The first regular Council meeting in 2024 was a marathon. In addition to passing the budget, re-considering Stormwater fees and taking action on Transition House (see earlier reports on this blog), Council also heard an update on the leasing of the Memorial Arena as a Fire fighters’ museum, approved a request to make an exemption on a downtown sign that contravenes Heritage rules and heard about a significant increase in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Firefighters gave a verbal report with little information but there is much more detailed information in their planned report to the Community Services, Protection, and Economic Development Standing Committee on February 7. (See the Agenda in Resources). The sign is for Jacqueline Pennington’s new office and the FOI report comes from Keith Hearst, Grant and Policy Writer in Brent Larmer’s Department.
In April 2021, an Ad Hoc committee was set up to explore options for what should be done with the Memorial Arena which had been closed in 2019. The first choice was to lease it to the “Canadian Firefighters Museum” (CFFM) which had previously been located in Port Hope. The museum opened in 1984 and closed in 2018 and has been on hold pending finding a new location. The Town agreed to a Lease and subject to Council approval, it’s hoped it will be signed by June 2024.
- Term: July 1 2024 – June 30th, 2044: 20 years
- Responsibility for Maintenance and Repairs. Town: building envelope (roof, walls, doors, windows, foundation); CFFM: interior Premises.
- Utilities and Services: CFFM
- Insurance: CFFM insures Premises, plus compensates Town for the overhead cost of Town insurance.
- Rent: $18,200/annum + HST (Utilities extra).
- Termination clause: 365 days’ notice (generally; specific clauses vary)
- Improvements and Alterations: Interior (Premises) CFFM; Exterior (building envelope) Town.
The Town is leasing the building, not transferring ownership, and it will continue to maintain the exterior. One factor is that the roof top has been leased out to a company until 2035 for solar panels. In addition, the Electrical service (transformer etc.) for both the Memorial Area and the adjacent Jack Heenan Arena is located in the Memorial Arena.
Usage of the parking lot will be shared with the Jack Heenan Arena which is used for Curling.
Sign for Jacqueline Pennington Real Estate Brokerage Office
Jacqueline’s new Office is located at 17 King Street East and she wants to use a sign to indicate what it is. Since it’s located in a Heritage District, application was made to the Heritage Advisory Committee and although the sign looks good (everyone seems to agree on that – lettering is illuminated around the edges), it does not conform to the current (old) rules for signs in the Heritage District. The vote by the advisory committee to approve an exemption was split 50 – 50 so was therefore not approved. There is a whole lot of documentation on the proposed sign in the Council Agenda (See Resources) – included is a recommendation for approval by the DBIA. Council was asked to make a final decision – which they did with a vote to approve an exemption in this case. A separate motion was also passed to review the By-Law and Guidelines for signs.
Freedom of Information Reports
The Provincial Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) imposes a legal obligation upon municipalities – the short version is that it requires Municipalities to provide public access to information with certain limitations and time limits. The Province also requires an annual report to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) on FOI requests received throughout the year. Statistics provided to the IPC include the number and type of requests received, fees collected, exemptions used, and how long it took to complete each request (normally 30 days).
The report that was provided to Council said that there were 27 requests in 2023 compared to 11 in 2022. Also, over the period since 2010, there has been an upward trend (see full report in Resources) and the fees charged (as permitted) do not adequately cover the time spent. Although the Association of Municipal Clerk and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) is asking the Province to “modernize” the relevant legislation, the staff report notes that “the size, scope, and volume of requests received in 2023 has put significant strain on the limited staff resources available to respond to requests as each request must be completed over and above individual staff duties.” As a result “additional resources may be required to ensure that the Town continues to fulfill all its legal obligations regarding FOI request processing.” It’s not spelled out whether this additional staffing is included in the recently approved budget.
The report on FOI did not get a whole lot of discussion.
- Ad Hoc Committee provides four options for Memorial Arena – 7 July 2022
- Firefighters’ Museum Update – 29 May 2023
- Council Approves 2024 Budget – Unchanged – 1 February 2024
- Stormwater Fee Schedule to be reviewed – 2 February 2024
- Council to pursue Agreement with Transition House – 4 February 2024
Town Meeting links
- Agenda for Council meeting on January 31 – includes Video of meeting
- Agenda for Community Services, Protection, and Economic Development Standing Committee on February 7
- 2023 Freedom of Information Request Update – report by Keith Hearst, Grant and Policy Writer
At today’s (7 Feb, 2024) Standing Committee Meeting, Mayor Lucas Cleveland said that there are other options for the Firefighters’ Museum that should be explored. He did not specify where or when – except for “very soon”. Lucas also emphasized that the Town is still on the hook for up to $1M in Capital costs to maintain the building over the 20 year lease.