Two regularly scheduled Council meetings have taken place since the last Council update, one evening meeting two weeks ago on April 4, and one daytime meeting last week on April 12. As usual, the meetings covered significant ground in a relatively short period of time.
First on the agenda for the April 4 meeting was a presentation from the Counties on an anticipated rehabilitation of the County Road 43 bridge over the South Nation River in Chesterville. Mike Jans from the Counties presented the plan to Council. Mike explained that it has been 26 years since any work has been done on this bridge. Motorists are usually accustomed to using one half of a bridge while the other half is prepared, but such a setup will not be possible for the Chesterville bridge, as it does not have the width and strength required to support traffic and construction simultaneously. Detour routes will bring traffic off of County Road 43 and through the village of Chesterville during construction.
Mike explained that some concerns from the public have been received regarding the anticipated project. The fire department has raised concerns about impacts on response times as a result of the temporary bridge closure. In addition, Chesterville residents worry about the addition of traffic and possibly speeding vehicles in town. However, Mike reported that a majority of Chesterville residents agreed that closing the bridge during construction is the best option, particularly considering that it will greatly reduce the costs of the rehabilitation. It is proposed that there will be a temporary Community Safety Zone in Chesterville while the detour is in place, to combat speeding. Council moved to approve the recommended detour route.
The next important discussion on April 4 was for the addition of a part time Fire Chief for North Dundas, with current Fire Chiefs at each station set to receive the new title of Station Chief of each of their respective stations. It was mutually agreed that this was an important move, and the motion carried after minimal discussion.
Routine business followed, including applications for Art on the Waterfront and the South Mountain Fair to be designated as “municipally significant events” so that they can sell alcohol, and consideration of zoning amendment requests.
Next, a continuation of a discussion from the March 21 session occurred, specifically related to a request from Sevita International to eliminate half load restrictions on certain roads. A resolution was passed to allow for testing on the roads in question to better inform the financials of a permit system that would allow permit holders to run with full loads on these roads.
Another familiar agenda item was next up. A slightly amended concept plan was presented for the upcoming play park planned in Hallville. Council had the option to keep the previously approved plans for the Hallville Community Park, or approve the new plans. Council’s decision was the latter. Other matters included presentations on the upcoming Business Expo and the Fire Prevention Committee’s “After the Fire Guide”.
Finally, the hot button local issue of municipal insurance took centre stage. In particular, the conditions that must be applied when accepting Township volunteers for municipal events in order for them to be covered under insurance were discussed. A recommendation was made that low risk events – such as Remembrance Day – be exempted from the insurance requirements. The Township would accept the liability for such events. Council members agreed that this makes sense. A further proposal that performers at public events be similarly considered “low risk” was discussed and agreed upon. There was some confusion about what exactly the Township’s insurance covers, on which Mayor Fraser asked for clarification. The end goal is a special events policy that shifts liability during events from the Township onto the event organizer.
The April 12 meeting began with a closed session. There are a limited number of reasons why closed sessions can take place. On April 12, such a session took place due to the pending acquisition or disposition of land that is subject to solicitor-client privilege.
When open session resumed, a few key items were discussed. Michelle Dorie, the Township’s Deputy Treasurer, presented Council with information on a change to the draft 2023 budget. She explained that there were a couple of small project requests from Directors which were accounted for in the new budget version without affecting the “bottom line”. In other words, funds for these projects were reallocated or earmarked from the reserve account.
Deputy Mayor Theresa Bergeron took the opportunity to provide some thoughts on the 2023 budget. She noted that there are a lot of things in the budget that are beyond Council’s control, giving the example of rising insurance costs that are hitting all area municipalities. She therefore explained that although property tax increases are difficult for everyone, the increase was reasonable this year given the pressures that the Township is under. Councillor Gary Annable spoke up with a note of agreement as well.
Next, the changes to the municipal event’s policy which were discussed at the previous meeting were recapped before being formally passed by Council. Minutes later, Council passed the 2023 budget, putting final approval behind a project that takes significant work on the part of Township staff every year. “In trying times, we have stepped up as a group and put forward a budget that serves the community well,” added Mayor Fraser. “It will serve the future of North Dundas well, and those efforts have been appreciated by Council.”
The last item addressed at the April 12 meeting was a motion to have more bylaws being enforced locally through the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS), instead of only using the system to enforce parking tickets. This will save money and increase convenience for residents by eliminating the need to go through the court system when challenging a fine. The motion was passed.
One more Council meeting will take place this month, on April 25 at 10:30am.