I am sharing a few photos from walks around Almonte lately. It is nice to see the support for all our grads and front line workers in health care, government and businesses, food and essential services.
The parks have opened up and our municipal staff have been working hard. Not all municipal staff are back to work yet, so your patience is appreciated.
I went to see the new picnic table in Don Maynard Park. Calvin Murphy, our Recreation Coordinator, told me that Ken Fisher, the Facilities Manager, saw these picnic tables in a park elsewhere. Calvin ordered the solid frames last year and Ken and staff worked to attach the wood. I was called by a delighted resident asking who was responsible for it. Thank you, Parks and Recreation!
Residents of the Gale Subdivision have been tending Gloria’s Garden as well. Beautiful.
corrected late penalties on water bills; reduced by 8.75%, from 10% to 1.25%
reduced tax increases from 7% a year to 2.5% this year
established more opportunities for public participation in your municipal government including new advisory committees with more expert and representative membership, no conflicts of interest and a new petition policy
more communication, more often
established regular in-person availability of Almonte councillors (at the Library on the first Saturday of each month except July)
helped with flood mitigation and volunteer efforts (particularly Councillor Dalgity who personally sandbagged every day and established a volunteer coordinator)
recognized our youth several times (and their achievements are ongoing and outstanding in sports and academics)
hired a new Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Ken Kelly, with a wealth of professional experience in management, accounting and public works
Works in progress
improving audio-visual records of council and committee meetings
improving the Procedural Bylaw
new parks and recreation
working with the County to promote the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail and reporting any any negative impacts on residents of improper use to both the County and the Police Services Board
downtown Almonte parking study underway
commencing work on the asset management plan (a multi-year project)
refocusing Public Works on essentials
ensuring more accountable processes and reporting
pursuing new growth and economic opportunities
improving strategic, asset and fiscal planning to deal with past debt and future needs
building new partnerships with other municipalities and organization
Apparently not all applications submitted last fall were received or retained. I checked for one person and it was not there. If you already applied, you can check with the acting Clerk, Jeanne Harfield, to make sure she has your application:
– Community Economic Development Advisory Committee – Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee – Public Works Advisory Committee – Agriculture Advisory Committee – Finance & Policy Advisory Committee
Working Group Vacancies:
– Riverwalk Expansion Working Group – Beautification Working Group
Please note, if you have previously applied for any of the above
mentioned advisory committees or working groups (including the previous
Transportation and Environment committee) for the 2018-2022 term your
applications have been kept on file and will be considered by Council
when appointments are made.
On Tuesday, September 25, the Lanark County Food Bank invited municipal council and candidates from its catchment area to a hands-on volunteer experience at the Hunger Stop in Carleton Place. Bev Holmes, David Hinks and I represented Mississippi Mills.
It was a sobering but impressive learning experience. Sobering to discover how many people need to use the food bank, and impressive to see how generous local residents are with both “cash and cans.” We sorted and checked donations, filled bags of flour, put together kits of plastic bags for recycling and garbage, filled up a few paper bags of dog food, and discovered all the people and things that go into making it work. The volunteers and information we received busted a few myths about “food insecurity”:
No government funding is involved; not even a municipal tax break.
What to donate? There’s a wish list that you can stick on your fridge; I would add to that diapers (even opened packages – if you’re a grandparent you may still have half-packages of diapers from child visits that the child has outgrown), baby food and formula, paper products, tampons, soaps, shampoos and conditioners (the travel and hotel packs are also welcome) and all the staples. If you use it, probably others do, too. The wish list has some general suggestions:
They also provide coffee, tea, food wrapping items, pet foods and supplies.
Find out a lot more about donating to the Food Bank here:
Things I Achieved in Mississippi Mills So Far, Before Running
Canadian Cancer Society: I helped at the Office in Perth, and I replaced Lorna Hooper as the treatment drives co-ordinator for Mississippi Mills. I became a volunteer driver myself, taking residents from all over the area for treatment. I coordinated the fund-raising in Almonte for a couple of years.
PRATAC: I was a director of the Pakenham Ramsay and Almonte Taxpayers Advocacy Coalition (PRATAC), took leave from the Executive during my candidacy and resigned upon my election. I was a researcher, writer, and volunteer trainer. I spoke at public meetings on topics such as the anti-SLAPP legislation (SLAPP: Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, designed to intimidate citizens), correctly predicting the failed outcome of the publicly-funded personal lawsuits of Mayor McLaughlin and Councillor Edwards against Steve Maynard. I shared information on how to identify “fake news” and what questions to ask yourself about it. I donated funds for various events and prizes for Family Fun Day. Using my own equipment, I was at the computer search table at the PRATAC Community Official Plan meetings in Pakenham, Clayton and Almonte, helping people to locate their own properties to see if and how they were affected by changes proposed. Once people could foresee the effects, they demanded changes.
Don Maynard Park: I went door-to-door in our neighbourhood to circulate the petition against the sale, worked on park clean-up and replanting, uncovered facts such as the Park was never just Block 40, but actually included Block 42; the two formed Don Maynard Park in its entirety. I documented the history of it as well as the two efforts to arrange its sale, in 2000 and 2015/2016. I researched and presented fact-based objections at both the municipal and county levels, and prepared PRATAC’s submission to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Heritage Conservation District: In 2016, I researched the facts showing that some members of Council were in conflicts of interest by moving and voting on the HCD, without declaring their pecuniary interests within the heritage conservation district, thus benefiting by way of 25% rebates on the municipal portions of their property taxes and grants necessitating a subsequent quadrupling of the heritage assistance budget. No residents outside the proposed Heritage Conservation District were ever consulted about it, only those within the chosen area, but we must all subsidize it. I think everyone needs to be involved in decision making on this, not just the beneficiaries.
Code of Conduct for Building Officials: I am personally responsible for the Municipality’s Code of Conduct for Building Officials and requiring them to post it publicly for residents, as required by the Building Code. It was approved in October of 2014, and I was consulted on it.
Improve the Democratic Process in Mississippi Mills:
more public input into council and committee meetings
elections, not appointments, to be used for Council vacancies
see that residents’ fundamental freedoms and democratic rights under the Bill of Rights 1960 and Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1981 are supported
improve accountability through recording of all public and closed meetings (including committee meetings) as recommended by the provincial Ombudsman
amend municipal bylaws and policies to be consistent with public rights and freedoms under provincial and federal acts; remove any provisions that attempt to suppress them
implement a redress mechanism used by other municipalities that empowers citizens between elections
Improve the Service Experience in Mississippi Mills:
codes of conduct that deal with service to the public by Council and employees and a user-friendly recourse process
institute a hierarchy of response by elected representatives so that queries no longer fall through the cracks
promote problem-solving, time management, quality control, accessibility services and resolving issues to staff and train if necessary
Improve Roads and Public Works
seek input from residents on the future of sidewalks and roads
seek a heavy vehicle and dangerous good transport route through consultation with the public, commercial users, the province and federal government
pay attention to public needs, such as placing municipal trash receptacles in areas where people need them, not just downtown
Deal with Conflicts of Interest:
require annual declarations by council, public board and committee members, and employees of their pecuniary interests and those of their family/conjugal relationships that may cause actual or perceived conflict
corrective actions for violations
support the new Integrity Commissioner and seek her/his suggestions
Improve Communication and Critical Information
ensure public access to recordings of Council and Committee sessions (except those closed under exceptions in the Municipal Act, which will be recorded for the purpose of potential investigation)
improve web services
meet with residents regularly
digitize and organize by-laws, policies and financial reports
allow public message access to non-profit community organizations
Improve the Business Environment
seek advice and vision from all businesses in Almonte and consult with our neighbours in Ramsay and Pakenham: what works? What doesn’t?
If expanding the settlement areas, where does business fit in? Is there a better place for more industrial-type use (instead of over the groundwater protection area)?
Improve the Fairness and Management of Heritage Buildings
establish priorities through municipality-wide consultation on support from public funds (such as community-owned, service organizations, commercial, residential)
encourage arms-length management and distribution of any financial heritage support and resources chiefly through owners, with municipal support as available and needed
Respect Parks and Recreation
no parks will be sold for residential or commercial development without public support
make park access, maintenance and development equitable
establish consistent and reliable information for residents on scheduled events and servicing
recognize and train volunteers who help the community by providing services and sitting on boards
seek advice from volunteer groups, including firefighters
Mentor young people in civic government through volunteering and shadowing
Enhance a Variety of Tourism
Tourism investment and support of festivals and the arts will be available and equitable to all in Almonte and Mississippi Mills.
Give You a Voice in Planning
As recommended by the Planning Department, over the next two years, look at expanding the settlement boundaries of Almonte.
Collect input from residents on what changes to the Community Official Plan they envision, and what requires clarity and certainty for their own future planning.
Discuss youth projections and needs with schools, parents and planners
Consider moving commercial and industrial business away from the groundwater protection area.
Explore transportation to Ottawa with neighbouring communities
Consult more formally with residents on senior services needed in future
A community conversation needs to happen around drug hazards, addictions, policing and the effects of marijuana legalization in Mississippi Mills: what do we want from provincial services?
There have been a number of very serious issues raised over the term of this Council.
1. DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
The last session of Council was marked by inappropriate secrecy, as disclosed by the investigation into illegal closed meetings, the appointment rather than the election of a Councillor, a new Procedural by-law affecting the rights of citizens and media, abuse of our courts with a publicly-funded but personal strategic lawsuit against public participation and attacks on residents, critics, media and the democratic process itself.
We deserve better.
2. MUNICIPAL TAXES AND FEES and FINANCIAL REPORTING
Our spending and debt concern people. Financial reporting to the public needs to be clearer and regular. I have reviewed the practices of other, similarly-sized municipalities and many do monthly detailed statements that are easily accessed by the public. The public would appreciate quarterly reports and updated budget forecasts.
3. COMMUNITY OFFICIAL PLAN REVIEW
The intrusive revised plan, costing more than $50,000 in consultants in 2018 alone (in process since at least 2015), would have been quietly passed had residents not noticed, taken action, and voiced objections. Council made only superficial changes and the plan needs revision. Our Planner tells us we need to look at the settlement boundaries within the next two years.
4. OTTAWA VALLEY RECREATIONAL TRAIL
Almonte could be a jewel in the OVRT Crown, instead of a tool that was used to divide residents.
5. PARK SALES
Selling building lots off Don Maynard Park was vigorously opposed by the community and rammed through anyway, with no credible logic. The decision is being appealed to the Municipal Board. The incumbents on this Council have repeatedly failed to listen to residents.
6. ROADS AND PUBLIC WORKS
Good roads, sidewalks, sewer, water and other shared services are the basics of why we have government to begin with. Let’s get these back in shape. It is not the staff letting things go – it has been driven by decisions of your Council who neglect basics for their pet wish-lists. Spray-paint for gaping sidewalk cracks is penny-wise and pound foolish.
7. UTILITIES and DEVELOPMENT SHARING
The revenue generated from Almonte’s power, water and development charges are shared with the rest of the Municipality and some of the costs are as well. Other communities in Mississippi Mills are frustrated and unable to develop, while this Council promotes inner-city type infill in Almonte. We need to talk.
If your water, sewer, sidewalk, streets and parks are neglected, even the most exotic, elaborately-staged and expensive tourist event will not help the people who pay the majority of the freight in this town: you. These are the basic “hygienes” of everyday life, without which the “nice-to-haves” don’t matter.