CAO’s quarterly report hits on impactful issues and bright spots

CAO Maria Wallace. (Submitted Photo)




Growth and development overviews, updates on Indigenous training and the draft Tourism Management Plan were all touched on in CAO Marcia Wallace’s First Quarter report during Tuesday’s regular council virtual meeting.

In the report, which covers January to March, Wallace summarized key activities and challenges the County has faced in the first quarter of 2021.

Though Wallace noted the report does not focus largely on COVID-19, it included general impacts and “bright spots.”

“After more than a year, the pandemic continues to influence the operations and the finances of the County,” the report stated. “Frontline customer service staff have noticed a heightened level of anxiety and anger from people calling the municipality this quarter, and continue to field calls on both the general and COVID help lines.”

Despite these challenges, the municipality continued its strong partnerships with the health community and extended the COVID-testing centre agreement with the Prince Edward Family Health Team and the Huff Estates Arena. In this quarter, the report noted, the County also established an agreement with the Hastings Prince Edward Public Health for COVID vaccine space in The Rotary Club of Picton Hall of the Huff Estates Arena. 

The frequency of vaccine clinic dates in Picton are expected to improve significantly in the second quarter, the report said.

Speaking to tourism management, Wallace said extensive planning and preparation for the coming 2021 tourism season has been a priority for many departments in the first few months of the year.

The draft Tourism Management Plan, which was introduced in January, includes a range of measures including additional staffing, updated and online County Ambassador Training, new conflict competence and compassion training, improved site management, increased enforcement and enhanced communication strategies. 

The municipality will also be implementing online training for frontline staff in the areas of conflict de-escalation and diversity.

Coun. Bill Roberts asked if Indigenous training will also be considered top priority, which Wallace assured it is. 

She said the intention is to ‘lead from the top’ by training leaders and managers of the municipality first.

“When it comes to Indigenous training and Truth and Reconciliation-focused training, we have looked at that this year and we are moving forward this month on some training with the planning department and the staff that work with land-use planning files,” Wallace explained. “That is a group-based training with some experts in the field who also have Indigenous membership that work to customize training in a very interactive way that is aimed at planners.”

In the report overview under roads and infrastructure, Wallace explained water and wastewater compliance remains a strong priority for the County.

She said along with annual operating and summary drinking water reports required by the province, the first quarter also included the completion of a five-year recertification application package to maintain the municipal drinking water licenses.

A milestone achieved in the first quarter, the report said, was receiving a provincial Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) for the new ozone treatment system for the Wellington WasteWater Treatment Plant. 

Several capital projects for road and bridge reconstruction and rehabilitation completed this quarter included the Black River Bridge Rehabilitation; Talbot and Lake Street reconstruction in Picton; Hill Street and Fairfield Street reconstruction in PIcton to replace the undersized sanitary sewer force main; construction of George Wright Boulevard in Picton to the newly constructed Foodland retail complex; and Highway 33 improvements for road widening, traffic signals and lighting along Cold Storage Road west of the Millenium Trail.

Staff responded to 23 winter events in 2021, including both road and sidewalk clearance. 

Another key topic of the First Quarter Report related to projected growth and development.

“With a hot real estate market and the usual demand for timely approvals to facilitate the upcoming construction season, development services have been in demand in the first quarter of the year,” Wallace explained.

Wallace said there have been more than 250 inquiries made related to planning in the first quarter and with growth higher than anticipated in recent years, Council is expected to see subdivision projects in Rossmore, Picton and Wellington that if approved, would greatly increase the housing supply in Prince Edward County over the coming year.

Wallace’s report also shared that County Council paused new Short-Term Accommodation (STA) applications last fall to allow staff to “reflect on the County’s experience to date and provide recommendations on how to improve the licensing program.”

Coun. John Hirsch asked for clarity on Short Term Accommodation licensing and what to expect for grandfathered properties.

“There are about 100 applications that we are just sitting on waiting to move forward, or not, depending on council’s eventual decision on what to do with the pause,” Wallace explained. “We still have a lot to do as it relates to inspections and to complete the full licensing process. Even moving forward on that, which we were able to under the pause, there is a lot of pent up demand for STAs and continues to be in this community which I think is the main point we were trying to make in the quarterly reflection.”

Staff brought forward a new Official Plan that was passed by Council in February and is with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for review and final decision. 

In terms of financial considerations, the report stated it is too early to determine if the pandemic will strongly impact the 2021 budget.

“Should lockdown measures be lifted the overall impact on revenues and expenditures could be recovered by the end of the year,” the report stated.

The First Quarter Report was received as a St. Jean-Prinzen motion and a second quarter report is set to come before council in July.