COVID, Climate, Communications

Communications: Broadband Internet Initiatives

The pandemic has highlighted that good internet access is both an essential service and in significant parts of south Frontenac of poor-quality. 

A recent report from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) summarizes recent federal and provincial internet upgrade initiatives.

Rideau Lakes Township recently took a more direct approach subsidizing WTC, a local internet provider, with eight hundred thousand dollars to bring broadband internet service to 900 residences and business: a priority initiative in their economic development strategy.  The full agreement with WTC is item 9.6 on their April 6, 2020 council meeting agenda.

Rideau Lakes direct approach, while expected to get quicker results, also raises the question of whether it is property taxes that should underwrite private companies to provide this essential service rather than having the federal and provincial governments, which have promised significant sums of money for rural internet, spend the money more effectively.

At the last Council meeting I asked for a report on which properties in South Frontenac have access to broadband fibre: as far as I can tell no one knows.  Let’s hope that the providers will work with the Township to identify the local areas in need of better service: which seems like a necessary step to making improvements.

Climate Change

On May 19 Council approved a `limited scope’ approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation with actions for approval `being developed in house’. What is missing is both a sense of urgency for green house gas emissions mitigation and a commitment to maximize public engagement.

Climate change is similar to the worst of the COVID-19 crisis in that for the last 30 years there have been many studies documenting serious problems in Long term care homes. 

None of the issues now reported daily are new. They are not problems that can be fixed in the midst of a crisis which explains why we have thousands of unnecessary deaths, tens of thousands of people who could not be with their dying family members and hundreds of staff who became ill at work, some of them very seriously, with a few dying. 

For the past 50 years we have known that too many greenhouse gas emissions are a serious problem.  We even studied the problem in South Frontenac in 2004, though few concrete policies came from that work.

Council`s decisions to develop actions for climate change adaptation and mitigation in-house makes sense.  There is no shortage of recommendations on how to reduce green house gases.

What we need to do is identify which approaches make sense in our smaller rural community and, as a matter of urgency, act on them.

As in the nursing homes, when the climate shocks hit it is too late to correct the problem.

Council’s report says that the public ‘could’ be consulted on what actions we need to take.  Once again, like the pandemic response, for effective actions the public needs to accept their necessity. South Frontenac resident’s also have many great ideas on what will work in their life to help mitigate climate change. Our residents need to be the centre of any climate change strategy.

I will be hosting an on-line working group, to help answer the question: ‘what should we be doing in a smaller rural municipality to reduce green house gas emissions?’

Please contact me if you would like to be involved in this discussion.  I hope many of you will, the results will affect all of us.

COVID-19

Our public health unit and local residents deserve a significant amount of credit for making Kingston and the Frontenac’s one of the lowest COVID-19 incident areas in Ontario, including no outbreaks in nursing homes.

For better or worse we do live in an interconnected world, are a social species and COVID-19 is not gone. Many of our seasonal residents from Toronto and Ottawa, and our American friends, while they will not be back for a while, will eventually come. 

All of this is to say, that we are in a marathon with many kilometres to go.  We need to proceed patiently and methodically. Support our local businesses. Say hi to friends. Enjoy our community and environment. And, maintain the necessary precautions to limit the spread of infection.  Preventing the spread of the infection is a responsibility for all or us.

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Community Questions on COVID-19 and Township Responses

Last Week the Township asked community members to submit any questions they have about the Township’s State of Emergency and COVID-19.  The following are answers to a representative selection of the questions from the May 5 Council meeting agenda.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit a question.

1.Submitted at Tuesday April 28th 2020 5:23 PM

I am one of the public health resident physicians working at KFLA public health. I live in Inverary. Unfortunately our street does not have access to high speed fibre internet. It’s available in our community and the next street over has access. This makes working from home very difficult. Does council have a plan to encourage WTC to extend the fibre lines by one street and provide better access to the community?

Township Response:

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), has released a Broadband Fund to provide funding support for providers wishing to “close the digital divide” in areas of the Country, particularly rural areas, where broadband access is limited. The Township has provided letters of support to companies who are making application to the fund in order to improve broadband access within South Frontenac. https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/internet/internet.htm

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) is a non-profit organization established by the Municipalities of Eastern Ontario which is dedicated to improving rural connectivity, supporting economic growth and enhancing quality of life. You can learn more about EORN’s efforts to expand broadband into rural areas here: https://www.eorn.ca/en/index.aspx 2.

  1. Submitted at Tuesday April 28th 2020 8:07 PM

As times are tough for many and community resources like South Frontenac Community Services will see increases of use such as the food bank, is South Frontenac approving an increase in some funding being provided this year to assist with this very essential service?

Township Response:

Many organizations have experienced challenges associated with the COVID19 pandemic. In response, the Township has deferred payments, waived interest and penalties, and taken other financial measures to ease the impact of the pandemic on all taxpayers including commercial and NFP property owners. This attempts to provide relief across the Township to all those affected. The Township has been a financial supporter of South Frontenac Community Services for many years. In addition to funding which has been earmarked annually for SFCS (one of few organizations which has received a specific budget allocation annually) the Township provided additional financial support in each of the past two years (2019 and 2020) through an arrangement with the Kingston Kinsmen Dream Home Lottery. Natural,

Township also considers applications from various organizations for community grants, a merit-based application process which allocates a set amount of funding for worthwhile community initiatives. Council is not currently considering additional funding for any of these purposes. We are also mindful that there may be significant need for financial support across many other organizations and sectors, and that the Township is unable to provide support to all those in need.

  1. Submitted at Tuesday April 28th 2020 8:07 PM

Due to state of emergency and not wanting to tie up fire departments, there is a burn ban in place. The offer of the brush drop off, and opening dumps are only helpful if you have a vehicle to transport the yard waste. Will we have to wait till the state of emergency is over before the burn ban is lifted? Or, could we have a day where twp truck could pick up yard waste? Twp employees might be able to work this into their schedule this year with them having a disruption to their regular workload. Piles of paper products & yard waste is piling up, attracting rodents, and also a fire liability. Thanks so much for setting up this format & keeping us informed.

Township Response:

While part of the reason for the burn ban is to ensure sufficient fire department capacity for pandemic-related emergency response, cool, windy weather and dryness of brush continue to support enacting a ban. Even with a few days of recent rain, numerous large grass fires have had to be extinguished in the past few weeks. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has also enacted a province-wide fire ban for its entire restricted fire zone which encompasses the entire northern portion of the Township including all of Bedford district and Frontenac Provincial Park. The Township has no discretion over this provincial ban.

Regular seasonal work has not subsided for public works personnel during the pandemic, and for various logistical reasons a separate residential yard waste door to door collection program is not possible at this time. The Township recognizes the challenges posed by the fire ban and will begin to lift its restrictions at the earliest possible opportunity.

  1. Submitted at Wednesday April 29th 2020 6:52 AM

When are you going to lift the total fire ban?

Township Response:

Part of the reason for the burn ban is to ensure sufficient fire department capacity for pandemic-related emergency response; however, cool, windy weather and dry conditions continue to support the need for a ban as well. Even with a few days of recent rain, numerous large grass fires have had to be extinguished in the past few weeks. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has also enacted a province-wide fire ban for its entire restricted fire zone which encompasses the entire northern portion of the Township including all of Bedford district and Frontenac Provincial Park. The Township has no discretion over this provincial ban. The Township recognizes the challenges posed by the fire ban and will begin to lift its own restrictions at the earliest possible opportunity.

  1. Submitted on Wednesday April 29th 2020 10:43 AM

Do you have an idea of when the dog park will be opened up? Dog owners were practicing social distancing before things were closed down. If the boat ramps can be safely opened, surely the dog park can be.

Township Response:

The government of Ontario has enacted Ontario Regulation 104/20 which requires that all outdoor recreation amenities including dog parks be closed to the public at least until May 6, 2020 – unless that date is extended (again) by the Province. As such, the Township has no discretion in reopening the dog park at this time. O.Reg 104/20 can be found here for your reference: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200104

Boat Launches are not included in this order, and have been interpreted to fall under a separate essential services order which generally permits transportation-related infrastructure or infrastructure that is used to access individuals’ residences to remain in operation. Notwithstanding, some other municipalities have elected to close their boat launches to the public.

  1. Submitted at Wednesday April 29th 2020 5:16 PM

Hi I am curious why staff have decided to cancel committee of adjustment meetings? Why aren’t we joining other municipalities and holding virtual meetings to ensure we can ensure things are still progressing. If we hold off then there will be considerable back log.

Township Response:

The Township elected to postpone only its April and May Committee of Adjustment meetings, as did many other municipalities, while we waited for guidance from the Province on acceptable ways of satisfying the public participation requirements of statutory public meetings so that decisions of the Committee could be deemed procedurally lawful. Also, earlier Provincial directives suggested that appeal periods for any Committee of Adjustment decisions would not begin until the Provincial State of Emergency was lifted, which would prevent any decisions from taking effect. The Township has since determined how it can comply with the public participation requirements of the Planning Act through electronic/virtual means and the Province has clarified that appeal periods can begin and conclude in the typical manner during the state of emergency. For these reasons, we are preparing to reconvene Committee of Adjustment in late May or Early June. Notice of these meetings will be posted through the Township website and other usual avenues.

  1. Seen submitted at Thursday April 30th 2020 6:43 AM

Will council spell out a policy on short-term cottage rentals? And explain a system for complaint/enforcement.

Township Response:

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Ontario enacted an essential workplaces order (O. Reg 82/20 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which requires that short-term rental properties are only permitted to operate if they are providing longer-term residential accommodations. Typical short-term, transient/vacation-type accommodations are prohibited at this time. That order can be found here under schedule 3 s. 3.(1).

If you feel that a property is in contravention of this or any other Provincial emergency orders you can report it locally to Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington Public Health (KFL&APH) using the form on the following KFL&APH webpage: https://www.kflaph.ca/en/healthy-living/covid-19-enforcement.aspx Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Township of South Frontenac is in the process of reviewing and updating its Official Plan which governs land use planning within the Township. Regulations for Short-term rentals typically begin with policies within an Official Plan followed by zoning by-law regulations and/or licensing requirements. Any policies or eventual regulations related to short-term rentals will be informed by public input, research, data collection and Council’s direction.

 

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Not Helpless with a Heart of Gold

A few people in South Frontenac are now infected with COVID 19 through community spread: at least one is seriously ill. We wish them speedy recoveries. Now is the time to take physical separation seriously, wash hands and stay at home.

These are extraordinary times and our community is responding with compassion, good humour, inventiveness and a heart of gold. Many in our community are working on the front-lines of health care and emergency response, from keeping people alive in the ICU to providing essential municipal services and ensuring that people get the food they need. Local businesses have stepped up with innovative solutions to help residents purchase the supplies they need and limit contact. We are not helpless.

Thank you. I am proud of my neighbours.

For information on the virus or how the Township is responding to COVID-19 call the Township offices 613-376-3027, or visit the municipal website.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or concerns. Also, if you know of someone who needs help, contact me and I will do my best to get them the services they need.

We will get through this. Life goes on. Even some other municipal issues were dealt with this month.

Protecting Lake Shorelines

Just before Canada locked-down, South Frontenac Council gave staff direction to report back with “the most effective and expeditious way to control tree cutting on lake shorelines.” Protecting natural vegetation on shorelines protects lake health and their aesthetic beauty.

The problems with clearing shorelines were raised when the developer of the Shield Shores condominium on Dog Lake clear-cut the shoreline before making the subdivision application.

Recently, a new owner of a lot within swimming distance of Sydenham clear-cut their steep shoreline and burned the wood on the ice. The burning was a provincial violation but there are no regulations to stop the cutting. This graphic illustration of the threat to our lakes shocked many people.

The main way the Township has limited tree cutting along shorelines has been by placing conditions on individual lots as part of the Committee of Adjustment variance process. Also, new lakeside subdivisions and condominiums, after they apply, usually have tree cutting restrictions.

The loophole is that the controls are only applied after the land has officially entered an approval process. A new bylaw, if passed, should close this loophole.

Ad-Bag Litter

Council has also asked for an action plan to deal with ad-bag newspapers thrown in the ditch along many Township roads. In some places they are put into people’s mail boxes. Just as often they are thrown beside mail boxes, or thrown at the end of driveways or randomly in ditches, apparently for the ground hogs to read. This is littering.

It would be nice to develop an effective strategy to stop all littering. But Sun Media’s ad-bag newspapers are a step above the relatively few people who randomly feel the need to drive chain store coffee cups out from Kingston to through them into our common front yard. Ad-bags are Township-wide coordinated littering every week.

There are options. The Township has met with the newspaper’s representatives and suggested that they could use the mail service like the Frontenac News. Alternately, the Township also offered to facilitate community boxes for the ad-bag newspapers where people could pick them up rather than out of the snow and rain at the end of their driveway. The company declined to pursue either of these options.

It is time for stronger legal powers to stop the ad-bag newspaper littering. It could be part of the Township strategy, which is in the works, to clean up the mess made by signs randomly posted, and often left to rot, along roads.

Septic Inspections

The Township is seriously considering taking over septic system approvals when Public Health stops providing that service next year. This may also provide an opportunity for a broader septic inspection program.

 

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South Frontenac COVID-19 Response: Updates to Service Delivery – March 20, 2020 Media Release

While our offices and facilities remain closed to the public, most municipal services will continue to be delivered and public communications via telephone and email remain in place during regular business hours.

In addition to these closures, please note the following changes to our service delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a need to reduce the spread of the virus:

Community Grants Applications: The deadline for 2020 Community Grant Submissions has been extended to April 30, 2020. Please continue to email your submissions to admin@southfrontenac.net or drop them off at 4432 George St. in our drop box located at the front door.
Sydenham Water Public Consultation Session: The Sydenham Water Public Consultation session scheduled for April 16, 2020 will be postponed.Please continue to complete and submit the customer feedback survey included in your recent utility bill. Online submissions are encouraged, however, you can also submit your completed survey to our drop box located at the front door of our office at 4432 George St., in Sydenham.
Touch a Truck Event – The annual ‘Touch a Truck’ event that is held in May for young children and their families will be postponed.

The postponement of other Township events or affiliated events will be considered on a case by case basis and discussed with organizers as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
Cancellation of the April 9 Committee of Adjustment Meeting: Township Planning staff have been working to assess the COVID-19 situation and make relevant changes to our service delivery. Recognizing the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on our partner agencies, and in the interest of maintaining public safety during this evolving situation, the decision has been made to CANCEL the April 9, 2020 Committee of Adjustment meeting.

Pre-consultation planning meetings will continue to be scheduled but will occur via telephone. The Township recognizes that the broad response to the COVID-19 pandemic creates uncertainty about the timelines for processing planning applications. The Township will update residents as more information becomes available from the Province and our commenting agencies regarding these timelines and the scheduling of public meetings.
Building & Planning Permit Application Submissions: While our office is closed to the public, Planning and Building staff remain available to respond to inquiries and assist in the processing of applications via phone and email. Online submissions are encouraged where possible, however, you can also submit your applications and corresponding information to our drop box located at the front door of our office at 4432 George St., in Sydenham.

Tender Submissions & Openings: Tender & RFP openings will be conducted as scheduled; however due to office closures, the township will be postponing public openings until further notice. Instead, the results of the public tenders and RFPs will be posted immediately on our website’s ‘Tenders’ page here: https://www.southfrontenac.net/en/town-hall/tenders.aspx.

Bidders are encouraged to drop off their tender or RFP package in person at our office drop box located at 4432 George St. in Sydenham, or mail them without requiring a signature upon delivery. Taking these measures will help to ensure your tender documents are received on time.
Summer Student Recruitment: The Township has decided to extend the due date for summer student applications to March 31st, 2020. Although we are still actively recruiting, timelines associated with interviews and hiring may be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reminder – Garbage & Recycling: Reminder to residents that all Township waste sites including hazardous waste, are closed to the public until further notice. Garbage and Recycling will continue to be picked up on the regularly scheduled days. Garbage and recycling pickup is available curbside to all residents, including at the end of private lanes. Should you have any questions, please contact our Public Services department at 613-376-3027 ext. 4331.
Please continue to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19 by practicing these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your and others’ health:

wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
sneeze and cough into your sleeve
avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
avoid contact with people who are sick
stay home if you are sick

Township Council and Staff will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation with guidance from KFL&A Public Health. Further updates about the Township’s service delivery, facilities, health and safety and more will be available through our website, social media platforms, and our banner in the Frontenac News and other channels.

It is the goal of Council and staff to continue to provide quality services to the public, while keeping residents and staff safe, and to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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Much Ado About Talking

Community Consultation

Councillor Ruttan and I held a community town hall in Perth Road village. The discussion among the 30 residents who attended was lively, respectful and wide ranging. I want to thank those who attended. Your input is necessary to make governments and community’s work. Click here to read the meeting notes.

We have taken action on a couple of issues raised and will report to all participants, and anyone else who is interested, in a couple of months. We also plan to hold similar town halls in other parts of Loughborough district later this year.

Disappearing Meetings

Two years ago, Council decreased the number of Committee of the Whole meetings in favour of smaller committee meetings. This change raised concerns that there would be less input and oversight on Township issues from the whole Council, the public and the media.

In February the Committee of the Whole meeting was cancelled; as were the Development Services and, the Recreation and Leisure Committee, and the Corporate Services Committee did not meet. The Council meetings were both under an hour. While some of these cancellations were due to on-off events, most were due to lack of agenda items and continue a trend to shorter and fewer meetings. When the sub-committees do meet, they often discuss issues which would benefit from input from all Councillor’s but are only three Councillors can talk. The sub-committee meetings are almost never attended by members of the public or the media.

It is time to have an evaluation of the new committee structure: the community is not well served by less debate and scrutiny.

High Speed Internet Plans

Currently, only 46% of rural Eastern Ontario meets the Canadian Radio and Televisions Commission’s standard for internet access with South Frontenac having its fair share of these areas. the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) recently updated Frontenac County Council on the next steps to improve internet access. Click to see the slide show: EORN Presentation

The next step is a $213 million investment over the next five years to achieve the goas of 99% cell coverage (10% currently have no cell coverage), 95% with standard definition internet access and 85% high definition access. Of that $213 million dollars, 71% or $152 million is public money.

These coverage targets do not consider that if you live in area served by a Bell tower you may not be able to get Telus or Rogers reception. Similarly, access in areas served by other companies’ towers may be limited. Effectively an individual resident will have less access to internet services, and any benefits of competition, than coverage targets identified by EORN.

Considering that these projects are largely paid from public money it is reasonable that all towers be required to carry all providers. So far, this is not a requirement.

The next step, to increase service to the standard of 50:10 (speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload) would cost a further 500 to $700 million. Many new provincial and Federal programs are being applied for.

It is a slow and frustrating process.

Regional Services

Over the last few years South Frontenac has been cooperating more with the other Townships in areas like landfill monitoring and road maintenance. The four Frontenac County Townships have received a 150-thousand-dollar provincial grant to study other opportunities for regional cooperation. The benefits of cooperation are significant, though our biggest potential partner is the City of Kingston and they are not involved in the study.

A goal in all the Townships should also be to also maintain good local public input and oversight of any coordinated regional service delivery. Increased regionalization might require a review of governance.

Wilmer Road Boat Ramp

One of the concerns raised was the safety of the Wilmer Road boat ramp into Sydenham Lake. It was reported that part of the steel mesh had broken. We have written to the Cataraqui Conservation Authority (CRCA), who owns that ramp, and asked them to investigate.

A bigger concern is that with the increasing number of closures of the Sydenham Boat Ramp to facilitate community events (Canada Day, Lakes and Trails Festival, the Sydenham Canoe Club regatta) the Wilmer Road ramp is the only public access to the lake and it needs an up grade. We have also asked the CRCA to re-evaluate the maintenance and re-development plans. The Township may also need to include some extra resources to make this ramp a suitable access to Sydenham Lake.

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High Speed Internet Access Plans

On January 29, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), the organization tasked with bringing high speed internet access to Eastern Ontario, updated Frontenac County Council on the next steps. Click here to view their presentation:

EORN Presentation

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February 8 Town Hall Meeting Report

On February 8, 2020, Councillor Ruttan and I held a Town Hall in Perth Road Village to discuss any municipal issue of concern to residents. About 30 people attended and there was a lively discussion that filled the two hours.

The following are the short form notes on what we heard on topics raised by meeting participants. Immediate actions are to give this list to staff for their consideration and to send a letter to the Cataraqui Conservation Authority alerting them to safety concerns with the Wilmer Road boat ramp into Sydenham Lake. More follow-up on specific points discussed will be provided over the next few months.

Thank you to all who attended and participated.

TOWN HALL February 8, 2020, what we heard:

Official Plan
. accommodation of growth
. concern about becoming a township of “exurbs”
. maintaining sense of community
. get residents involved in this community where they live

Property Standards Bylaw
. compliance vs. lifestyle
. who decides?
. diverse opinions expressed
. guidelines vs. open ended
. structure township service
. reasonable – expense
. create positive community feeling
. use of volunteers to help people clean up property if owners agreeable
. Free drop off of “junk” at dumps if clean-up warranted
. education and enforcement
. Is there a number/agency to call to get help with property maintenance?

Septic Inspection
. lake vs. non-lake location
. regular maintenance is pumping every 5 years
. inspection program
. what if some issue is identified?
. rebate on taxes program to help with repairs
. do we know where all septic systems are located
. RFP for pumping tanks
. general agreement that something needs to be done to make sure septic systems are working properly and water resources are protected

Dumping Garbage on Private Property
. who is responsible for cleanup?
. dumping on township property
. possible township bin at Dean Smith and Leeland Road intersection. Is that piece of property Township owned?

Climate Crisis
. concern expressed that the Township is not doing enough
. suggested to work with Nature Conservancy of Canada,
. create parking lots to encourage shared commuter driving
. electric vehicles for township

Political Will
. how do we make sure the public will is heeded by politicians at all levels

High speed Internet
. still a problem, can anticipate increased access if grants applied for through the Eastern Ontario Regional network are obtained

Old Perth Rd Fire Hall Site
. what are the future plans for this site? Township has no immediate plans for selling. Possibility of housing was raised

Water Access to Sydenham Lake e.g. Canada Day
. limited access when the Sydenham ramp is closed
. need to engage the Conservation Authority to fix up the Wilmer road ramp. There is a damaged steel grate.
. Also, no access to Eel Bay for ice fishing huts and limited water access in summer.

Roads
. North Shore Road to be resurfaced
. Perth Road being used by commercial trucks – enforcement and/or limiting this use. Will this lead to widening of the road? Opposition expressed.
. Billy Green and Leeland require work
. Eel Bay Road just past Charlie Green is a terrible piece of road
. who approves new roads being bulldozed on private property which compromise the environment and species at risk

Old Scofield Camp
. What is happening? Would the Township consider buying? Is this a good idea?
. Questioned the inclusion of commercial clubs in zoning.

Communication with Township Roads Department
. a direct line to roads complaint desk rather going through the automated attendant

Seniors Housing and Transportation
. need more affordable housing, though Perth Road may not be the best place for seniors housing
. coordination of services for seniors
. need some sort of transportation service for those who cannot drive

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