By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed during a March 31 virtual meeting of Minden Hills council.
Minden Hills council plans to meet in person on April 28 for the first time since the pandemic began, but only after revisiting that decision a week prior to see what the sixth wave situation looks like at that time.
CAO/clerk Trisha McKibbin suggested a hybrid approach to meeting, with council and clerks in council chambers, while department heads presented reports via Zoom and the public and media attended virtually. She suggested April 28, the first meeting date after provincial restrictions are lifted.
Councillor Ron Nesbitt asked if masks would be required. McKibbin replied they can be worn but are not mandatory. She added that desks would be separated from each other.
“In public I still wear a mask,” said Nesbitt, noting his glasses fog up when he wears one. “But in here, I wouldn’t want to.”
Councillor Bob Carter said, “as much as political decisions would like to change the world,” each of the Canadian COVID-19 waves have followed those in the UK and Europe by about three or four weeks, and currently surges due to the latest variant were happening there. He said it was likely that would happen again.
“I would defer to the scientists here as opposed to the politicians and say it’s too early,” he said. “I would like to see what happens at the end of this fifth wave to find out how safe it would be to be meeting, particularly where some people aren’t wearing masks … I’m not against going back, I want to get back, I long to get back, but I’m thinking that April 28 is too early.”
Councillor Lisa Schell said she respected Carter’s position but disagreed.
“I feel completely the opposite,” she said. “The fact that we can go to restaurants, we go out in public, we go shopping, everything now, and everybody else is going back into meetings, I’m fully prepared to return to in-person meetings. With the respect of having our desks separated, I’m fine with that, but I think by the end of April, that’s more than enough time.”
Mayor Brent Devolin said he was presenting a “compromise,” acknowledging that council is meeting virtually again on April 14, and that council plan to meet in-person on April 28 but revisit the decision on the 14th to see what the “landscape” looks like and whether it should be paused and deferred into May. Schell said the 14th might be too soon to know what the provincial situation looks like, and recommended reviewing the decision during a special meeting being held April 20.
“I don’t think it’s a compromise in any way,” said Carter. “It just makes sense. We’ll decide on the 20th what we’re going to do.”
“I would call it a compromise because I think we’re going to live with this forever and at a certain point we have to rip the Band-Aid off,” said Devolin. He said he was happy to support revisiting the decision on the 20th.
Residential winter sand challenges
Carter asked director of public works Jeff Sisson about the sand available to township residents, which is located in the parking lot of the Minden Curling Club during the winter months. Sisson’s report to council noted sand had been dropped there on February 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and March 7, and Carter asked about the quantity of sand being used.
Sisson said approximately 10 dump truck loads were deposited there in a week- about 100 tonnes that week he estimated – while other times it could be a load full or a loader bucket’s amount.
“It is quite substantial the amount of sand we’re using there,” he said.
McKibbon said there would be a report brought back to council on the sand program.
“I think this year we had a very large amount of sand at a very high cost, so we need to circle back to this and have a discussion about what services we want to deliver and how we want to deliver them,” she said.
“If people were taking their five gallon buckets, that works out to about 2,600 buckets of sand and I’ll have to admit, if there were 2,600 people show up to each take a bucket, there would have been line-ups that went down Park Street and onto Bobcaygeon Road, so I have a feeling some people are taking a little more than their five gallon bucket,” said Carter.
Nesbitt asked if signs could be put up to remind plow companies to not use the sand, which is intended for individuals. Devolin said that had been done but with each year there was “less and less compliance.”
Councillor Pam Sayne said she had heard suggestions that it be set up at waste facilities so usage could be monitored, but noted approval to do that through the ministry of environment would take months or years.
A report will come to council at an upcoming meeting.
Manager of Waste Facilities introduced
Nikki Payne, attending council on her fourth day of work with Minden Hills township, was welcomed as the new manager of waste facilities.