February Council Update

The Council meeting on Wednesday February 28 was busy so my reporting will take a few days. There were decisions on 310 Division, the Firefighters’ museum and Parking, plus Miriam Mutton was really unhappy about the way an upgrade to Council Chamber was handled. Although Mayor Lucas Cleveland said he understood and appreciated her concern, he said she is one of seven and the others don’t agree. This post will cover Parking and Miriam’s concerns – the others will be covered in later reports. As well as these four items, Council covered 28 other items (by my count) including approval of seven sets of minutes and two closed session matters. I note that it now seems that closed sessions happen at every meeting – previously it was unusual.

The issue of a Police request for a new building was not on the Agenda nor was there any mention of the RFP for 117 Durham Street. There were no agenda items referring to homelessness nor Affordable Housing.

Parking

At a previous meeting, Mayor Cleveland gave notice of a motion to simplify and rationalize parking in Cobourg – report here.  The original motion is also available in Resources below. There have been comments from the public about the “motion” by Lucas and he was asked to clarify. First, the note about a pass for parking in “Northumberland” (4th bullet point) should say “Cobourg”. Second, Lucas emphasized that his suggestions were just that, suggestions or “a series of ideas”, and he was asking staff to come back with a report. Third, the motion was approved and asked for the Staff report by the April meeting on April 24 and not the March meeting.

Implementation may not happen this summer; it might be the Fall or next year.

Council Chamber renovations

In the budget discussions, Councillors heard of plans to renovate the room where Council meetings are held and they approved the less than $50K budget to do this. According to Director Brent Larmer, this is needed to assist with introducing new technology and meet AODA Accessibility standards. But Miriam said that as a user, she had not been consulted about her needs, she said the dimensions on the memo from Brent were wrong and that cheaper options (such as castors on existing furniture) had not been considered. She said that there has been no discussion on the needs of Councillors.

Lucas said that Council had the opportunity to debate the plan at the budget sessions and had chosen not to and chose to let staff take the lead. He said he “does not like the idea of telling staff that the job they are doing is disappointing”.

Councillor Adam Bureau said that Council had approved the funds and that further Council approval was not needed, it was an operational issue and Council should not intervene. Lucas supported Adam’s comments.

Councillor Darling said that contractors would use their own measurements so the measurements on the sketch were not important.

However, Miriam moved an amendment to send the proposal to the Accessibility Advisory committee and to consider adapting the existing desks. In a recorded vote, her amendment was defeated 4-3. In another recorded vote, the original motion to approve proceeding with the renovations was approved 6-1.

Resources

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concerned taxpayer
1 month ago

Councillor Mutton was correct in stating that users of the work space should be consulted when accessibility needs are required in workspace renovations. Under the Human Rights code, the Employer has an absolute duty to provide accommodation when needed. She is also correct in her “tip of the iceberg” comment. This Mayor, who incidentally, seems to lack the ability to stay focused when others are speaking, also seems overly sensitive to the feelings of the town staff, not just on this issue, but other issues as well. Not to say the staff members do not do a good job, for which they are well paid, but, does the Mayor need to constantly placate them. He perhaps needs to be reminded it was the taxpayers of this community who put him in office, with a slim majority, not the town staff.
Kudos to Councillor Mutton for pushing back on this and other issues.

Cathy Toner
1 month ago

Why change anything right now in terms of the desks and infrastructure in council chambers? Honestly, such small potatoes when we have much more pressing items to be looked at in this town.
I thought Cobourg was broke. Before shelling out $$ on this extravaganza examine other areas where the budget should go.

Anne Fullerton
1 month ago

Isn’t workspace re-design about the people using the space rather than a focus on the space? Accessibility requirements began from a human centred approach. Changes to a building in one of Cobourg’s historic districts is governed by rules. Wouldn’t it be consistent that the interior of a very historic town building also speaks to the past while supporting and enhancing present users’ needs? Collaboration, decision-making etc,

Sandpiper
1 month ago

So why is it that this Mayor is holding Closed sessions Prior to every Public meeting
Defeats the purpose of Open , Honest Public discussion and representation doesn’t it !
So what we are seeing is merely Roll Playing and rehearsed .

small town Ontario
1 month ago

Councilor Mutton ask the question-What problem are we trying to solve? (re Chamber renovations)
She also thought that Councilors should be made aware of the changes to their workplace, before this was presented.
She did not get an answer from anyone on Council, or Mr. Larmer, because a problem at this time does not exist.
Mr Larmer said staff were trying to be proactive with accessibility standards
So, staff took it upon themselves to present this change and include the cost in the budget.
Councilor Mutton, as usual did her homework, and discussed other issues with this change including cost savings.
As I watched it was evident that we need to elect more Councilors like Ms. Mutton.
I also thought that Staff are in charge and sitting in those seats are 6 puppets.

Jenny C
Reply to  small town Ontario
1 month ago

AODA public space standards (a legislated act) are not something that are based on Councillor Mutton’s preferences or individual needs. I find it odd that she feels slighted that her “personal needs” were not queried.

Maybe she is questioning the process but it appears she is concerned about the Town making sure her owns needs are met. That’s a bad look.

Also a bad look when TOWN bylaws require the boulevard in front of a home to have vegetation no higher than 30 inches and yet you disregard this.

small town Ontario
Reply to  Jenny C
1 month ago

Town of Cobourg Regular Feb. 28, 2024 Council Meeting link
Watch and Listen and make up your own mind please. begins about 4:06

https://pub-cobourg.escribemeetings.com/Players/ISIStandAlonePlayer.aspx?Id=c60aaf67-193f-49cf-81ec-5fa631c9f77d

Bryan
Reply to  Jenny C
1 month ago

Jenny C,

Ms, Mutton challenged the Towns “high vegetation” bylaw and won. The bylaw was flawed and I believe it was subsequently amended

Bill Thompson
Reply to  small town Ontario
1 month ago

Mariam for Mayor …has more experience /credibility than the whole council.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bill Thompson
1 month ago

+1, Bill!
Miriam is the only member of Council who consistently does their homework.

Aleta
Reply to  small town Ontario
1 month ago

The staff do seem to be in charge, and I think Mutton was trying to push back on this generally–I was struck by her comment this is “the tip of the iceberg” and wish she had elaborated. I agree with her point that it would have been a courtesy for staff to consult the councilors about renovation of the Council Chambers. And as a taxpayer, I appreciate the fact that she was concerned about cost, and that changes could have been completed for much less money. She has more moxie than the rest of the puppets (who seem almost intimidated by the staff). Lastly, I do not agree with the Mayor’s comment that councilors should not state they are “disappointed” by staff’s efforts. Why not? They are disappointing in many ways–obviously don’t know how to accurately measure a room (as per her example).

Kathleen
Reply to  Aleta
1 month ago

Exactly! Council is supposed to support the will of the people – not the whim of Staff. Go Miriam!

Ben
1 month ago

I would be the first to note that proposed “modern furniture” ala IKEA flatpacks, but at consultants/designers prices, will remove the sense of heritage and history. But seeing that being against such ideas are from dinosaurs such as myself they will be eagerly be disposed of by the ‘Philistines’ in charge.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ben