City coun­cil notebook: from pot to deficits

The Observer (Sarnia) - - NEWS - TYLER KULA tkula@post­media.com

BACK TO THE LAWSS BOARD

Coun. Andy Bruziewicz will ask the board mem­bers at the Lambton Area Wa­ter Sup­ply Sys­tem (LAWSS) to take an­other look at how it counts its as­sets later this month.

Sar­nia coun­cil en­dorsed a staff plan for Bruziewicz, who chairs the six-mu­nic­i­pal­ity LAWSS board to con­duct a cost/ben­e­fit anal­y­sis on its as­sets, amend the mas­ter plan if ap­pli­ca­ble, and look into op­ti­miz­ing the sys­tem be­fore adding a pair of wa­ter tow­ers in Plymp­ton Wy­oming and Brig­den to the sys­tem.

Bruziewicz has op­posed the move, char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as mem­ber municipalities up­load­ing costs to LAWSS ratepay­ers.

The agency sup­plies wa­ter at a cost of about $10 mil­lion per year and adding the tow­ers and as­so­ci­ated lines is ex­pected to add $50,000 to that bill.

Sar­nia pays 60 per cent of the cost and makes use of 22 per cent of the sys­tem.

“I haven’t seen on the face of it any need for th­ese as­sets, and that’s what con­cerns me,” said Coun. Bev MacDougall, one of sev­eral to back Bruziewicz and com­mend him for his dogged­ness.

“It is not fair to un­load your as­sets that you can no longer main­tain to some­body else, un­less there’s a need for them in the over­all sys­tem,” she said.

The sec­ond look is ex­pected to de­ter­mine whether that need ex­ists.

Bruziewicz ex­pressed doubt the LAWSS board, on which he has been the only mem­ber to vote against adding the wa­ter tow­ers, will go for the pro­posal.

“Maybe a mir­a­cle will hap­pen,” he said. “It will show good faith on our part.”

It may also pre­vent a trip to the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board, he said, not­ing he doesn’t’ want to go that route.

St. Clair Town­ship Mayor Steve Arnold has de­fended the in­clu­sion of the wa­ter tow­ers as an at­tempt at greater eq­uity, point­ing out the per-per­son LAWSS cost in St. Clair Town­ship – 30 per cent of the cost split be­tween 14,000 peo­ple – is greater than Sar­nia’s.

The LAWSS board next meets Sept. 28.

NO AP­PETITE TO FIGHT MAR­I­JUANA PLAN

Coun­cil didn’t bite on Coun. Cindy Scholten’s plea it en­list the lo­cal pro­vin­cial and fed­eral govern­ment reps to fight an On­tario plan that lim­its le­gal mar­i­juana sales to stand­alone liquor con­trol board (LCBO)-run stores.

Scholten had called for op­po­si­tion to the re­cently un­veiled plan be­cause, she said, it doesn’t al­low for lo­cal growth from po­ten­tial re­tail sales.

She found three sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing Sar­nia Mayor Mike Bradley, but the mo­tion was ul­ti­mately de­feated.

“When it comes to de­liv­ery with this type of prod­uct, much like al­co­hol I am a firm be­liever in pub­lic-sec­tor own­er­ship,” said Coun. Brian White, who voted against the mo­tion.

He sug­gested the city should be look­ing for more rev­enue shar­ing and fund­ing for costs from the prov­ince.

“Those are only go­ing to come if the prov­ince has rev­enue tools,” he said.

Coun. Mike Kelch backed the pro­posal but called it fu­tile.

“The prov­ince is in so much debt that if they see a dime on the floor they’ll bend over to pick it up,” he said.

HABI­TAT PART­NER­SHIP INKED

As the city fo­cuses on boost­ing af­ford­able hous­ing op­tions, Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Sar­nia/ Lambton says it wants to help.

“Hope­fully you will see the syn­er­gies and op­por­tu­ni­ties that present them­selves when you in­clude Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity as part of the tools in your tool­box to ad­dress so­cial hous­ing,” said Sarah Reaume, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the lo­cal branch that builds af­ford­able hous­ing in the com­mu­nity.

She went be­fore coun­cil ask­ing the city con­sider Habi­tat when­ever it’s deal­ing with sur­plus prop­er­ties, tax sales, or other prop­er­ties that could be use­ful fits for new projects.

“Land is our big­gest chal­lenge,” she said, not­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion typ­i­cally seeks out in­fill lots to de­velop, but could do a lot more with more space.

Coun­cil agreed to di­rect staff to work closely with the or­ga­ni­za­tion to iden­tify prop­erty that could be use d to build af­ford­able hous­ing.

That kind of work has al­ready hap­pened in­for­mally, said Marg Misek-Evans, city man­ager.

But pass­ing the res­o­lu­tion for­mal­izes it, Reaume said.

“So we be­come part of the land­scape for the dis­cus­sion.”

Coun. Brian White sug­gested Reaume also seek a spot on a new com­mit­tee in de­vel­op­ment to look at re­pur­pos­ing va­cant city prop­er­ties.

“It may not all be driven by prop­er­ties that are fit­ting for your pur­poses … ( but) I think it’d be great to have some­body with your per­spec­tive on that com­mit­tee,” he said.

Reaume said Habi­tat has con­trib­uted nearly $500,000 to the lo­cal tax base by tak­ing fam­i­lies out of so­cial hous­ing and mak­ing them home­own­ers.

By De­cem­ber, it’ll have built 33 new homes and ren­o­vated or resold an­other 10, help­ing 50 lo­cal fam­i­lies.

Sale prices of land to Habi­tat will be con­sid­ered on a prop­erty by prop­erty ba­sis, said City So­lic­i­tor Scott McEachran.

Lots have also been do­nated in the past, said Sar­nia Mayor Mike Bradley.

A pair of prop­er­ties – at Edge­wa­ter Court near Mills, and be­tween 1628 and 1632 Mur­phy Rd. – were also de­clared sur­plus.

LOOK­ING INTO HELP­ING BIZ EX­PAND

Bradley’s mo­tion to look into adopt­ing an in­cen­tive pro­gram giv­ing small and medium sized busi­nesses tax breaks on ex­pan­sions and new builds got the go-ahead.

The pro­posal comes amid suc­cess for a sim­i­lar pro­gram in Windsor.

City staff are ex­pected to bring a re­port back for coun­cil’s con­sid­er­a­tion.

NEW FIRE EQUIP­MENT COM­ING

The con­tract for a new $648,000 fire res­cue ap­pa­ra­tus has been awarded to De­pend­able Trucks.

The cost is in­cluded in the 10-year cap­i­tal forecast plan and the ap­pa­ra­tus, known as a “res­cue,” re­places a two-per­son ve­hi­cle from 2003 that’s based out of the East Street Fire Sta­tion.

The old one is worth about $6,000, said Fire Chief John Kingyens.

“It’s go­ing to dump deals.”

WATERMAIN RE­PLACE­MENT

JBL Con­struc­tion has been hired to in­stall a new watermain and ser­vices on Jamieson Lane, a pri­vately owned lane, and across neigh­bour­ing pri­vate prop­erty.

The low bid for the es­ti­mated $400,000 job came in at $360,000.

MORE MONEY FOR BUS BUY­ING

Coun­cil ap­proved an­other $240,000 to buy eight buses, as the costs have in­creased from orig­i­nal es­ti­mates.

The to­tal price tag is now $3.7 mil­lion.

YEAR END DEFICIT FORECAST

Af­ter two quar­ters, the city is pro­ject­ing a $400,000 deficit for year end.

“Hope­fully we can get that knocked down be­tween now and the end of the year,” said Coun. Mike Kelch. “Oth­er­wise we start the bud­get process in De­cem­ber $400,000 in the hole.”

The city’s to­tal bud­get is $135.5 mil­lion.

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