Middlesex Centre Council Recap: Jan 2018 – April 2018

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Hello there! First, let me please apologize for not posting these updates as often as I wanted to. To be frank, not a whole lot happened during the last half of 2017 except for a few key issues:

  • The OMB hearing over the Tridon/Don Black lands (formerly the Gabriel farm on Glendon Dr) was dealt with, and decisions were issued. Site works are now under way.
  • The OMB hearing over the South Winds lands was dealt with, and site works are now under way.
  • The 2018 budget was passed with only a slight increase in the tax rate. As previously mentioned, water and wastewater rates held steady. The aforementioned developments will help us keep those rates under control.

During the first four months of the year, Council made a few significant decisions, including:

January 2018

  • We reviewed and voted to receive the annual drinking water and wastewater reports for 2017. Overall 2017 was a very positive year with only a few minor issues that were swiftly addressed. Our water and wastewater operations teams are doing really good work ensuring we have safe, potable water and a wastewater system that does its job.
  • The final budget report for 2017 was received, and overall the financials of Middlesex Centre are in very good shape. The only large amount of debt we took on for this year was funding for development charges, since there is a lag between when the money is spent and when it’s collected. However, development charges paid also cover the interest on the debt, so taxpayers are not out any money on this debt.
  • We awarded the contract to expand the Ilderton wastewater treatment facility, allowing for the development of the Sifton Clear Skies property on the northeast corner of Hyde Park Rd and Ilderton Rd. This is fully funded by development charges, and therefore existing residents/taxpayers are not on the hook for the $5,380,040.00 contract.

February 2018

  • We issued grants to the following organizations using the Council Grants program:
    • London and Middlesex Heritage Museum – Fanshawe Pioneer Village – $5,000.00
    • Tri-County Heritage Club – $1,500.00
    • Middlesex Centre Archives – $5,000.00
    • Komoka Railway Museum – $1,500.00
    • Del-Ko-Brydge Canada Day – $1,000.00
    • Poplar Hill Picnic – $1,200.00
    • Optimist Club of Bryanston-Birr – $1,500.00
  • We appointed a new clerk! Her name is Ann Wright, and she’s been doing a great job so far.
  • My notice of motion to include a live streaming solution as part of the new municipal agenda meeting management software was approved! I’m very optimistic that a decent, affordable solution will be presented to Council later this year for approval.

March 2018

  • We received a report on the changes made to the appeals process for planning decisions, which has scrapped the Ontario Municipal Board in favour of the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
    • Though much of the same staff will remain in place, the new appeals process puts far more control back into the hands of muncipalities, and now it is up to an appellant to prove that a municipality did not following its established planning procedures, and the Planning Act. This is good for everyone except for developers who feel like they’re not getting their way.
  • We wrote to the Province to support SARI’s property tax exemption over new property they recently acquired. It’s a great program that does very important work for children with disabilities.
  • We voted to approve moving the Council meeting start time from 4pm to 6pm. We are hopeful that this will allow a great portion of the public to attend Council meetings, and will encourage more people to run for office this year.
  • We were finally able to approve the purchase of two electric vehicles for our Green Fleet – one Chevrolet Volt, and one Chevrolet Bolt. Both vehicles are already in use and lowering our gasoline costs, while also reducing our greenhouse gas emissions overall.

April 2018

  • Council approved a parking arrangement for some businesses in Arva to help relieve the pressure on Medway Rd. We will continue to face some parking pressures as Medway High School’s sports field undergoes renovations over the next few months, but at least some area businesses have a bit of parking set aside for them now.
  • Council approved our first engagement with Middlesex ALUS to allow the organization, on their own dime, to re-naturalize a portion of the lands on the Delaware Enviro Depot property once we have performed some drainage work.
  • Council directed staff to proceed with a Pedestrian Crossover Program, formalizing the adoption of several different types of crossovers/crosswalks for different types of roads and traffic counts. In Ward 4, you can expect to see crosswalks installed at Jefferies Rd & Stephen Moore Dr in Kilworth, at Komoka Rd & Hamilton St in Komoka, and at Queen St & Fieldstone Gate in Komoka over the next few years. This should improve safety for our children, and really all citizens that walk in those areas.
  • We removed the holding zone provision for Clear Skies in Ilderton, allowing that development to move forward.

And those are the highlights for the first four months of this year! The municipal election nomination period began yesterday, and I’m looking forward to seeing who throws their name into the hat. The next few months, and years, are going to be really excited all around Middlesex Centre, and especially Komoka and Kilworth.

Doing the Research on an OPP Alternative

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Since taking office in November 2016, and before that during the 2014 campaign, I have been told that, at times, our current police service can feel inadequate. After sending the Ontario Provincial Police a number of questions aimed at determining the service Middlesex Centre is provided in exchange for $2+ million per year, and having several discussions with residents and business owners, I came to the conclusion that Middlesex Centre should evaluate our alternatives.

This Wednesday, I’m introducing a notice of motion that seeks to do the homework on evaluating alternatives to the OPP. This motion does not seek to replace the OPP right away, but rather to do the homework needed to figure out whether an alternative would be suitable.

Dr. Jeff King, an area resident and former police officer, has a delegation this Wednesday where he will present a proposal to be considered as part of the evaluation, should the motion pass. He is confident a more effective, more affordable alternative can be formed, and this is his chance for Council to ask him questions.

I encourage you to read the attached material, and provide any feedback you have. Thank you!

Q&A with OPP

1. How many staff (enforcement and administrative) total are located at the stations that primarily serve Middlesex Centre? I imagine this includes Strathroy, Lucan, and possibly Western Region HQ.

Middlesex County OPP has a complement of approximately 90 civilian and sworn members, working from four reporting locations; Strathroy, London, Lucan and Glencoe.

The OPP uses an integrated service delivery model at detachments whereby municipal policing services are provided to contract and non-contract municipalities, while provincial policing commitments are also being met, e.g. policing provincial highways, unorganized territories, etc. Municipalities benefit from the integrated service model as it provides the OPP with enhanced flexibility in meeting fluctuating and changing policing demands and at a lower cost than having one detachment service each municipality. This provides the OPP with enhanced flexibility to meet a variety of operational demands at a lower cost by leveraging economies of scale. Officers in detachments are not assigned specifically as a municipal or provincial officer. The OPP uses a time and activity electronic tracking system referred to as the Daily Activity Reporting (DAR) system, to capture staff data. The system tracks detailed records which include time, work locations, and activities.

2. How many officers are employed at the stations that primarily serve Middlesex Centre?

See answer to question #1

3. Are routine patrols conducted in Middlesex Centre, and with what frequency? (e.g. daily, every other day, once a week, etc.)

The OPP recognizes that random patrol and non-strategic enforcement are not efficient usages of our limited police resources. Focused Patrol is a detachment-based initiative aimed to identify community traffic and crime ‘hot spots’, enabling the organization to better reduce crime and victimization.

4. What areas do routine patrols typically cover? (e.g. Komoka, Ilderton, Ten Mile Rd, etc.)

Patrols cover all areas of a municipality, however enhanced patrols, specifically Focused Patrols are directed to a specific area/issue. See answer to question 5 for a further explanation.

5. What is the difference between a routine patrol and an enhanced patrol?

Focused Patrol is an efficiency-oriented initiative that demonstrates the OPP’s commitment to organizational accountability, crime/traffic reduction targets and aims for the reduction in future calls for service. Through data analysis or complaint driven, officers are directed by their supervisor/detachment commander a specific focus (type of crime/traffic), location (“hotspot”), time of day/night and duration. These seven criteria are required in order to meet the parameters of Focused Patrol:

a) Directed by supervisor/detachment commander
b) Specific focus provided
c) Specific location
d) Time
e) Duration of patrol
f) Number of members involved
g) Specific tracking and reporting requirements met

6. More specifically, what was enhanced about the patrol that recently apprehended two suspects in Kilworth whom are alleged to have been conducting thefts?

Middlesex Centre, and more specifically Kilworth and Komoka experienced significant increases in property crime in the month of August. In addition, officers were being informed that some thefts from vehicles were not being reported. Analysis indicated that the thefts were occurring between midnight and 04:00 hrs so a Focused Patrol was initiated to address this problem.

Twenty officers conducted 106 hours of foot and vehicle patrol from midnight to 4 am from Sept 1st until mid-November. October and November stats indicate that property crime has decreased by 22% from the same period in 2016.

At least 3 parties were identified and charged for property theft from this initiative.

7. How often do OPP officers set up “speed traps” in Middlesex Centre?

Traffic safety initiatives occur daily within Middlesex County, throughout all municipalities served by the OPP. Traffic safety initiatives are not strictly limited to Enforcement, rather Education and Engagement are also employed to make our roadways safe.

8. How successful, in terms of tickets and fines issued, are these “speed traps?”

Traffic enforcement is one of a number of methods used to change driver behaviour to make our roadways safe.

9. How many calls do the OPP respond to on a weekly, monthly, and annual basis in Middlesex Centre?

Over the three year period of 2014-2016 Middlesex Centre experienced an average of 1995 calls per year. Only slight variances in the numbers were observed from year to year and 2017 also remains fairly consistent.

To date (Nov 25) Middlesex Centre has had 1742 calls and if we predict the annual total based on the current year we can anticipate approximately 1937 calls which is a 2.9% decrease from the three year average.

  • Average monthly calls in 2017 were 161, while the 3 year average is slightly higher at 166.
  • Average weekly calls in 2017 were 37 while the 3 year average came to 38.

10. How many calls result in criminal charges being pressed against individuals?

Detailed information on current charge data is not available but I have included information which indicates charges laid per occurrence. The number of charges and number of charged parties is not detailed.

Number of Occurrences where charges were laid

Year – Criminal Code – Provincial Offences
2017 – 168 – 158
2016 – 176 – 182
2015 – 150 – 145

2018 Water and Wastewater Rates

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I’ve been engaging with Middlesex Centre residents in a Facebook group where the current state of water and wastewater rates are discussed. As promised to them, I provided an update on the current trajectory for 2018 as a result of the ongoing budget process.

As you may recall, I made a motion at Council earlier this year to have the ramifications of a 2.5%, 5%, and 10% reduction of the minimum water and wastewater rates studied. BMA Consulting did this work on behalf of the municipality, along with looking at a number of other issues, and the results are being presented at the next Council meeting. You can find the report here (PDF format).

I’m rather disappointed in the incredibly narrow interpretation of “ramifications” by BMA. I was hoping to see something akin to “If minimum monthly charges are reduced by 2.5%, the usage charge would have to increase by X amount to make up for the shortfall.” Alas, that did not occur. I will raise that concern, and others, next Wednesday.

On a positive note, despite BMA’s conclusion that a rate freeze would result in a reduction of $22,147 going into reserve funds (reserves that would then be used in 2019 to pay for capital projects), staff is recommending another rate freeze. You can find the staff report and recommendation here (PDF format).

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on the matter after reviewing BMA’s report and the staff report. I won’t be glued to the computer all weekend, but I promise I will check in a few times.

Middlesex Centre Council Recap: May – Jun 2017

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May 2017

  • Middlesex Centre received full scope accreditation for their management of municipal water and wastewater systems! 😀
  • Quite coincidentally, after much teeth gnashing over an alleged “raise” for the Director of Public Works & Engineering appearing on 2016’s Sunshine List, staff brought forth a new Compensation Management policy designed to curb costs and still ensure municipal staff receive the benefits their due.
    • The new policy prevents staff from being provided both time in lieu and overtime.
    • Time in lieu is offered to employees, and especially department heads, because they attend Council meetings in addition to working a full day, and those Council meetings can last upwards of four hours when there are public meetings to conduct.
    • The new policy prevents municipal employees from being paid out for unused time in lieu.
    • This was the source of the majority of the extra funds paid out to the Director of PWE, as he has not been unable to use the time in lieu given the extra duties that have been under his purview. As roles are filled, he will be able to take the time off he is owed.
  • The overwhelming majority of residents, and prospective residents, of the Komoka Glen subdivision asked for help in either preventing, or modifying, the noise wall that’s supposed to be erected prior to the subdivision being assumed by the municipality.
    • I met with a few of the residents prior to their delegation at Council to hear them out. I agree that the current noise wall plans don’t make any sense, and at the Council meeting we directed staff to contact the appropriate rail authorities to determine whether alterations can be made, and how to go about that.
  • We found out that Herm’s Sport Exchange is going to stick around at the Wellness Centre for another year, now that we’ve brought the Komoka Kings Junior ‘B’ hockey team to the Wellness Centre.

June 2017

  • We voted to adopt a new reserve and reserve fund policy that further spells out under which conditions funds can be withdrawn, transferred, and so on. If you’re interesting in this sort of thing, it’s worth a read.
  • My motion to have staff report back on possible traffic calming measures for Westbrook Drive failed, however it was largely because the work would likely have taken 18 months to complete.
    • That’s because the municipality doesn’t have any policies or design standards around traffic calming measures, and therefore those would have had to have been created first.
    • Despite the motion failing, staff are taking the issue seriously and are conducting their own investigations. We had a speed monitor out on Westbrook Drive the next day, collecting data. And there is a pilot program taking place with traffic calming measures being deployed in some trouble areas to see how well they work.
  • Our auditor reported that our financials looked healthy, and everything was in order. You can review the 2016 Draft Financial Statements here.
  • We voted to execute the agreement with the Komoka Kings Junior ‘B’ hockey team, bringing the organization to the Komoka Wellness Centre for the next 10 years. I’m looking forward to seeing the home games on Saturday nights!
  • We voted to execute the site plan agreement for Glendon Drive Developments, allowed them to start requesting building permits for the new commercial plaza at Glendon Drive and Tunks Lane, across the street from the Wellness Centre.
    • Settling the matter also required with withdrawal of the OMB appeal, which happened in early July.
  • We also approved a video surveillance policy, limiting the storage of any video captured to five days, as recommend by the Canadian privacy commissioner. This will impact any existing video surveillance already in use, like at water and wastewater infrastructure points, and the Wellness Centre.

It was a busy two months, which also included a lot of surplus residence severances on agricultural properties across the municipality. As always, if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!

Middlesex Centre Council Recap: Feb – Apr 2017

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February 2017

  • In late February, my motion to join the group of municipalities asking the TVDSB to install automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all schools across the board was passed.

March 2017

  • After careful deliberation and consideration of the consequences of the maintaining the status quo or a change, Council voted to continue to allow municipal staff to serve as volunteer firefighters, as long as their supervisor determines it won’t interfere with their normal responsibilities.
    • We often get a big response on calls, so I’m confident this won’t impact services or the number of firefighters that respond.
  • We had successful grant applications come back from the federal government to help Middlesex Centre improve the Ilderton Rail Trail, and the Ilderton Skate Park.
  • The design for the new Ilderton Wastewater Treatment Facility began.

April 2017

  • Middlesex Centre approved the initial steps of turning the old senior citizens’ home at Gideon Dr and Brigham Rd into a self-storage facility. The drawings looked pretty nice, and the owner of the property seemed eager to work with people that live nearby to minimize disruption of any kind.

I will return tomorrow with updates for May and June 2017.