Township Watch - July 2017


Committee of the Whole - Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Township Service Levels

The first of two public meetings to discuss Township service levels took place at Committee of the Whole this month. Mayor Furniss explained that a second meeting would be held in August and that a survey (Service Level Review Survey) was available on the Township website.  It was explained that some services (fire, snow removal for example) were essential, while others (arenas, libraries, docks, ramps, parks, trails etc.) were “nice to have”.  The Township is asking for citizen input on service levels as reserves are being depleted and hard decisions are going to have to be made during the 2018 budget deliberations.

Treasurer, Shannon Johnson, gave a presentation (Service Level Review Presentation) based on numbers provided in the 2017 approved budget.  Ms. Johnson explained that even with the additional 5% capital levy contribution to increase reserves that was approved in the 2017 budget, the Township's reserves could possibly be in a deficit position by the end of 2019 due to necessary repairs and/or replacement of its infrastructure.  It is important to realize that the Township:

  • is the largest geographical area in the District Municipality of Muskoka (DMM),
  • has the largest residential assessment base in the DMM,
  • has the lowest tax rate in the DMM, and
  • only keeps $0.19 of every dollar collected to fund Township expenses.

Ms. Johnson's presentation outlined that:

  • with ten fire stations and 120 plus volunteer fire firefighters, the fire department costs $100.39 per year per household,
  • total fees collected for Community Centre rentals are very low.  User fees only cover 19.9% of Community Centre costs and the balance is funded through the Parks Reserves,
  • reserves should only be for Capital improvements but as far as Community Centres are concerned, reserves are actually being used to pay operating costs,
  • the Bala arena is functioning at 1/3 of the Port Carling arena and costs close to $14,500.00 more in expenditures,
  • the Township maintains 230.4 Kms of paved roads, 149.3 Kms of unpaved roads and 113.4 Kms of District roads.

Following the completion of Ms. Johnson's presentation, Mayor Furniss asked for comments from the public.  None were forthcoming at that time.

During committee discussions Councillor Harding stated that he would have preferred to see projected numbers in the presentation and not historical ones.  Mr. Harding felt that although comments were made on roads and the fire department, he would have preferred a more “fulsome picture”.  For example; cost savings if the fire department stopped the marine services unit (i.e.: fire boats used to fight fires at water access only properties) as it is not Provincially mandated.  Councillor Ledger agreed this was a huge complicated issue and suggested that perhaps the public should be asked to prioritize what they feel is important.

Mayor Furniss stated that he had hoped to hear from the public on where the Township was spending money; where not needed, and perhaps what the Township was lacking or overlooking and encouraged everyone to complete the survey. (Service Level Review Survey)

This item was to receive public input only, so no resolution was read.

(Editorial note: The MRA is opposed to the cancellation of fire boats which could leave many in the Township without fire services. Muskoka Lakes has many island cottages that pay significant taxes.)

District of Muskoka Official Plan Review

At the request of the District's Planning & Economic Development Committee, Director of Planning for the District, Summer Valentine, presented the District's Official Plan (OP) Review (District Official Plan District Official Plan) to the lower tier municipalities.  Ms. Valentine outlined the 18 month process of the OP Review and a “Made in Muskoka” response to the Provincial Policy Statement.

Major changes to the OP are:

  • growth management & housing,
  • servicing,
  • resort development, and
  • enhancing environmental protection.

Some parts of the OP have been deleted, some required less detail as they are regulated by different governing bodies, while some parts required more details.

While undertaking the OP review the District did their utmost to “step back or provide a general framework for municipalities to fill in”.  As well, to set a goal to meet or exceed what is set out in the Planning Act.

Further public consultation is to take place regarding the OP review with revisions being written in the fall then submitted to the District Council and lastly the Province.  It is anticipated that the Provincial review of the OP could take a year or more with the potential of an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal prior to its implementation.

This item was for informational purposes and no resolution was read.

Morgan Davies

A site plan was received for a 2583 square foot Printing Museum and Graphic Art Studio at 4080 Muskoka Road 118 West in Glen Orchard.  Staff and some members of committee had concerns regarding tree removal and site alteration on the property as a previously submitted environmental report recommended that neither occur.  The applicant explained that once he became aware of the issue, no more land filling had been done.

It was agreed that soil and shrubs be added to the property to screen the building.  A resolution to approve the site plan application was read and carried.

Health Hub Update

Shelly van den Heuvel from the Cottage Country Health Team was before the committee to provide an update on the Health Hubs.  In the fall of 2014 the Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care gave approval for a three year “demonstration project” of health hubs.  Three new health hubs were opened in Dorset, Wahta and Port Carling, with a mobile hub travelling up and down Highway 11.  Funding was provided by the Ministry for staff, start up equipment, office supplies and gas and propane.  As of the end of March 2017 1500 patients are registered with the health hubs and 9000 patients have visited the hubs.  As there has been such a favourable response to the health hubs the project has been approved to be extended to August 1st, 2018.  The Cottage Country Health Team has also been invited to submit a request for a further extension to the end of March 2019.

Community partners raised funding and the Port Carling Nursing Station, a state of the art building, was built.  The facility was to target the portion of the permanent residents who were “unattached” to a doctor in the area.  By the end of March 2017, the Port Carling Health Hub specifically had 563 patients registered.  The facility provides “full scope care”.  As well as seeing patients during the day, the nurse practitioner has office hours on Wednesday evening.  Mental health services are available on Wednesdays, and a physiotherapist is on premises once a week.  A secondary nurse practitioner has been hired to see seasonal residents for non-urgent care Thursday through Saturday from mid-May to early September.

A health hub coordinator has been hired to make sure the facilities are operating efficiently and develop the hubs beyond primary care.  Operating with one RPN and one assistant is not efficient.  If the nurse practitioner is sick, the facility must remain closed.

This item as well was on the agenda for informational purposes only and no resolution was read.

Council - Friday, July 14th, 2017

The council meeting had a full agenda of planning applications.  As the MRA does not usually speak on individual planning applications, we would just like to say that in our opinion the meeting was very well run and efficient.

OPP Costing

As reported in previous Township Watches (Township Watch -  May 2017), the Township along with Georgian Bay and Lake of Bays has hired Campbell Strategies to advocate at Queen's Park regarding unfair OPP cost sharing in the District of Muskoka.  It is now felt that input is required from residents of the three Townships.

Attached please find a letter from Mayor Furniss - Don Furniss Letter re OPP. Don Furniss Letter re OPP, and form letter to Premier Wynne -OPP Letter to Wynne OPP Letter to Premier Wynne

A separate “Alert” notice will shortly be sent to our members with comments on this subject from the MRA Board.

(Editorial Note - the outcome of this could potentially save or cost the Townships $3 million dollars a year.)

 

The MRA reminds citizens that it is the law

to pull over and make way for a green flashing light vehicle.

Volunteer firefighters display a green flashing light en-route

to an emergency call.

 

 

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