedly that Whelan was there when the committee voted unanimously to send the report to Council. That was the closest this Council has come to heat between the members, maybe ever in this term. Unless, of course, you count when the Mayor called the police to eject Councillor Handley.