Communal Problems: Moths, Climate and Drinking Water

Communal Services Proposal

Frontenac County consultants have made a proposal on how to increase collective, or communal, water and sewage services within the County.  It was item 5.a on the May 4 Township Council agenda. While no binding motions were taken Councilors did express general support for setting up a municipally owned corporation to run community water and sewage services in the County.

The current proposal focuses on communal services for new subdivisions with the systems run by a municipal corporation controlled by the Townships. Sydenham’s water system is currently the only community service in the County.  It is controlled by South Frontenac Council and operated by Utilities Kingston.

Communal systems could help alleviate water shortages, protect ground water, reduce risk of drinking water contamination and increase development density above one house per 2.5 acres.

The consultants identified as one of the possible benefits “the separation of politics from service provision”. There was a good discussion on Council about the importance of communities maintaining control over what kind of services go where and how they are structured and financed. While separating politics from the day-to-day operations is generally a good idea, a utilities corporation should not be a way to shield sometimes controversial community decisions from democratic control.

The consultants also noted that his model could allow for profit. It was not clear why they thought this might be beneficial.  Allowing the utilities corporation to make a profit would only increase the cost to users of the system and transfer money to some other purpose in the Township. One of the benefits of collective community systems should be to decrease cost and increase quality for the users which means it needs to be non-profit.  The consultants said that the profit status of the utility corporation would be a political decision made by the Townships.

The Fire Hall Climate Fight

The next step in South Frontenac’s program to replace our aging fire halls is a new 2.2-million-dollar station on Battersea Road.

The initial design was generally accepted by Council. The discussion focused on what was left out: any significant initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In our worsening climate crisis, every major infrastructure project should be built to reduce carbon emissions.

Two specific proposals were introduced. First, that an air source heat pump be the primary source of heating and cooling.  Council agreed to have staff report back by June 15 on the up-front capital costs, the long-term operating costs, and a heat pump’s effect on greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuel alternatives.

The second proposal was for solar power to be placed on the site as part of Hydro One’s net metering program.  That program uses the solar produced onsite to offset the site’s hydro bills.  There is about a thirty-thousand-dollar upfront cost with an average pay back to cover those costs of 8 to 10 years. The unit should continue to produce income for 25 years.

Council supported a report back on the feasibility of installing a solar power plant with Councillor Roberts and Mayor Vandewal voting against.

Gypsy Moth Fight Back

There have been numerous inquiries about whether South Frontenac will be spraying the gypsy moth caterpillars.

There is no doubt the Gypsy moths are a problem.  Last year we couldn’t clean the caterpillar poop and leaf droppings off our deck fast enough to sit out for about three weeks.  After that the leaves did grow back. A few townships have decided to spray small areas of their townships, mostly when they have relatively large tracts of municipal forests, like over 100 acres.

South Frontenac Township owns no major forest tracks.  Frontenac Provincial Park, nonprofit conservation areas and private woodlots have large tracts of forest in the Township and I don’t believe any are spraying. The rest of the Township is privately owned and it is very hard to spray over private property without getting all land owners on board and there’s a significant disagreement on whether spraying is desired.

Property owners can use a number of techniques to catch and kill caterpillars, pheromone traps can be used to catch the moths and the egg masses are easy to identify and remove.  These actions make a difference until the infestation naturally dies down. One resident provided a link to the Hamilton website which provides pretty good information on the gypsy moth outbreak and what can be done about it.

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Building Pressures

Development Pressures

Even during a pandemic there is strong and increasing development pressures in South Frontenac.

In the first months of 2021 the construction value of building permits was $5.3 million, 86 permits, significantly higher than the previous high of $2.9 million, 57 permits, in 2018.

Planning department statistics, an indicator of future activity, show inquires up to 2,876 vs 1947 at the same time last year. Pre-consultation meetings increased from 48 to 104.

Coupled with the many anecdotal accounts of houses being sold over-asking price, and of younger working families unable to buy a home, the broader trends that those that are well off, are doing really well, while those in the middle and lower incomes are struggling, are present locally.  These trends are changing South Frontenac.  

Rising property values bring more money into the community: more taxes; more shopping at local businesses; and more work for contractors and building suppliers. At the same time, it changes the nature of our community from one that is more inclusive of working families and those less well-off to a reserve for people who are relatively wealthy.  It also puts increasing pressure on farm land and the environment.

In our changing and increasingly connected world South Frontenac is now close to Ottawa and Toronto as well as Kingston.  For decades the development around these cities has favoured large row house developments on farm land and expensive estate-homes.  Planning has been relatively unsuccessful at maintaining farm land and mixed income communities. 

Our Official Plan review could not come at a more important time.  Last month council confirmed a consulting firm to do the leg work on the review.  It is now up to us to make our concerns about inclusive communities, farm land and improving the natural environment heard. 

Climate Pressures

Invasive species, frost and heave road damage, flooding, blue-green algae, ticks, increased fires, and the federal budget are increasing pressure on South Frontenac to do something about climate change.

The 2021 Township budget includes one hundred thousand dollars to support a local climate action plan. Here are some ideas to start the discussion on what we can do locally.  

We do not need any studies or consultants. There are effective, generally accepted and easy to implement solutions on how to reduce green-house gases that can be done now. It is time to just “get at’er”.

The Township could:

  • Over the next ten years electrify the pick-ups and the SUVs in the Township fleet. The first step would be installing charging stations in our work yards.  
  • Install air-source heat pumps for heating and cooling of all new builds and, where possible, in renovations. 
  • Install solar panels on Township buildings and properties.  Currently there is no solar power production on any Township property. Hydro’s power buy-back program for solar power, could work at many locations and the up-front costs will be offset by the long-range income.
  • Bring forward plans to increase backyard composting and work with regional municipalities on industrial compost solutions. As well as reducing methane production a successful program would extend the life of our landfills.
  • Monitor and report yearly on the Township’s fossil fuel use: vehicle fuel purchases by gasoline and diesel, and heating fuels by fuel oil, propane and natural gas; and require contractors to submit their fuel consumption on Township projects. Include fuel efficiency as part of all tenders.
  • Report on the likely impact on green-house gas emissions of motions coming to Council as we now report on expected costs.

As well as improving the environment, these initiatives will save the Township money. Any extra short-term costs could be covered from reserves and with payments back into reserves from savings or extra earned income.   Also, it is likely that over the next few years there will be significant federal, and possibly provincial, money dedicated to these kinds of initiatives, though this is not necessary to proceed.

These are many other ways the Township can reduce carbon emissions, but these are accepted changes that need to made and can be done now.  Other opportunities can be addressed as they present themselves.

If you have other ideas on how to reduce greenhouse gases send them along and let’s start the community discussion.  Staff is preparing a report to Council on what actions they recommend and your ideas should be part of this discussion.

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

High Speed Internet: Boom and Bust

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), the organization charged with improving high-speed internet in our area, announced a significant expansion to high- speed cell coverage. Like most initiatives, it has good and bad elements.

The ‘boom’ part is that more people will have more reliable higher speed cell service which for most will bring improved internet access.  This is what I use:  it is the only option at our place.  And we can stream and zoom easily.

The EORN contract is with Rogers. The promise is 99% high-speed cellular coverage along all major roads and in hamlets; 95% video streaming; and 85% high-definition streaming by 2025.  It is not clear what a major road is, or how close to the road you would need to be to get coverage, so it will definitely not cover everyone.

It will also significantly improve emergency services communication in the region.

The ‘bust’ in the announcement Is that it will needlessly continue some significant disadvantages for rural areas.  There is no mention in the announcement of fiber, which is more likely to offer unlimited data options.

There is also no mention of allowing other providers access to Rogers towers.  One of the problems with only having one provider is they can dictate pricing.  There is no “that is an outrageous price, I am going to take my business elsewhere.” 

The expansion will also provide 5G service, which will be faster but could we get more 4G for the same price?  

The lack of control on the price is more galling because half the cost of the upgrades is paid by tax dollars ($71 million from the federal government, $71 million from the provincial government and $10 million for local municipalities). A condition of the public subsidy could be that the network is open to all providers or that there is some sort of public dividend that could be used to control the price of service.  The private investors will get a dividend.

Essential networks like hydro and telephone were initially built by public corporations which provided good reliable service, at reasonable cost, and extended that same service to most rural areas.  Ontario Hydro was built as a public utility be conservative governments. This is the most cost-effective way to provide an essential service: one that is needed for the inclusive involvement of members of society, including rural and less well-off residents.

Shoreline Protection Bylaw

A Staff looked at municipal legislation and tree cutting bylaws from three townships, Haliburton County; and, Muskoka Lakes and Georgian Bay Townships, (the links take you to those three bylaws) to analyze ways to protect trees along shorelines (item 7.c on the March 9 agenda).

Some of the considerations are:

How much of the shoreline should be protected?

Should a permit be required for all shoreline tree cutting?

Or, should certain activities be allowed as-of-right, like creating a path to the water or cutting trees to protect a legal development, with permits only required for other cutting?

What should these “as-of-right” activities be?

Council discussed the issue and directed staff to create a draft shoreline protection bylaw and a process for broader community consultation.

ATVs through Verona.

Frontenac County is considering allowing ATVs to travel through Verona on the K+P Trail. For staff’s comments on the proposal go to item 9.b on the March 16 Council agenda.

The Township has recently acquired 20+ acres of land along the K+P Trail to lead a redevelopment of Verona, including housing for seniors.  The trail also runs along the back of the public school, making the Trail an essential part of any efforts to have children walk and bike to school.

At a recent meeting of the Friends of the Cataraqui Trail many residents commented on the disruption that ATVs cause, especially in the summer when people are outdoors, enjoying the quiet of their yard, or in the house with their windows open.  ATVs are a regular interruption.

ATVs are an important part of rural life but they are also incompatible with areas of population concentration. The Township and County need to work on the many ways ATVs and vibrant hamlets can both exist in a community.  One of them is not to have ATVs running through the middle of the largest population center in South Frontenac.

A motion passed at South Frontenac Council to support a temporary extension of ATV use in Verona until further information is available on the housing and other development plans for Verona.  A more important project would-be to find a parking place just north of Verona where ATVs can access the trail: that is a long-term sustainable solution.

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , | 1 Comment

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. 

 

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged | 2 Comments

2021 Township Budget and Gravel Road Traffic Counts

Gravel Road Traffic Counts

2021 South Frontenac Township Budget

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.


 

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.  

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

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

 

Posted in South Frontenac Township | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment