CAO Marcia Wallace provides third quarter update to council

CAO Maria Wallace. (Submitted Photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

CAO Marcia Wallace brought the third quarter report before council at the November 9th meeting. The report covers the time between July 1, 2021- September 30, 2021. As per Wallace, it is designed to offer context on the implementation of Council decisions, particularly budget decisions, and provide a look ahead into the next quarter.

Notably, in her executive summary, the CAO stated the municipality continued to see lower than normal revenue due to the pandemic. This is mainly due to pandemic restrictions and issues pertaining to supply-chain disruptions.

In her report, Wallace noted that in the third quarter, county staff continued to offer space and resources for Covid-19 vaccination clinics, with regards to both the Wellington and District Community Centre and the Prince Edward County Chamber of Commerce’s COVID rapid testing program. To date 2275 testing kits have been given out with more than 42 local businesses partaking in the program. Though testing continues to be offered Prince Edward Community Centre, this has begun to wind down due to decreased need.

The third quarter, as noted in the report, has also seen the return of in person Regular Council Meetings, Committee of the Whole Meetings and Planning Committee Meetings. In the future, the public will be able to attend meetings at the Highline Hall in Wellington.

With pandemic restrictions beginning to ease, staff have also seen an increase in Commissioner of Oath and officiant services. Wallace noted there has also been a marked increase in use of municipal facilities.

Perhaps of most concern from a budgetary standpoint, Wallace commented that-like many other places-the county has experiences delays in construction projects due to the high cost of labour and materials due to the supply chain shortages.

Wallace also reported that the municipality dipped into their land reserves this quarter to provide space for the Affordable Housing Corporation to create affordable housing. Both the former Duke Dome property in Wellington and a site on Disraeli Street were offered to the corporation.

As noted, two significant grants were applied for this past quarter to “build out public space and recreation space in the county”. These grants include the development of a Picton Harbour Trail, which would guide the public through the area, incorporating streets and boardwalks (existing and future) and provide lookout rest points. Reportedly, this work involved consultation with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and will reflect our shared history.

The other grant applied for was a Community Building Grant submitted for Roblin Lake to revitalize the sports recreation facilities such as the baseball diamond and tennis court.

As of the third quarter, the municipality has conducted 250 health/hazard assessments on trees. Staff are also cataloguing trees in public spaces. Also, with help from Tree the County, staff and volunteers managed to plant 13 new trees in Benson Park.

Wallace noted that council also launched an unsuccessful anti-idling campaign. She commented that this campaign received mostly negative feedback from residents due to its timing in the middle of a heat wave, when people wanted to be able to cool down in their vehicles.

Councillor John Hirsch. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Among the more in-depth topics covered were that of tourism management, road maintenance, rehabilitation and reconstruction as well as growth and development.

With regards to tourism management, The County implemented its first Tourism Management Plan in the third quarter in response to a busier than normal tourism season in 2020. According to Wallace, this challenged several departments and saw some definite financial and operational successes.

Despite a busy tourist season in 2021, Wallace reported that local complaints diminished and that the county saw a more “controlled and contained” tourism season in the third quarter.

Some internal changes include the move to an “arms-length” Tourism Destination Development and Marketing organization as opposed to one within Shire Hall. The purpose of this, as per Wallace’s report, is to refocus municipal staff efforts on tourism management and the fine balance between resident and tourism objectives.

Among other tourism related changes this past third quarter include the awarding of a contract to do a Short-Term Accommodations (STA) housing market study offering suggestions on what could be done to improve the licensing program in 2022 with a presentation planned for council this November.

The municipality also launched a new STA map, with reported mixed reaction. Some residents are said to be pleased with the map, while other are confused by the information gaps present and still others (namely STA operators) unhappy with the publication of the map for fear of retribution from disgruntled neighbours.

The CAO noted the several rehabilitation projects that have taken place on county roads in the last few months. These include, but are not limited to, pavement widening and sidewalks installed on Highway 33, a pedestrian crossover installed in Wellington by C.M.L. Snider Elementary School and the start of the retaining wall project at the Mary Street Parking Lot.

There were also several discussions pertaining to roadway safety brought forth during the third quarter by the Traffic Advisory Committee. These include:

Speed limits and line painting along Salmon Point Road

  • Speed limits along Swamp College Road
  • School zone signage for Massassauga-Rednersville Public School
  • Speed limits along Massassauga Road
  • Speed limits along Smokes Point Road
  • Speed limits along Gilead Road
  • Speed limits on County Road 4
  • Speed limits on Chuckery Hill Road
  • School crossing zone along Church Street
  • Church Street and Union Street all-way stop
  • Johnson Street and Barker Street all-way stop
  • Cherry Valley speed humps

Notably, a technical evaluation of traffic and pedestrian safety along County Road 7, the much-contested road by Lake on the Mountain, was awarded in the third quarter. Recommendations and design options are intended to come back to council in early 2022.

As well, many residents will be interested to know changes to the town hill are afoot. According to the the CAO, “Staff will also be contracting or purchasing the outstanding elements to improve the Town Hill intersection in Picton as part of the provincial Connecting Links Grant. The line painting has been completed and additional work, including rehabilitation of the Bridge Street retaining wall to improve sightlines, a larger overhead direction sign, and a pedestrian crossover (PXO) on Bridge Street will be installed in Q2 of 2022, contingent on MTO approving the PXO study.”

Councillor Kate MacNaughton. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Unsurprisingly, to anyone who has spent more than a weekend in the county as of late, growth and development is progressing at an exponential rate. Given this, Wallace wrote there has been considerable workload pressure on staff due to both high demand locally for development and applications brought forward to meet the transition conditions of the new Official Plan, approved on July 7.

According to Wallace, there have been over 700 inquiries since the beginning of the year and over 250 planning act applications have been opened.

Of note, in the third quarter, two subdivisions received final approval and are now registered. They are Talbot on the Trail in Picton and Amigo’s (Lady of the Woods) in Rossmore.

In response to the report, Councillor John Hirsch commended the CAO for providing a document that helps connect the actions made by staff to the decisions made by council.

“These reports really allow the public, when they read them, to make the connection between decisions made by council and what staff is actually doing,” he said.

Hirsch also inquired as to when the public and deputantes might be invited back for in person meetings at Highline Hall.

“We’ve been aiming to have a full public audience by the time we do budget for the early part of December,” answered Wallace. “The intention is to have more staff and the deputantes here for the next set of meetings, so end of November and if that goes well then move to a full public audience for the December meetings.”

Councillor Kate MacNaughton questioned Wallace about the language used to describe the lack of success with the anti-idling campaign.

“You talk about the evolving culture of the county and lessons learned and applying them going forward, specifically regarding the communications campaign to do with the anti-idling bylaw,” said MacNaughton. “I’m wondering, is this a specific growth mindset approach the municipality is trying to move ahead with so that the ability to evolve and learn is becoming more embedded?”

“If you’ve heard that,” began Wallace, “that’s welcoming news. We have a lot of responsibility and services people depend on and, if we’re going to improve, we need to innovate but not everything is going to be popular.

Wallace added the reason she included such wording in the report was to “admit where we didn’t get it right.”