Austerity rules the day at Monday’s Town Council session

December 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

Austerity was, perhaps, the word of the day on Monday (Dec. 10) as Orangeville’s new council started as they mean to go on – analyzing almost every item that carried financial implications during their first proper meeting.

First up was a relatively straightforward request from the Communities in Bloom committee to transfer funds from the group’s reserve account to fund travel costs of two committee members to attend the 2019 National CiB Conference in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The request also asked Council to give Town staff direction to repair and paint the benches, light stands and fences in the downtown core on Broadway.

“In a new era of fiscal responsibility, I’m wondering if this is a good idea,” said Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh. “Two CiB representatives, plus, in years past, a councillor has attended too. That’s going to be a few thousand dollars, I would imagine.”

Ray Osmond, the Town’s General Manager of Community Services, confirmed a “full conference package” would cost between $1,800 and $2,500 per person. 

Town CAO Ed Brennan noted that Communities in Bloom has only been operating in Orangeville for a couple of years after a long hiatus. He says the group has been “quite successful” since its return and that last year, with former councillor Sylvia Bradley having joined two committee members, was the first time the Town had sent a member of council to the awards ceremony. 

While he acknowledged the “wonderful work” Communities in Bloom does in town, Mayor Sandy Brown wasn’t sure he could support sending more than one representative to next year’s award ceremony. 

“I would think it would be a good thing for the Town to be represented at a national function like this, I’m just questioning if three people need to go. I would support sending one person from the committee. I don’t think they need anyone accompanying them,” Mayor Brown said.

Next, Council considered a request from Heritage Orangeville to allocate funds to purchase and install interpretive signage near the entrance to Town Hall. The request called for the approximately $4,500 remaining in Heritage Orangeville’s 2018 budget to be carried forward to help pay for the project. 

Deputy Mayor Macintosh was again the first to speak up, indicating he would not support something he declared was a “nice to have” rather than a need.

“Our previous council left us looking at a tax increase of five percent without us even doing anything. We have to come up with a lot of money this year,” Deputy Mayor Macintosh said. “With taxes the way they are, we need to get things under control before signing off on nice to haves. We need to take care of the needs first.”

When asked how much the interpretive signage would cost, Town Treasurer Marc Villeneuve noted the municipality has purchased two types of signs in the past, one costing approximately $2,500 and another in the region of $6,500. 

“There needs to be more austerity,” said Mayor Brown. “I’d like to rethink this going forward. There are other ways to communicate with people. I hope to go down some of those paths in the future.”

Coun. Todd Taylor said he would have no issue supporting the request, noting Heritage Orangeville has done “great work in difficult times” in the past. Coun. Joe Andrews, while not officially supporting the request, expressed his belief that signage such as the one requested serves as a focal point and is an identity marker in the town. 

Coun. Lisa Post suggested this issue be debated during the 2019 budget deliberations, with no immediate expenditures committed. A motion to that effect was approved unanimously by council. 

In what was a third and final request, Council shot down a request to spend $2,000 on new brochures promoting Access Orangeville. The committee has requested new brochures as the current ones used throughout the community are “desperately out of date;” said Mr. Osmond. 

Coun. Taylor didn’t like the idea of spending a significant sum of money on brochures, while Coun. Post asked if council would instead consider allocating the $2,000 to fund other projects she considered more valuable, such as the Town’s curb cut striping program, free swim and skate program, portable ramp subsidy program and accessible swings, picnic tables and benches program. In the end, Council again agreed, voting unanimously in support of Coun. Post’s request.

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