By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed at Minden Hills council at a meeting held both in-person and virtually on June 30.
Nikki Payne, manager of waste facilities, asked council to approve an exception to the township’s video surveillance policy, allowing for the installation of solar-powered trail cameras at landfill sites.
“Historically, the township’s landfill sites have experienced after-hours illegal trespassing, scavenging and vandalism,” Payne said in her report. “Recently, there have been instances of personalized harassment at one of the sites and the occurrences have been reported to the [police]. While the OPP have investigated, they have indicated and recommended that there should be video surveillance at the sites, to assist in identifying perpetrators. This would also assist in protecting both township and contract staff, and the township’s assets.”
Payne told council that previous wildlife cameras with downloadable data were installed, “but have always been stolen.”
“Staff are hoping to install solar-powered trail cameras with secure digital card and cellular capabilities,” said Payne. “This would allow staff to remote access the footage (if required), and if the units were stolen the last images taken could be obtained and passed along to the authorities.”
The footage would only be accessed by Payne as manager of waste facilities or Mike Timmins, director of public works, who would pass the footage on to authorities if there was reasonable cause to believe a crime or act of anti-social behaviours (theft, vandalism, unauthorized access) had been committed.
The IT department, reviewing the request, noted a few limitations including that the proposed outdoor cameras make it more challenging to protect the video recordings from unauthorized access; the “cloud” data would be stored on doesn’t have a Canadian data centre; no built-in auditing and the inability to limit data to seven days, however, Payne said manual workarounds could be implemented to meet those requirements.
The installation of a security camera at Scotch Line landfill would cost approximately $350, paid for through the Scotch Line operational budget. Other landfill sites at Iron Mine, Little Gull and Ingoldsby would not have cameras installed in 2022 due to their lack of cellular capabilities.
“Sad, but necessary in the world we live in,” said Mayor Brent Devolin.
Councillor Pam Sayne agreed, and questioned if it might reduce the municipality’s insurance costs, as having video surveillance does for households.
Council approved the request.
Road work project shortfall funded by reserves
Mike Timmins, director of public works, reported a road work budget shortfall of $17,345 to council.
He requested council approve the additional expense as well as an additional $32,654 in contingency for a total budget increase of $50,000, recommended to be funded from reserves.
“This will enable the township to complete all 2022 projects and to allow for unforeseeable expenses that may arise during construction,” read his report, with Timmins noting, “there’s always surprises once you break ground.”
Timmins presented the price increases the department is dealing with, with Granular A being $29.25/mt in 2021 compared to $38.50/mt in 2022, an increase of 31.6 per cent. Slurry seal listed as being $3.25/m2 in 2021 is now $3.92/m2 in 2022, an increase of 20.6 per cent.
“The current oil and gas prices are affecting most materials and services purchased by the township,” said Timmins in his report. “The road resurfacing that the township has requested makes use of many oil-based products, as well as heavy equipment and vehicles. As a result fees have increased beyond what was budgeted.”
MH council hears update on short-term rental review
An update on the short-term rental accommodation review being undertaken by J.L. Richards came to Minden Hills council, having been presented to county council at their meeting on May 25.
Jason Ferrigan noted the mandate from the county is to review short term accommodation best practices to help guide potential future development of short-term rental policies and regulations. He noted it’s an important issue in many communities.
“Short-term rental accommodations are very complex issues, and they are both influenced by and they affect many aspects of both community health and community viability, and I’m thinking specifically about elements around the economy, affordable housing and the quality of life within the community itself,” said Ferrigan.
He said the consulting firm is looking at the unit types where short-term accommodations might be permitted, how the county can achieve a balance between the traditional hospitality industry and short-term accommodations that might be more commercial, the duration of stays, number of guests, zoning and whether municipalities can use it as a tool to help guide the industry, fees, taxes, accommodation tax, as well as enforcement.
Councillor Pam Sayne said she was concerned, in part because of the number of phone calls she had received about the ongoing challenges around short-term accommodations.
“I’m finding there’s a real difference in terms of how we address the fact that people are making real money off of these commercial enterprises by using residential properties, and yet when people are gathering in parks because they have nowhere to live, we’re kicking them out right away and saying, sorry, this is zoned improperly,” she said. “The degree of homelessness that we have, I don’t think we’re treating different classes the same in terms of our bylaw enforcement, I think it’s a real critical issue and something we should be moving faster on, something we should be paying more attention to in terms of who we are giving lenience to and who we are not.”
She said she appreciated why people would want to rent out their cottages, but found a difference in commercial operation versus residential.
Councillor Bob Carter said that one of the points raised when the presentation came to county council was that short-term rentals were replacing the available rental units that were in the community.
“County council said that wasn’t applicable here, I just want you to know it is applicable here and it is happening here so please don’t leave that out of your study,” he told Ferrigan. “It may not have been applicable a few years ago but it is very much today.”
A report will come to county council in August.
Potential community garden for Minden proposed
Council has asked staff to report back on a request from the Minden Community Food Centre to create and sponsor a community garden at the fairgrounds. Don Veno, MCFC chair, said in a letter to council the garden would be created in raised beds.
“This community garden would greatly benefit individuals who live in apartments or condos giving them an opportunity to help in the garden or for individuals who can no longer tend to a garden themselves,” said Veno in the letter. “It would provide an opportunity for community members of all ages in learning to use environmentally friendly methods to grow fresh produce.”