Council budget includes plans for new recreational complex and arena closure

MINDEMOYA—While Central Manitoulin council passed its budget for 2019, with a small increase, 1.5 percent, council is also looking to the future in terms of its buildings, such as the development of a new recreational complex, and the closure of some of its current buildings, such as the Providence Bay arena in years to come.  

All councillors attended the committee meeting, along with CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley, Treasurer/Deputy Clerk Denise Deforge, Maintenance Supervisor George Strain, Roads Superintendent Perry Chatwell and Fire Chief John Reid.

Mayor Richard Stephens began the meeting with an overview of the budget and the budget process. 

Council then moved to the operating budget which was reviewed in November 2018 and fine-tuned in January 2019.

The revenues for the operating budget stand at $7,349,969 from all sources and operating costs show $6, 618,000 in expenses. Taxation at zero percent would be $4,494,830. It was noted that the expenditures for the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board (DSB), policing and other must-pays have all risen.

The meeting saw a discussion of expenditures under each committee. Under finance, expenditures under the CIP (Community Improvement Plan) program were dropped from $29,500 to $20,000. The provincial government initiated community improvement plans that allows municipalities to offer financial assistance to promote community planning goals, including ‘brownfield’ redevelopment (previously developed land that is not currently in use, whether contaminated or not).

The roads, water and waste expenditure for 2019 is set at $1,892,800 and includes drainage and landfills, including their closure. It was noted that water and sewer is a closed budget.

The property committee discussion saw Councillor Derek Stephens speak of closing the Mindemoya arena and community hall and using the Providence Bay arena and hall, leading to $100,000 being taken out of the operating budget. “So run two things instead of four,” Councillor Steve Shaffer added, “it will take five years to get our sports complex.”

“It is doable,” added Mr. Strain. “Every municipality on the Island has one arena and they make it work.”

The finance and economic development committee had discussed the design of a new recreational complex at the January 24 meeting and had forwarded this issue to the property committee.

“This is the time to make the decision,” Councillor Derek Stephens said.

Councillor Shaffer agreed, saying, “it’s a decision that has to be made. I don’t think we have really done our homework on what is the best.”  

Mayor Stephens agreed, saying, “we have to do as Steve says. See what is doable.”

Councillor Angela Johnston then said, “we could use the Prov arena until the new complex is built. So it is not a real either or issue. Prov will close when the new complex is built.”

Councillor Dale Scott spelled out that people have to be told about these proposed arena changes. “We have to bring in stakeholders,” he said. “Minor hockey, men’s hockey. They need to be notified. At least we have to have the courtesy of talking with them.”

“Also the (farmers’) market people,” Councillor Linda Farquhar added.

“Prov is the one hall that is accessible,” Councillor Stephens explained, “and minor hockey wants more dressing rooms and showers.”

“I don’t think there are any more dressing rooms in Prov,” said Councillor Shaffer. 

Under the discussion of safety, security and health, it was noted that policing will be going up by about $5,000. Councillor Shaffer questioned the $10,000 for health and safety wages and asked if it was still the same. “It is going to be discussed at the end of April,” CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley replied, “To see if we are going to keep it.”

Mr. Strain clarified this discussion by saying that this has to be kept. “Yes,” he said, “Legislation dictates what we have to do.”

Capital building shows that there is $645,000 to spend while $1,415,000 has been budgeted for expenditures, so finance and economic development has $770,000 to cut, the meeting was told.

Roads superintendent Perry Chatwell sought to have council approve a snow cleaning machine at the cost of $120,000 for a used, rebuilt machine and $24,000 in wages for six months. At present, the municipality is paying $4,000 a month to clean the sidewalks for $16,000 for the year. A sum of $57,000 is being paid this winter to contract out snow removal for the municipalities businesses. 

Councillor Johnston suggested an alternative to the sidewalk cleaning machine, saying, “why don’t we contract everything out, including the new sidewalk and see how it compares to the purchase of a snow removal machine?” Council agreed with this and thus removed the $120,000 for the machine and $24,000 in wages from the capital budget.

Several of the roads projects were removed for consideration including Cranston Road and the projected close of a section of Beaver Road, for a reduction of $55,000.

A lengthy discussion ensued when members moved on to property issues. Mr. Strain stated that it was very important that the municipality has an asset management plan development. “Put all the data together,” he said, “and hire someone to do this.” To this, Ms. Frawley said it could be a special project. 

Councillor Shaffer was not in favour of this proposal, saying, “I would rather see the money go to a multi-use facility. To hire a consultant.”

Ms. Deforge reminded the panel that this plan covers all assets, not just one item and that the “government suggests that these plans are up to date and current.”

“We have an asset management plan,” Councillor Shaffer asserted.

Mr. Strain explained that there “are so many small components, how old, what, when installed. We don’t have time to go building to building to do this.” 

“We have so much in buildings,” Councillor Scott added, “I think we need some professional help for this. The property manager was not hired to do this. We haven’t even priced this out. Would one year get us set so we could do it ourselves? No inspection of the buildings was done. Would also help George in his job. Helps with asset planning.” 

In the end, $40,000 was removed, for now, for an asset plan person. 

Councillor Farquhar requested that monies be removed from the budget for the Mindemoya Old School building, saying that the municipality was already paying $8,000 for insurance, water and so on. It was mentioned that MP Carol Hughes will be coming to visit soon and that she would be asked about money for the school building. 

Councillor Johnston agreed with Councillor Stephens but added that she thought things should be left for now. Councillor Shaffer also agreed, saying, “I want to see it removed, but not in this budget as the mandate has been extended until November. In the end, the $100,000 was removed.”

“I say tear it down while we have the chance,” Councillor Stephens added.

In a discussion about the Mindemoya arena, it was noted that the installation of two of the four doors could be replaced and that the chiller does not have to be replaced every 20 years as supposed. “I am not comfortable with doing chillers at both arenas,” Councillor Johnston said, “as they will probably go to one.”

“If we are going to go with a new facility, as I think we are,” said Mayor Stephens, “then Prov.”

Councillor Stephens also spoke in favour of taking the funds allocated for the Mindemoya arena being removed. “If we’re serious,” he said, “take the $84,000 out and go with one arena.” The decision was then made to take out the installation of the pump and the accessibility doors.

There is a need for a dehumidifier for the Mindemoya community hall at a cost of $40,000. 

“Why would I spend money on drawings and accessibility for that building? I would take it all out of there,” Councillor Stephens said.

Consequently, $215,000 was taken off the budget.

Also on the budget deliberations were the change houses for Lakes Mindemoya and Huron. “Shut it down,” Councillor Stephens said about the one at Lake Mindemoya while Mr. Strain added that the change house at Providence Bay could also be shut down.

In the discussion around change rooms and buildings in the municipality, Mayor Stephens emphasized that “we need to have a public meeting.”

“We were elected to make decisions for the public, so we have to make decisions for them,” Councillor Stephens said.

Mayor Stephens demurred, saying, “we have a responsibility to the public that elected us.”

There were several approvals for the items requested in this year’s budget by Fire Chief John Reid. These included the purchase of five sets of bunker gear for the volunteer firemen as well as bush gear for all members. Also approved was $1,500 for the purchase of a drone to facilitate position of bushfires and new equipment for the Mindemoya fire hall such as new phone lines, fax machine and radios as this building is the secondary emergency gathering place if the municipal building cannot be used.

When the budget deliberations were over, Mayor Stephens asked for a zero percent tax rate and the use of surplus funds if needed. Councillor Scott favoured a small increase in the tax rate each year, perhaps geared to the cost of living. Councillors Stephens, Johnston and Shaffer then spoke in favour of the tax rate going up a bit each year. 

Mayor Stephens then stated that he thought, because the municipality was gaining $19 million in assessments this year, that a zero percent increase was a good idea. 

Mayor Stephens was outvoted and the tax rate for Central Manitoulin for 2019 is 1.5 percent. Council considered and approved a recommendation from its committee of the whole/budget committee at a regular meeting on Thursday of last week, that the 2019 budget be accepted with a 1.5 percent increase in the municipal portion of the mill rate.