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Council Meeting Report for June 16, 2020

Long but productive, with some good news

This three-hour long Council meeting was quite well-run. The length of the meeting was mainly due to the number of items on the agenda – and therefore, my report will be even longer than usual. This time the agenda was published on time, and links to the recording were easy to find.

Municipal Audit Results

There was one deputation by the municipal auditor, Howard Allan from Howard Allan & Partners, who presented the 2019 audit of Mississippi Mills’ financial statements to Council. This included revenues and expenses of the Ottawa River Power Corporation, Ottawa River Energy Solutions Inc. and the Mississippi River Power Corporation. 
Surprisingly, our revenues were better than anticipated in our budget, and our expenses were lower than anticipated.  Mr. Allan commended Council and staff for adhering to the budget throughout the year.  Our net debt, which is modest relative to our total assets, was paid down last year by ...

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Report on the June 2, 2020 Council Meeting

Shrouded in secrecy – why?

Where’s Waldo?
The June 2 meeting – once you actually located the agenda and the recording of the meeting – held no surprises, as Council dealt with the agenda items in a straightforward way.  However, significant effort was needed to get access to the Council meeting.  First, the agenda wasn’t made available to the public until the day before the actual meeting, instead of being published four days in advance.  Luckily there wasn’t anything controversial on the agenda; otherwise many residents would have been distressed at not being able to share their concerns with their elected representatives prior to the meeting.

Second, the oral recording of the meeting itself was difficult to locate because no link to it from the municipal website was provided.  Third, once you overcame this hurdle ...

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Council Highlights - May 19, 2020

90 minutes of smooth sailing and compliments

This meeting was quite congenial, and went without a hitch, as recounted below.

Two items from the May 5 meeting; namely the Health and Safety Volunteer Policy Report, and the Adopt-a-Park Policy, were approved. The staff members in charge of presenting these policies (Dan Cousineau, Facilities/Health and Safety Coordinator and Recreation Director Calvin Murphy) had ensured that the concerns of residents were fully addressed and modified the restrictions and the application forms accordingly. Our Councillors were generally quite appreciative of the work staff had done and felt the resulting documents were well done. Councillor Cynthia Guerard felt that the paperwork required for volunteers was still too onerous, as did Deputy Mayor Rickey Minnille. Mayor Christa Lowry questioned why the $41 cost of a vulnerable sector check (required if a volunteer is to work with children or people with mental or physical challenges) would be at the expense of the volunteer requiring it since the volunteer was providing his/her services at no charge. It was generally agreed that the municipality should cover this cost, especially since ...

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Council Meeting Report for May 5, 2020

Well-reasoned discussion, except perhaps on Truck 23

The first item on the agenda was a report from the Department of Recreation and Culture, presented by Recreation Director Calvin Murphy. The report outlined a new Adopt-a-Park policy proposed by this department, with the intention of implementing it once the pandemic emergency rules end. Recreation Director Murphy explained that he and his staff had done extensive research to prepare this policy, studying comparable policies by other municipalities and getting legal advice. He also pointed out that, while some parks and gardens in Mississippi Mills were well-tended by volunteers, others were not, and he hoped this policy would help to correct that problem.

It seems that following publication of this meeting agenda, both Council and staff
have been hearing from many of the volunteers who would be affected by this policy. These volunteers help because they enjoy the demanding and constant, but rewarding work – nurturing plants of all kinds, managing the threats of weeds, drought, and disease, and taking pride in the beauty and bounty of the flowers, fruits and foliage they’ve tended. These volunteers also enjoy a sense of community and friendship in working with others and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. Quite a number of these volunteers have invested many, many hours of their lives over many years to making our community’s parks and gardens flourish.

These volunteers have made a point of keeping the Municipality informed of their
activities, but are now concerned that this new policy, with its many rules, conditions, restrictions, training, schedules, and police checks, will discourage people from participating. Quite a few of these gardeners are members of local horticultural societies and committees.

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Council Meeting Report for April 16, 2020

The Roadside Spraying Saga -- continued

Many residents were surprised to learn, on the evening of April 14, that a special Council meeting on the contentious topic of roadside spraying would be held on the afternoon of April 16, basically giving everyone just 43 hours’ notice.

At the beginning of this meeting, Mayor Christa Lowry explained that, because of the Province’s State of Emergency declaration to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, Mississippi Mills Council would focus their discussions during this period on the essential work required to be done by the municipality by holding special Council meetings, such as this meeting was.  Mayor Lowry said that the municipality’s obligation to control noxious weeds required a decision on the Wild Parsnip Management Plan.  Was this issue really urgent enough to justify allowing less than two days’ public notice in advance of the meeting?  Be that as it may, I was impressed by the level of discussion afforded by our Councillors.  The staff members fielding questions on the “updated” 2020 Wild Parsnip Management Program were Abby Armstrong, Environmental Compliance Coordinator, and the Acting Director of Roads and Public Works (R&PW), Dave Armstrong.

First of all, it was baffling to me how, despite the numerous objections over the past several months from Council and the public, several glaring errors (including faulty calculations) remained in the “updated” version of the  2020 Wild Parsnip Management Plan (WPMP), and how Ms Armstrong persisted in recommending Option 1 as the best choice for managing wild parsnip.  Option 1, if you recall, requires the heaviest herbicide use and the greatest amount of boom-spraying, with most of this boom spraying targeted for roadsides with little or no wild parsnip (as proven by R&PW’s own GPS data).   The cost for Option 1 was estimated to be about $65,500.

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