City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the June 27 Meeting?

The final city council meeting in June promises to be a very busy one, preoccupied with money matters, special presentations, and some very ambitious plans for Guelph Transit.

Closed Meeting – Solid Waste Management Follow-up; Citizen Appointments to The Elliott Community Board of Trustees; Report of the Infrastructure Development and Enterprise Committee – Potential Disposition or Acquisition of Downtown Property; Report/Advice of City Solicitor – Council Privilege.

Guelph Junction Railway Shareholder Meeting: Chief Financial Officer – 2015 Audited Financial Statements, Appointment of Auditors, Guelph Junction Railway Report to the City – It was a good year for the GJR with a net income of $646,000 for 2015 over a comparatively slim $206,000 for 2014. Higher car volumes, and an improved partnership with Ontario Southland Railway (OSR) contributed to the nearly 200 per cent gain, and much of that money will be reinvested into the system, specifically the reconstruction of the Eramosa Bridge, which has been struggling with increased capacity. For 2016, GJR expects to exceed revenue again as train traffic continues to rise. KPMG LLP are being recommended again to serve as auditors for Guelph Junction Railway for 2017.

Presentation – Thank yous will be offered to Special Olympics Athletes for the Ontario Spring Games recently held in Guelph, followed by the presentation of the Ontario Historical Society Museum Award of Excellence in Community Programming awarded to Guelph Museums for excellence in community involvement and programming, which will be received by Colleen Clack, General Manager Culture, Tourism and Community Investment, Linda Kearns, In Flanders Fields at 100 Task Force Chair and Tammy Adkin, Manager Guelph Museums.

Audit Committee: 2015 Draft Consolidated Financial Statements and External Audit Findings Report – City Council is required to annually review and approve the City of Guelph’s Audited Consolidated Financial Statements by the Municipal Act 2001. In other words, some of the departments that the City pays into require their own separate external auditing, including the Guelph Police Services Board, who finished nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in the black ($726,000) thanks to “lower staff compliment and additional grant and special duty revenue.” Meanwhile, the Guelph Public Library Board finished within $1,000 of their 2015 budget; the Downtown Guelph Business Association achieved a $102,000 surplus for 2015, which was markedly better than their 2014 deficit of $72,000; and the Elliott Community trimmed their deficit down to $338,000 from $790,000 thanks to more City funding due to expansion of their services. In addition, the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit’s budget has able to cover a two per cent funding gap caused by a freeze at the provincial level, but their audit has only been about 50 per cent completed, and the problems at Guelph Municipal Housing Inc. have already been well-covered.

Corporate Services Committee: 2015 Final Year-End Report on Operating Variance Surplus Allocation and Deficit Funding – So it turns out that in 2015, $1.192 million was saved in Tax Supported programs and $2.199 million was saved from the Non-Tax Supported budgets. Staff is recommending that the Tax Supported surplus be allocated to the tax rate stabilization reserve ($1,014,646) and operating contingency reserve ($177,177). Meanwhile, the Non-Tax Supported surplus will be divided between the Water contingency reserve ($397,347), the Wastewater capital reserve ($1,342,190), the Building services stabilization reserve ($657,816), and to pay the Court Services deficit of $198,534. Guelph Police Services Board has asked that their $725,775 operating surplus go into the Police Headquarter Expansion project, but staff is not recommending that because the project is already full funded.

Corporate Services Committee: Operating Variance Reporting Recommendations – Along with the reporting of all these variances, the council wants to know if the City is doing the various best job it can reporting variances. So the City sought out the advice of 30 municipalities to see what they do, and 16 of them got back in touch. Council’s being asked to approve that the reporting of variances will continue to be presented to them on quarterly basis, and that they will be presented at a more detailed department level with enhanced financial data and statistical information to elevate the transparency of reporting and accuracy of projections.

Corporate Services Committee: 10 Carden Shared Space Inc., Community Bond and Tax Incentive Program Request – It’s a bad news/not exactly bad news conversation for the renovated 10 Carden Street. On the first one, the City has decided that it can’t buy a $50,000 community bond on the basis of the fact that “the Municipal Act legislation is very clear on what investment vehicles a Municipality is allowed to invest their public Investment Portfolio funds,” and community bonds aren’t one of them. On the second matter, that “the City of Guelph develop a Community Improvement Plan Program to stimulate commercial investment” in designated areas, staff points that there are presently just the two major Community Improvement Plan programs, but a review of those programs are coming in 2017, and 10 Carden may have to wait until that’s done despite their Fall 2016 deadline to re-open in the old Acker’s Furniture space.

Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Committee: Water and Wastewater Customer Accounts By-law, Phase 1 – A lots changed in Guelph since the Water Supply By-law was first passed in 1991, and now the by-law itself needs change. According to the City, 42,000 customer accounts have been added in the last 25 years, and in addition to sheer numbers, there have been changes to technology and metering that have made altering the by-law necessary due to customer expectations of “timeliness, accuracy, and availability of consumption and billing information.”

So what will the Water and Wastewater Customer Accounts By-law entail? Details on how billing is handled, how to meet and administer customer expectations, how to meter water and wastewater properly, and how to support the collecting of revenue. Preparations to determine the standards needed for all of those areas has already begun with a planned 2016 Water and Wastewater Rate Review. Staff will be initiating a large water meter and account audit this fall that will initially target the 150 largest water consumer accounts, representing approximately 85 per cent of the current annual Industrial, Commercial and Institution sector revenues. Work on this by-law should be completed in time for 2017 Non-Tax Supported Water and Wastewater Budgets.

Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Committee: Sign By-law Variances, 175 Chancellors Way – The University of Guelph is looking to install an illuminated freestanding sign with a sign face area of 6.14m2 and a height of 4.87m above the roadway next to 175 Chancellors Way, the Chancellors Way Medical Arts Centre.

Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Committee: Sign By-law Variances for 125 Chancellors Way – The Lammer Development Group of 125 Chancellors Way would like a bigger than typically allowed sign on their property, a “7m by 5m driveway sightline triangle.” According to the City, it shouldn’t have a negative effect on sightlines for drivers or pedestrians.

Public Services Committee: Snow Disposal Facility Requirements – Snow. It’s got to go somewhere when plowed from the City’s roads, sidewalks and parking lots, and the current snow disposal facility doesn’t meet Ministry of Environment and Climate Change guidelines or best management practices. (Apparently, the original facility was set up without any such guidelines in mind.) For the cost of $515,000 from the Capital Budget, the City is looking to establish a new SDF at the Wellington Street Site (Wastewater Treatment Plant location). Council approval will mean that the pre-design/pre-construction studies and data collection will begin this year, and construction could start sometime in 2017.

Public Services Committee: Guelph Transit Growth Opportunities – Transit, despite its summer of discontent, will present a report showing where and how it would like to grow in the future with budget restrictions, limited resources and changing and competing priorities. Transit has 81 recommendations; 44 of them have been completed so far with six more in progress. Looking to the future, Transit would like council to consider a combination of conventional bus service, rapid buses, and light rail, but some of that is more immediate in the implementation than others.

For the next five years, Transit is more specifically looking at 24 new buses, 40 new operators, a Gordon/Norfolk/Woolwich corridor route that will run every 10 minutes, a new 21 Speedvale route, seven new routes, and transit priority measures and transit strategy recommendations. To make this happen, Transit will need a cash infusion of about $10-$13 million per year from 2017 through to 2021 if the City decides they want the changes to be implement, though some of that funding may come through the federal or provincial governments since they are promising substantial spending to be directed to public transit. Guelph Transit’s recommended budget for 2016 was $13.9 million, which was nearly $400,000 less than 2014 and 2015.

Meeting Management Review – Committee of the Whole governance structure is a go! City Clerk Stephen O’Brien is going to recommend to council that moving to the committee of the whole structure will offer “more efficient agenda production and Council/Committee meetings and further promote an open and transparent government.” So how will this work? Instead of several individual committees split amongst council, as it works right now, the Committee on the Whole will meet on the first Monday of every month (Tuesday in case of a holiday Monday), while the regular planning meeting proceeds on the second Monday and the council meeting will take place on the fourth Monday. Part of this process includes using technology, especially social media, to make it easier for the public to access meeting information and agendas, as well as save time and resources dedicated to holding meetings. If approved by council, the new structure could begin as soon as September.

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