/Minden Hills council: We’re still investing in roads

Minden Hills council: We’re still investing in roads

By Darren Lum

The following are brief reports of items discussed during a March 11 online committee-of-the-whole meeting of Minden Hills council.

Bobcaygeon Road being excluded from any improvement work in the 2021 budget prompted a delegation by long-time resident Diane Peacock, who questioned council about their judgement.
Peacock said after seven years of attending council meetings she has never commented before, but felt compelled to because of the appalling state of the main road through town, which extends 13 kilometres from the downtown to Highway 118.
“One thing I’ve learned being on the arena task force committee is the longer you delay a project the more it’s going to cost you in the long run,” she said.

Peacock recognized the high cost at more than $2 million, but said council was losing out on an opportunity to debenture the cost because of a low interest rate being offered by Infrastructure Ontario.
She believes when competitive hockey returns, bringing people from Bracebridge and Gravenhurst via Highway 118 to Minden, Bobcaygeon Road is going to look bad on Minden.
“What a disgrace to the township when they reach this part of the road. Not a very welcoming sight entering our town,” Peacock said.

Councillor Bob Carter countered the sentiment the township isn’t spending on roads.
“We’re investing more and I think the important thing is that as this infrastructure gap continues across the whole province this idea of getting a full roads report and getting an assessment so that we can all together as a council, as staff and the public decide how much to invest in roads is an important thing to do,” Carter said. “That’s really what we need to do. We’re not decreasing our investment in roads. We’re not ignoring roads … There’s a limit to how much can be spent.”
He said the township has been continually increasing the budget for roads, which included spending close to an average of $3.6 million from 2017 to 2020. He added the township increased that to about $4.3 million in 2020, with the plan to spend $6.3 million in 2021.

Councillor Pam Sayne concurred with Carter and said engineering studies on the road will proceed so future decisions about it can be informed.

MH staff will lead effort for IWMS
Minden Hills council is formally directing staff to investigate options related to a long-term Integrated Waste Management Strategy (IWMS) for the township. It is to be completed by late 2022.
Public works director Travis Wilson provided three options to council related to IWMS. One was to complete work internally. The second was to hire a consultant and the third, the status quo, which is to not develop an IWMS and make decisions based on need.
Council chose the internal approach believing it was most cost effective and efficient. The estimated cost to hire a consultant was between $30,000 and $40,000, which is far more than the staff cost of $2,000.
This request for direction came about from recent council meetings, Wilson said.

“There’s been some questions raised about the long term plan for waste management within the township of Minden Hills,” Wilson said.
Councillors suggested ideas such as shipping household garbage to alternative disposal locations, and investigating township subsidization of composting devices. Carter said whatever strategy staff come up with, it will not be the end of the township’s waste diversion efforts.
“Technologies are going to be changing,” Carter said. “Various issues and pressures are going to come to play. When a plan comes together it’s almost going to have to be a living document that is going to have to be updated and I don’t believe the first plan is going to be perfect.”
There will be further discussion based on the county service delivery review for waste management.

Minden River Cone first CIP recipient
Minden Hills awarded its first Minden Village Community Improvement Plan funding of $5,000 to the Minden River Cone with its giant ice cream cone facade, following a successful application. The grant will be paid after the restoration work is completed, as required under CIP’s Facade Improvement Program.
The CIP is “a strategic municipal planning and economic development tool under the Ontario Planning Act that is used by municipalities across Ontario.”

Its goals include facilitating change and transition in certain areas; stimulating economic growth and development, motivating rehabilitation and redevelopment of private buildings/properties and helping with raising awareness to local needs and priorities.
Conventionally, a municipality is not permitted to help businesses with funding, but can through a CIP. Each municipality is allowed to provide grants and other financial assistance worth 50 per cent of the eligible costs and up to a maximum of $5,000 per project/property or a maximum total grant value of $15,000 depending on certain requirements of eligibility determined by sole discretion of council.

“It is not a published program,” CAO/clerk Trisha McKibbin said. “The CIP is on the website, but we do need to work on pushing it out to individuals. This was more I would say proactive on the property owner themselves that reached out. It wasn’t because we, as a municipality, were promoting the program. So, yes, this is exciting. I hope this is sort of the first step and that interest grows in this program.”

Mayor is thankful
It’s been almost a year since Minden Hills declared a state of emergency because of the pandemic.
“I want to thank staff and council for a bizarre year. We’re not through it yet, but I think the longest portion of it is over,” said Mayor Brent Devolin. “The other thing I want to do is thank the public. It is in no small measure, and not everybody within our county and community has been perfect, but one of the reasons we have done so well is the individual responsibility that our citizens have taken. In my mind that has played no small measure in what has happened to date and I’m hoping to continue until we’re done this.”