We have made it half way. Two years ago this Council was elected. South Frontenac had a new mayor and six new councilors. Last month, we finally passed improvements to public involvement and Council accountability: two priorities of mine in the campaign.
Public Involvement and Council Accountability
ON December 6 Council passed changes to the public notice bylaw. The two most significant were on notice for subdivision proposals and on the budget.
The new bylaw requires six weeks pubic notice for meetings on new subdivisions and condominiums. It also requires that developers post a one meter by one point two meter notice six weeks before the meeting. It is time we did away with that yellow paper notice that was hidden among the bushes. Both of these changes should give residents, both permanent and seasonal, more time to respond with their concerns and suggestions for new proposals.
This year Council made the full draft budget available to public inspection and comment before it was considered by Council. While only two groups took advantage of this process both deputations had an impact on the final budget. The process to allow members of the public to comment on the budget when changes can easily be made is now part of our bylaws. It will happen again next year. I would encourage more involvement in the Township’s finances. The budget both sets how much tax we pay and how it is spent: essentially what kind of community our tax dollars are going to support.
As useful as both of these changes are, they still miss a huge opportunity to improve Council’s communication with residents: social media. The good news is that some money has been set aside in the budget to improve the website and email lists. Also there is consideration of hiring a clerk specifically for Council duties. If this happens that person’s job could include managing social media connections. This is a necessary step if Council is to go to the next level in public involvement and accountability.
The 2017 Budget
Council is considering a budget with a 2.2% increase over last year.
New MPAC assessments created some short term difficulties in this year’s budget. Most properties in South Frontenac, farms being the big exception, should see a slight decrease in their MPAC values this year and relatively modest increases over the next four years. The drop in overall assessment meant a slight drop in the overall tax base. A sharp change from the approximately 6% increases MPAC has been giving to Township finances over the past few years. This change in good for individual property owners, but tough on our collective financial responsibilities.
If the budget passes as currently drafted repairs to Sunbury Road will be phased in with the hope of getting some of the provincial and federal infrastructure money to help with the project. The decision on whether or not to borrow money was avoided for this year.
Among the 21 pages of proposals there is money in the budget to finalize repairs to the Knowlton Lake and Buck Lake public boat launches. A million dollars is allocated for rebuilding Bedford Road from the dam to Alton road. A public meeting will be held in the New Year to review proposals and get public input. The walkway in the Point Park will be paved and the public dock replaced.
Perth Road Fire Hall
Council has contracted architects’ to design a new fire hall for Perth Road with the following parameters: 3 x 1 ½ length bays, drive through bays, steel clad interior bay finishes and drywall for all other internal space, steel external finishes with modest masonry work on the front façade only, pitched steel roofing, a training room sized for 30 and radiant in floor heating for bays and forced air HVAC for office space.
We hope to finalize drawings in three months and build over the summer. It is needed and will be great addition to our fire service.