Guelph city council will meeting again for the first time in nearly a month on Monday, and there be many things to discuss. Many of those details were not a part of the original agenda released for the meeting last week, but they were part of the amended agenda released Friday afternoon, and there are a lot of new details to go over.
Effects of COVID-19 Update
In terms of the financial implications of COVID-19 on the City of Guelph’s finances, the projections have increased $2.8 million since April, which brings the current losses to $11.8 million. That sounds bad, but the City’s further mitigation efforts since last month, including temporary lay-offs of over 100 permanent staff members, have saved an additional $3 to $5 million.
The City so far has saved between $7.8 and $9.8 million, but they’re still predicting a potential deficit by the end of the year that could be between $4 and $8 million. The report to council says that staff are now actively co-ordinating with their municipal counterparts to get emergency financing. Council will also be asked to endorse the campaigns from organizations like the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario to secure financial aid from higher levels of government and avoid deficits.
Council will also be asking staff to look at some of the considerations raised by the Mayor’s Task Force for Economic Recovery including a Buy Local campaign, and how to relaunch the City’s cultural and tourism business by reaching out first to locals, and then outward to the rest of the province as the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Staff are also working with community grant recipients to find new ways to spend money meant for 2020 programs that had to be cancelled as new events, and coming up with new programs to support local businesses and see them to the other side of the pandemic.
Our Food Future
Part of the economic recovery plan for COVID-19 means utilizing the City’s new Our Food Future office, which was opened to implement the Smart City Challenge funds and create the country’s first circular food economy. The plan now is to use $1.6 million of the funding to provide support to the local food system over the next 18 months. No elements of the original plan are being removed, but there is going to be some reprioritizing and restructuring to deal with the new normal.
There’s a 10-part plan that will involve increasing access to affordable and nutritious food. supporting new and existing food businesses, and strengthening resiliency in the local food system. Specific actions will include fulfilling the needs of vulnerable communities, supporting community gardens and other local sustainability measures, and creating a steering committee for a Food Resiliency Table.
The New Council Schedule
It seems like the May 11 meeting will be the last “special” meeting of council as the local government starts to returning to some kind of regular order, which would be a first since March 9. The new council schedule includes August meeting dates, which is a rarity since council usually takes that month off.
So moving forward, May will finish with a regular council meeting on Monday May 25, and a planning meeting on Wednesday May 27.
Starting in June, planning meetings will take place on the second Monday of the month as regularly scheduled. The regular council meeting will also return to the fourth Monday slot in June and August, but it will happen on the third Monday in July.
Special meetings of council on the response to COVID-19 will continue on a monthly basis for the time being on Wednesday June 17, Wednesday July 15, and Wednesday August 12.
There are also placeholder spots on the calendar for meetings on Monday June 22, Wednesday June 24, Wednesday July 22, and Monday July 27.
Committee of the Whole looks to be suspended until further notice.
As previously announced, council is going to debate a motion from Councillor James Gordon to create some more active transportation routes in Guelph by closing select lanes of traffic. The motion has been further refined to make it explicit that these measures are on a temporary or trial basis, and that there’s clear communication to the public as to where the new paths will be established. The budget will also now be $45,000, and it will come from the mayor and council training budget instead of the new sidewalk construction, but the motion also ask staff to prioritize the use of existing materials and supplies to accomplish separation.
Along with Gordon’s motion, there’s an additional motion from Councillor Cathy Downer. This one will ask staff to prepare a plan and find funding sources to allow for social distancing in public spaces where possible, so that the City might be ready to implement it when the community’s allowed to return to pre-COVID-19 activities.