Hazardous Speeding, Community Relief and Water Systems

Speeding

The OPP presented to the Public Works Committee on road safety, with a focus on speeding. Their emphasis, which were supported by the committee and will be the basis of a report to Council, was increased education.

Education has a role in any community behavior change; particularly important when the information is lacking.  For instance, the OPP’s presentation on stunt driving.

A stunt driving conviction has very serious consequences and, as well as the common understanding of street racing and speeding 50K over the limit, includes tire squealing and burnouts, driving with someone in your trunk, and intentionally cutting someone off.   Education on the broader actions that are part of stunt driving makes sense because many people do not know. 

Education as the focus of a campaign on everyday speeding makes less sense. Most of us know we should not speed. Yet many speed “a little”, just enough to get there a bit faster but not get caught (this does not always work). If this is the speeding we want to stop we need to consider more “hard-copy” solutions. 

For a while we had speed bumps on Wheatly Street, and that helped.

Building roads to the desired speed limit, a principle in safe road engineering, could be Township policy.  That would mean not straightening a road so it can easily be easily driven at 80 or 90K, when the speed limit is 60.

Leaving parking of both sides of a street, photo radar, flexible in-road bollards, street medians and extra police presence all work, cost money and impact drivers.  If we are serious about reducing speeding these are the options we need to look at.  Some education is good, but it is not going solve the problem.

The OPP is going bring in a “guess the speed” program. Members of the public will be invited by an OPP officer with a speed gun to guess the speed of a passing car. Besides being fun, this will give us a better idea of what speeding looks like and how prevalent it is.

Hazardous Waste Collection

In the debate on whether to renew the Keely Road hazardous waste depot contract questions were raised on how much the depot is used and whether it is worth money.  The contract is to continue the same level of service, four hours twice a month in the winter and 4 hours weekly in the summer at the current rate plus 2%, about $87,000 for 2021.

It became clear in the discussion that the Township does not have good data on who is using the depot.  What percent of the population uses the depot? Is it often slow? Are many not properly disposing of their hazardous waste and do we need to increase our diversion rate?   

Council approved the contract for two years and asked the staff to collect more data.

COVID Relief Funding: A Proposal

A staff report is coming to Council on Tuesday, March 2 on how to allocate the $250,000 council approved for local COVID relief. With the end of the pandemic is sight, we hope, the proposals are geared to help businesses, families and community groups recover and go forward stronger, as much as just survive.

Support will be provided to three groups:

  1. Small business support – PPE reimbursement, extending an existing small business e-commerce and social media training targeted to local businesses, and capital funding to help businesses pivot and modernize.  While the sums are not large, they could provide thousands to a small business to help them recover from the pandemic.
  2. Non-profit community group support – funding for new events or to cover added costs for existing activities and help cover operating/fundraising losses. 
  3. Money to provide PPE to families with increased need for the supplies.

The full proposal is on the March 2 Council agenda.  It has not been passed and if you have comments that could help improve the program pass them along before Tuesday.

Sydenham Water System Updates

The annual report on the Sydenham water system is being presented to Council on Tuesday, March 2. It is item 5.a) on the agenda and contains information on the quality and amount or water used.

Last year’s planned community consultation on the future of the water system which was delayed due to COVID.  It has been rescheduled to take place in the middle of this year.

Finally, work has started on a bulk water filling station attached to the water system.

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Budget 2021: the Good, the Gravel and the Fiber

The 2021 Budget

At the start of the 2021 budget process Council agreed that a reasonable tax increase would be 2% and all the discussions and recommendations respected that goal.   

Some new initiatives, like a climate change fund, a lakes study program, a night shift for winter patrol and the Township taking over road-side mowing were agreed to.  Numerous items, like the under-serviced gravel roads and high-speed internet were acknowledged and steps put in place to bring back a program for improvement.

The approach of regular smaller tax increases has worked well in the past six years.  It has provided stability and predictability for residents, avoided big tax increases when large expenses are needed and helped stabilize the township’s finances and improve services.  

Two weeks ago, in the dying minutes of a four-hour budget debate, some Councilors thought that we should reduce the tax increase to 1.5% to show residents that Council cared about the hardship caused by COVID.

What we know about the hardship caused by COVID is that it is unequal. The more well-off have, by in large, survived fairly well. Those who are hurting most are those with service sector jobs, lower pay, essential work where they have a higher risk of COVD exposure, and, a variety of small businesses and community organizations that have been either completely or partially shut down.  

Council recognized the significant harms that many have suffered and put a quarter of a million dollars into the budget to target those people, business and organizations.

The surprise tax reduction of .5% would preferentially benefit those with more expensive properties: a million-dollar homeowner would get a 30 dollars tax decrease while someone who lives in a $200,000 house will only receive six dollars.

And what is the source of the money to fund the tax reduction? It comes from reserves, which is money set aside to provide needed services to the community.

It is money that could be spent on:

good reliable high-speed internet;

controlling speeding;

keeping dams from falling down and historic buildings from disintegrating; or

improving our recreational facilities.

There is an urgently needed 8–10-million-dollar upgrade on HWY 38 and Sunbury Road we will soon need an up-grade: both of which are seriously underfunded.

And, we have 300 kilometers of gravel roads that need improvement.

In a small way this last-minute change shifted resources to those that need it least and away from improving services. Neither of which will create a better Township.  

I made a motion, seconded by Councilor Ruttan, that we return the tax increase to 2% and allocate that ninety-one thousand dollars to an enhanced gravel road drainage program.

The motion was defeated 7-2 with myself and Councilor Ruttan voting in favour.

While ninety-one thousand is not enough to fix the gravel problems it would have been a concrete indication that the Township is going to do something.  Similarly, the .5% tax decrease will not significantly to our reserves, nor be particularly helpful to residents, but it indicated that long-term stable service provision may not be the first priority.  

Download the 2021 Township budget:

21-budget-final-jan-26-2021-2

Gravel Roads

At the last Public Services Committee meeting a list of the Township’s 140 gravel roads, about 300 kilometers in length, was presented prioritized by traffic count. The traffic counts are very uneven, both in which roads are done and how up-to-date they are. The lack of student placements due to COVID is part of the reason none were done last year.

Traffic counts should not be the only criteria prioritizing gravel roads.  The extent and danger of the ill-repair, the number of full-time families and home density are other factors that could also be considered.

The gravel roads in Loughborough District with the highest traffic counts are: Frye, Maple Leaf, Freeman, Gould Lake, Billy Green, Eel Bay, Hidden Valley and Shales Road.

Staff have also been asked to include Gravel roads in the Township’s Asset Management Plan.  Being included in the Asset Management plan is in important step to the regular allocation of upgrading funds.

Download the full list of gravel roads:

gravel-road-traffic-counts-summary-2010-2019highest-lowest-1S

High-Speed Internet

In the last month Council has sent letters of support for applications from WTC and Xplornet to the Universal Broadband Fund for new fiber and 5G wireless internet access in the Township. Community members have also proposed creating an internet hub at the Fermoy hall and a Facebook petition has asked Council to take broader action.  Thanks to all who are working on improving this essential service.

There is a commitment to bring back, relatively quickly, further information on what Council can do and what is being done in the Township. 

 

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2021 Township Budget and Gravel Road Traffic Counts

Gravel Road Traffic Counts

2021 South Frontenac Township Budget

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Budgets, Bother and Byways

36.6-Million Dollar Budget Proposal

A 36.6-million-dollar draft 2021 budget has been presented to Council.

The budget identifies the real priorities of the Township, what it is prepared to pay for; and, it directly impacts all residents both through services delivered, and taxes and user fees paid.

The proposal is that expenses in 2021 will be 21 percent higher than in 2020 with the bulk of revenue coming from a large draw on reserves, 9.3-million-dollars, and 20.7-million-dollars raised by taxation, a 2.18 percent increase. After phased-in-assessment the average tax bill will increases 2% or $32.25 for a property assessed at $271,013.

Capital construction highlights are:

  • Road construction – $7 million.
  • New fire hall (Battersea Road) – $2.2 million.
  • Arena upgrades – $1.3 million.

The large operating budget categories are:

  • Roads – $7.5 million.
  • Winter maintenance – $2.5 million.
  • Police -$3 million.
  • Solid waste management (garbage) – $2.8 million.
  • Township operations – $2.3 million.
  • Fire and Rescue – $1.8 million.
  • Parks and recreation -$772 thousand.
  • Planning – $447 thousand.

Some smaller items of note are:

  • New official plan – $145 thousand.
  • Costs associated with 25 new volunteer fire fighters (about $150 thousand).
  • Lake Studies – $60 thousand.
  • COVID support – $250 thousand.
  • Climate change adaptation/mitigation -100 thousand.
  • Staffing changes that create two light equipment operators for winter control and summer road side mowing, a financial analyst and an administrative assistant for Fire and Rescue, and net increase will be 1.8 new FTEs (full time positions) – $109 thousand in 2020, about $150 thousand yearly.
  • Two tractors with mowers for roadside mowing – $460 thousand.

The entire draft budget can be found at: https://www.southfrontenac.net/en/town-hall/munic.aspx.

What do you think of the Budget?

Your comments on what is missing, what is too much and the overall direction of the budget are welcome.

If you have questions, I would be happy to try and answer them, or after January 4, Louise Fragnito, the Township Treasurer, 613-37603027 ext. 2328, can provide more complete answers.

If you would like to make your comments to all of Council there is a special meeting, January 12, set aside for pubic deputations on the budget.  It will be a virtual meeting and you can register online to speak, or, after January 4,  contact the Clerk, Angela Maddocks, 613-376-3027 ext. 2222.

Your written comments before January 12 would also be very helpful.

Progress on Road-Side litter?

An ongoing Township problem is road side litter from people throwing away garbage, signs haphazardly erected and left to rot, and organized littering by ad bag newspapers.  Council has discussed this problem many times and after numerous rounds of unsuccessful negotiations progress may have been made on newspapers thrown into ditches and at the end of lane-ways.

There are two newspapers distributed free in the Township.  Frontenac News uses the mail service so all their papers end up in mail boxes.  Some of Kingston This Week’s papers are left in mail boxes but many are thrown, if lucky, into the end of driveways, but are often left under mailboxes, in ditches or on the main road.

Discussions between Township staff and Kingston This Week have produced a written proposal that will see Kingston This week distributed in community newspaper boxes in a variety of hamlets around the Township.  Kingston This Week will deliver their papers into mail boxes, expect where it is not safe to do so.  The Township has not received a list of unsafe locations.

While not perfect, it still allows some littering and gives one of the newspapers the unfair advantage by being able to litter without penalty, it might keep some newspaper garbage off the roadside.

I and the Township need to know if there is still a problem with newspapers being left in places where they are an eyesore or a nuisance.  If the problem continues Council will consider various legal options to stop this littering.

Council is also waiting for a staff report on signs along roads.

If you do not want Kingston This Week please call them, 613-544-5000 ext. 547144, and they should stop delivering to your address.

Gravel Roads

The Public Services Committee is going to have a discussion on how to maintain and upgrade gravel roads.  Gravel roads were primarily used as summer access roads, but with more and more people living full time in all parts of the Township, the number of families and the amount of time they rely on these roads has increased.   Many of these roads, Leland, Maple Leaf, Billie Green, Eel Bay and Shales, easily come to mind, have poor foundations and drainage, and are often difficult and dangerous to travel on. Planning a way forward is needed. I am glad the committee will be starting that process and I hope they will invite comment from the users of these roads.

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Putting Out Fires

Public Consultation

Last month, Council defeated a motion to defer the Open-Air Burning Permit Bylaw to allow for more public consultation.

The proposal for a permitting system was presented, in general terms, to Council in the summer. The “meat and potatoes” of the proposal, the actual details, the wording, was presented to Council on a Friday to be discussed and voted four days later, two of which were the weekend.  This is a common process for motions.

When awareness of the bylaw circulated through the community a wording error was found. Other questions were raised about why there was a fee for recreational fires and what about burns in the winter.   A period of community consultation could have addressed these simple concerns. It also might have identified other solvable problems with this bylaw, or identified a different approach to address the issues raised by the Fire Chief: community safety, cost savings, use of volunteer firefighters time and environmental pollution.  

Instead, the outcome was a motion to reconsider the bylaw, which passed, and a pending motion to rescind the bylaw leaving the problems unaddressed.

The proposed added user fee for garbage bag tags was also about an important issue, reducing waste, and presented on a limited timeline: four days between the proposal and the vote. This is not enough time for Councilors to consider how the words on the page might translate into effects on people’s lives.  It is certainly not enough time for a full discussion in the community.

For better or worse, many, if not most, residents don’t take an active interest in the affairs of Council. They depend on the Township to make a reasonable effort to bring to their attention issues before decisions are made that may concern them.

In fact, most issues that come to Council are relatively uncontentious: both on Council and in the Community. Nonetheless there are issues when it is important to have wider public comment and it is difficult ahead of time to distinguish the two. The added time taken to consider all motions is not onerous, will make better laws and make a stronger community.

Township staff have increased information flow to the public through Facebook, Twitter, an updated web page, email lists, public meetings and surveys.  Two other suggestions that might help are: 

  1. Bylaws need to be passed in three readings; I gather this is a legal requirement.What Council usually does is have all three votes in one night.This does not make sense. The idea of three votes on an issue to structure in delay for reflection and comment. If Council even had the first reading at one Council meeting and the second and third reading no sooner than the next meeting, that would give increased time for public comment.
  2. The public notice for Council and Committee of the Whole meetings could include bullet points of the items to be considered.

I am sure there are other changes that would increase public input before votes are taken.  Some community associations and business have a person assigned to watch council agendas, but they still need time to consult before offering an opinion.

If you have other ideas on how to improve consultation, pass them along.

Yes, consultation can get messy.  All communities have a variety of opinions, some of which are mutually exclusive.  At the end of the process a decision has to be made and everyone may not be happy. Yet, it’s important that everyone has an opportunity to have their say and that there concerns have been considered.
 
Besides the democratic reasons for getting more input, there are many interested, knowledgeable and experienced people in the community who can help make proposals better.

COVID Relief

Staff, at Council’s request, has brought forward a proposal to create a $250,000 fund to help those people and businesses negatively affected by COVID. The funds will be administered by three existing community groups that have experience providing assistance within guidelines worked out with the Township.

One difficulty is that some of the people hit hardest by the COVID restrictions and illness are those that don’t rely on social assistance.  They are families who usually have regular jobs, often well paying, or at home businesses.  Their savings are being drained coping with extra costs and loss of income. 

There is also the problem of local non-profit organizations that have had reduced fundraising or income and families that have had extra costs caring for dependents at home as day programs have been curtailed.

If you know of areas of need and how to get them support please pass the information along.


 

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South Frontenac’s Garbage Proposal Would Increase Inequality

A proposal coming to South Frontenac Council on November 17 would make families buy all their bag tags.  Currently South Frontenac gives families 50 tags a year at no cost to the property owner.  

The new garbage proposal will disproportionately affect those who produce larger amounts of household garbage with few options for reduction, for example: families with young children and families with at-home medical needs (incontinence, wound care, ostomies).  The waste from these families is not optional and they tend to be families with more economic challenges.  Young families have increased over all expenses and the income earners are often starting their working years. Families with illness often have reduced incomes and higher expenses.

Council’s goal has been to keep municipal tax increases to 2%.  Charging a fee for an essential service is really a tax increase above 2%. If Council wishes to do this it should be done directly.

A significant part of the motivation for this user fee is the increased cost of garbage collection: a reality Council needs to deal with directly though general taxation or policy changes.  We should not be imposing an extra tax that will likely increase inequality and negatively affect many families.

Our society has a very serious waste problem. It is a structural problem. Our recycling system is broken: much of what we “recycle” ends up in landfills. Companies are permitted to produce items using wasteful practices; we need a right-to-repair law, limits on packaging and single use items. And, we need an increase in our organic waste composting services.

Doing what we can to reduce waste is important, but not at the expense of increased inequality: a growing and serious problem.  

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Water, Fire and Earth

Shoreline Tree Cutting Bylaw?

In the last few years clear cutting shorelines in the Township has caused considerable public concern. 

The land adjacent to Dog lake was cleared before the Shield Shores Condominium development proposal was introduced.  And, last winter a steep slope on Sydenham lake was cleared.

Residents often questioned why this clearing was allowed?  Some of the confusion stems from the fact that conditions placed on minor variances, lot creation and sub-divisions often include provisions to protect shoreline vegetation.

Sadly, there is no broader protection in municipal or provincial legislation for trees along lakes and rivers.

Staff reported on options for protecting trees at the October 26 Development Services Committee. The Committee asked staff to prepare a more detailed proposal for a bylaw that would prohibit tree cutting within 30 meters of navigable waterways and significant wet lands with a limited number of exemptions, for example, creating access paths to the water and clearance for buildings.  The next proposal will come to a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Open-Air Fire Permit Bylaw Passed

Last month I reported on a proposed bylaw to require permits for open-air fires in the Township. Many of you commented, both for and against.

At the Council meeting I proposed that the bylaw be deferred to allow for public consultation.  Council defeated the deferral and passed the bylaw.

The bylaw recognizes two kinds of outdoor fires.  One is a “recreational fire”, the kind most of us would have for a marshmallow roast and to sit around with friends. Recreational fires require a once-a-year permit.  When this permit is obtained, at an initial cost of 15 dollars, people will be required to confirm that they have looked at the bylaw and understand their legal obligations for safety.  It will also collect emails and contact information so when fire bans go into effect, people can quickly be notified.  There are no further requirements for recreations fires through the year.

A second class of fires, “open-air fires”, for example, burning brush piles, and fires in barrels and drums, will require both a yearly permit and a notification, at no extra cost, each time there is a fire.  These fires are more dangerous and notification to the fire department will allow greater monitoring and fewer false alarms.

Aggregate Pit Taxes

Some aggregate producing municipalities in southern Ontario have started a campaign to increase the taxes on aggregate quarries.  A 2017 change in the property tax structure set by the province means that active gravel pits, which are often very profitable, pay less property tax than single family homes and small businesses.

A media release from the County of Wellington states, “Arbitrarily classifying gravel pits as among the lowest forms of farmland sets an artificial cap on these producers’ valuations and keeps their property taxes well below what they should be paying. In turn, residents and businesses are subsidizing the break that gravel producers are getting.”  They argue that municipalities in Ontario are losing millions of dollars in tax revenue every year which negatively impacts their ability to provide services.

The province, as part of their drive to open the province for development, has also proposed that municipalities be barred from trying to recoup the cost of damage done to roads from aggregate mines.

To find out more about the campaign for fair taxes on aggregate mining and to support the campaign go to: https://www.facebook.com/fairtaxesontario/

COVID Continues

We are well into the “second wave” of the COVID virus and hospitals are starting to fill up.  As in the first wave, Frontenac and the Kingston area have relatively few infections.

Most local residents are following public health guidelines.  At the same time residents are being imaginative in finding ways to get outdoors and make our community work. For example, some have organized street closures to allow families to participate in Halloween and maintain safe distances. And the Township has started a Halloween house decorating contest. The Friends of the Cataraqui trail, working with public health advice, is organizing a family friendly Rudolph Run on the trail. The event will take place on November 21 and all participants will receive a red-nosed mask.  

As we push back wilderness boundaries and become a more interconnected, populated, world, we have seen an increase in communicable diseases. I think we are on the cusp of creating a new normal that incorporates enhanced methods of infection control into vibrant communities.  It will require patience, compassion, and innovation, but over the millennia human societies have done it and we will do it again.  It is great to be part of a community that is up to the challenge and will help led the way

 

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Open-air Burning Bylaw

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Boats to Budgets

Buck Lake Boat Ramp

The redevelopment of the Buck Lake boat ramp was discussed at the September public services meeting. 

The Public Services department would like to start making detailed plans for the project but wanted clarity on whether the Committee thought the ramp should be at its current location off of Perth Road at the bridge or whether the Township should again try to purchase the old Schofield camp for a new public access point.  The committee gave direction that the ramp should be replaced at the current location and to not proceed with the Schofield property.

2021 Budget

We are entering the 2021 budget preparation season. The budget will be about thirty million dollars. Usually Council would pass the 2021 budget before 2020 ends, but delays caused by COVID have pushed the projected passage date into early January 2021.

For the past few years Council has had a policy of increasing the budget approximately 2% a year.  These increases have maintained very sound Township finances and allowed for the expansion of programs as our population has increased.

Council seems inclined to provide this direction to staff again: develop a draft budget with a 2% increase.  The first staff proposal for capital works will be coming to Council in November. Now is the time to start making comments on what should be included or removed from next year’s budget or general comments on how the Township raises and spends money.

After the full draft budget is presented to Council on December 1 there will be a special meeting for public deputations on next year’s budget: tentatively scheduled for December 8, 2020.

Community Safety Zones

A proposal will be coming to Council to create “Community Safety Zones” on roads adjacent to St. Patrick, Harrowsmith, Prince Charles and Loughborough public Schools and Sydenham High school.  Fines will be doubled for violations in these zones. 

While this is a good idea, it will not likely have a great impact on speeding.  In Ottawa, when they put speed cameras in school zones, many of which are community safety zones, in the first two weeks of operation the cameras produced 7645 tickets for speeding with the highest speed being 89K in a 40K zone. It will be interesting to see if the presence of the cameras significantly reduces that number in a few months.

If we want to control speed, an increasing Township-wide problem, we will need more than signs and fines.  Without some sort of structural change, like speed cameras, speed bumps, or other traffic calming measures, many will still speed. 

Open Air Burning Permits

At the August Council meeting the Fire Chief proposed establishing a permit system for open air burning. Click here to see the Chief’s presentation.

The problems he identified that would be reduced with open air fire permits were confusion among residents and visitors about fire ban restrictions, the open-air burning bylaw, and the hazards of open air burning.  Last year there was also an increased number of complaints about fires and an increased number of uncontrolled burns with a significant cost and danger to the Township and firefights, and very high potential costs to individual residents.

The proposal is to create and automated system to issue permits for all open air burning in the Township.  There will be an annual small cost for a permit and automated phone system to register before residents burn.

The system will allow for fast dissemination of restrictions on burning, an ability to apply different restrictions in different areas and an easy way of communicating what residents’ responsibilities are while they’re burning. 

New Garbage and Recycling Contract

After much drama and last-minute negotiations Percy Snider has a three-year contract to collect garbage and recycling for most of the Township.  In-house Township staff will collect on the other routes. The cost is $62.50 per household for garbage and $62.50 for recycling. 

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Burning permit Coming to South Frontenac?

In August the Fire Chief proposed a permitting system for open air burning South Frontenac Township. This is his presentation to Council:  

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