CORRECTION from our February 11th “Did You Know”......the MRA in error provided an incorrect day of the opening of the Muskoka Community Health Hub. The correct day is MONDAY, March 14th, 2016. We apologize for this error.
UPDATE from our February 6th “ALERT” regarding snowmobile closures all trails north of Bala remain closed, for further information on trails that are “Open Limited” click here - Trail Update
A Special Township Watch was circulated to our membership on February 4th regarding the resolution to lease township lands to Swift River Energy Limited. (January 2016 - Special Township Watch). During that same meeting one of the resolutions passed was regarding Justice Wood's December 24th, 2015 ruling in favour of the Township, about the injunction filed by SaveTheBalaFalls.com against the Corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Council voted to give permission to the Township solicitor to seek legal costs from SaveTheBalaFalls.com.
The 2016 draft budget ( Budget - Draft 1) was introduced by CAO, Steve McDonald, who explained to the committee that he felt they were presenting a “responsible, practical and realistic budget”. Although Council had asked staff to present a 0% increase budget, they were actually presenting one at 3.77%, or an increase of $1.55 per $100,000.00 of property assessment. CAO McDonald explained it was the committee's job to decide what level of service to provide taxpayers by removing and adding items to the budget. Mr. McDonald stated that a plan to fund reserves to a fiscally responsible level is prudent.
Treasurer, Shannon Johnson, then noted that 51% of the taxes goes to the District of Muskoka, 32% to the School Board, leaving 17% for the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Ms Johnson also emphasized that there is a critical need to increase and maintain a sufficient balance in the Township reserves. It was further stated that reserves need to be increased at a rate of 2% to 3% yearly in order to fund the Township's 10 year capital plan.
Committee then spent eight hours reviewing both the operating and capital budgets, during which time additions and subtractions were made. Ms Johnson was asked to provide a budget update at the Committee of the Whole on Thursday. (see below)
Mist Opportunities, a partner in Touchstone Resort on Lake Muskoka, was before the Planning Committee for site plan approval for phase two of the development. Prior to approval being granted the committee had to decide what to do regarding the sewage treatment system that was originally to be constructed prior to December 31, 2013 and still has not been. Following a closed session meeting late in 2013 an extension on the sewage treatment plant had been granted but to date no permits have been submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for a new system. A representative from Mist Opportunities explained to the committee that all current sale agreements state that no occupancy permits will be issued for new development until the new sewage treatment plant is constructed and working. From two options before the committee, they voted to allow further development on the property but requires that Phase 2 buildings can only be connected to a new sewage treatment facility.
Although Director of Planning, David Pink, explained to committee that the public had been very concerned in the past about this development, and two years prior had asked that no more “promises” be made, no one from the public had asked to be informed of site plan approvals, and as such notification of the meeting had not been circulated.
CAO McDonald explained to the Committee that one of the goals of the Strategic Plan is to improve and enhance how the Township communicates with the public. The Township will start this process slowly with both Facebook and Twitter accounts which will:
The intention is to have the Township speak as one voice. Social media accounts will be monitored during office hours. Committee voted to move forward with this initiative. See Social Media Policy for a complete version.
Treasurer, Shannon Johnson, returned with an amended budget of 4.02% or an increase of $1.80 per $100,000.00 of property assessment. ( Budget - Draft 2) Committee again discussed items in the budget including two fire trucks that were approved in the 2015 budget but had not yet been purchased. It was questioned why two fire trucks were necessary, as, if one was removed from the budget that cost would stabilize the reserves. It was explained to the committee that two fire trucks were required because one had been deferred in 2014 by the previous council. Furthermore, the required fire truck purchase in the 2016 budget had already been deferred until 2017. It was again explained that updating fire trucks is necessary due to Township insurance rates and keeping the Township's volunteer firefighters safe.
As per procedure action items from committee meetings need to be ratified at council. Councillors Harding and Currie felt that the recommendation to purchase two fire trucks from the 2015 budget was “putting the cart before the horse”. Their sentiments were not echoed by the rest of council and the vote to purchase the two (2) fire trucks from the 2015 budget was carried.
Fire Chief Hayes had been asked to return to council with answers to questions that were posed to him at the January Committee of the Whole meeting. ( Fire Apparatus Procurement)
Chief Hayes showed council a short video which demonstrated how quickly a fire burns with today's household furnishing compared to 20 years ago. Chief Hayes then gave a very interesting presentation explaining how the Township fire department deploys its fire trucks to structure fires. The first truck deployed is a pumper truck, which range in size and holding capacity. This is followed by a tanker/pumper truck that holds additional water. These trucks allow for 8 to 10 minutes of water to fight a fire as the fire hoses run at 200 gallons per minute. During this time the fire department finds an alternate source of water. With all structure fires a second station is deployed. Chief Hayes emphasized that the responsibility falls on home owners to ensure that emergency access to their property is acceptable.
When questioned by the committee how often some of this equipment is used, Chief Hayes reminded them that since December 2014 there has been at least one or two structure fires per month in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
It was unfortunate that Councillor Nishikawa felt the need to walk out of the budget meeting. It is the MRA's opinion that councillors do not represent the Township and its voters when they leave meetings.
The MRA congratulates Councillor Barrick-Spearn who defended staff and their work at the Committee of the Whole meeting. During budget discussions Councillor Barrick-Spearn asked that the committee trust the work that staff had completed and acknowledge that they had done their due diligence.
Citing several clauses from the Township of Muskoka Lakes Code of Conduct for Council Members, the Muskoka Ratepayers' Association has initiated a complaint to the Township regarding recent actions of a few councillors. The Ratepayers' are following this course of action strictly by the rules detailed in the Township's Policy C-GC-06.
The MRA congratulates Johnston's Cranberry Marsh
on the opening of their new “ice trail”!!!
You can now follow the MRA on twitter at @MuskokaRatepyrs
and on Facebook at Muskoka Ratepayers' Association
To Renew your Membership or to Join the Muskoka Ratepayers' Association
MRA - Board Meeting
Nov 25, 2017 9:00am to 1:00pm
TML - Committee of Adjustment
Dec 13, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Committee of the Whole
Dec 14, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm
TML - Council
Dec 15, 2017 9:00am to 12:00pm