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

Upcoming Public Meetings on January 25, 2017

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Municipal staff recently notified me that there are several public meetings coming up during the January 25, 2017 Council Meeting. These usually start at 7pm, so you don’t need to attend the whole meeting.

If you review these and want to ask me any questions, please feel free to do so via Twitter, Facebook, email, or phone.

If you have any feedback at all, let me know!

What to Expect in 2017 from Middlesex Centre

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Well, in a highly unexpected twist of circumstances (1, 2, 3), I was appointed Ward 4 Councillor in Middlesex Centre on November 30, 2016. You can see the municipality’s press release here.

During the months of November and December, I had the opportunity to hear from many residents already on a number of issues. Some I am supportive of, others I’m not. That is the nature of discourse, and perfectly reasonable. I wanted to highlight a few key measures I voted on during my first few meetings, and what to expect from the Municipality of Middlesex Centre (MXC) and me during 2017.

  • There was a vote to ask a consultant, Nigel Bellchamber, to participate in the interview process for the new Fire Chief. I don’t have any against Mr. Bellchamber, but it seemed there were already too many people involved, and Mr. Bellchamber had already provided a great report on what our firefighters and District Chiefs would like to see in a Chief. I voted no on spending additional money to hire Mr. Bellchamber, but the vote passed to ask him to join the hiring process.
  • Council voted to approve spending $30,000 from the Delaware Hydro Reserve Fund (no impact to taxes whatsoever) to help pay for a new floor at the Delaware Community Centre. We’re hoping that will be ready before Canada Day.
  • Rob Clarke Auto’s expansion was approved, and they have already started building two additional bays. It’s very nice to see a local business, located in Kilworth, grow!
  • Council voted to freeze water and wastewater rates for 2017. No, they aren’t going down, but the cost cutting measures taken in 2016 have enabled us to freeze the rates for this year. It’s a welcome reprieve from multiple years of increases.
  • Staff produced a report on whether fees for paper bills should be enacted. They found no evidence of other municipalities charging a fee for residents to receive paper utility bills, and therefore recommended MXC not being doing so. Council approved the recommendation, but it’s worth noting that water/wastewater bills will be sent out monthly going forward.
    • Yes, moving to a monthly bill increases mail costs a bit, but will also help families manage their budgets more easily. The more families that move to receiving their water/wastewater electronically, whether through Canada Post ePost or email directly from the Municipality, the lower our costs will be overall. You’re welcome to call the municipal office and get signed up for email bills, or use your online banking site to sign up for ePost.
  • We had a very contentious issue over online/phone voting for the 2018 municipal election. I was happy we used this system for voting in 2014, however the extensive research I have done on online voting, the discussions I have had with web development professionals, and even my attempts to design (on paper) a truly secure system that provides all the benefits of a paper ballot have all led me to have a very specific set of thoughts on the matter. Unfortunately, questions I asked like whether or not InteliVote’s code had been audited independently, could not be answered during the debate on December 14, 2016. The vote to continue using InteliVote passed, with me voting no only because I wanted answers to my questions first.
    • It’s worth noting that, at this time, MXC has not voted to introduce other voting systems, like ranked balloting. Given the dearth of contests in the 2014 election, I don’t think it would have benefited us. Hopefully there’s more competition in 2018!
  • I have fielded multiple, valid complaints from residents on the quality of snow maintenance so far this winter. The up/down temperature cycles haven’t helped, but you can easily see inconsistencies in how sand or salt has been laid down, how close (or far) to the curb the plows are getting, and so on. I’ve been actively engaging with staff to ensure your concerns are addressed, and so far it does appear things have gotten better during the last plow. I absolutely want to hear from you, and so does staff, if you have concerns regarding snow maintenance.
  • Lastly, I voted no to continue using our own closed meeting investigator. I wanted to opt for the Ombudsman instead, however I was not able to convince the rest of Council that this was, in my opinion, the right thing to do. I have heard from residents that choosing our own closed meeting investigator makes it look like we’re seeking preferential treatment, and that such a person can be dismissed at a whim if we don’t like what they say, like the integrity commissioner that was recently dismissed (which ultimately started the chain reaction that led to me ending up on Council). If you feel similarly, I implore you to speak with the Mayor and your Councillor and ask them to stop spending $1,000 a year on a service we have not used.

What to Expect in 2017

  • I’m going to be asking staff to do some homework later this year to see if we can lower the minimum water and wastewater usage rates, and what implications that will have.
  • I will help staff to find, and make suggestions on new measures, to continue to cut costs. I’m not out to slash and burn, but always looking at things critically to determine whether products/services we purchase, or services we provide, can be done at a lower cost.
  • I’m going to hold multiple sit-downs at local restaurants where you can come and sit down, enjoy a drink, and speak with me face-to-face. Expect the first one to happen before the end of March.
  • I’m confident that Edgewater Estates will be approved to move forward, and the construction of the new sewer line to Komoka will finally begin. Once that’s done and in service, the Kilworth Treatment Plant will be decommissioned, relieving many residents of awful smells throughout the year.
  • I have two residents, in particular, who are seeking relief from various bylaws. One, I am assisting to allow them to plead their case; the other is in clear violation of the Infrastructure Design Standards, and not allowing the developer of their subdivision to hand over control to MXC, but doesn’t seem to care. You can’t please everyone.
  • The new Ilderton Skating Park will begin construction.
  • MXC is replacing existing vehicles with three fully electric vehicles. I’m really excited about this! They will be shared by two departments, Public Works & Engineering and By-Law Enforcement & Building Inspections.
    • January 11, 2017: I previously stated we were buying two vehicles. This was incorrect.
  • We will receive a report from staff on the result of the off-leash dog park pilot program.
  • Finally, the website is undergoing a bit of a restructuring to make things easier to find. I’ve offered my assistance, providing advice where I can, given my role at a web development firm in London and experience building my own websites over the past 15 years.

Overall, you can expect to get regular updates like these from me, at least monthly. I want everyone to be in the loop on decisions being made that impact Ward 4, and the rest of MXC. If you have any questions at all you can reach me on Twitter, Facebook, email, or phone 226-448-6774 (please leave a message if I don’t answer). My contact information is also on the municipal website.