On August 4 Madawaska Valley Council held an electronic Special Council meeting to conduct business via Zoom in a livesteamed YouTube video. Anyone who wishes to view the video recording of the meeting can access it by searching for Madawaska Valley Township on YouTube.com
One of the first agenda items was to revise the Procedural By-Law to ensure that electronic meetings could continue in the absence of a State of Emergency. In a discussion at the end of the meeting during Unfinished Business, Council decided to return to its standard schedule of two meetings per month, with each Committee Chairman chairing their portion of the Council In Committee meeting on the first Tuesday of the month. They agreed that the experience of holding the Special Council meetings electronically during the past few months showed they could meet effectively this way. The only deviation from the standard meeting schedule was proposed by Mayor Love who asked, “Can the Regular Council meeting be moved to the morning? People can watch on Zoom, staff are available.” She said that if instead of 4 p.m. the Regular Council meetings start at 10 a.m. – the same as Council In Committee meetings — it would avoid unnecessary staff overtime costs. She added, “Because no one is coming to the meeting anyway after work; they can watch it.”
There was no discussion about how the time change might affect any citizens with jobs who might want to attend a daytime meeting as a delegation.
All members of Council agreed to this change, to take effect in September.
Fireworks and Noise By-Law discussed
Council discussed a report from MV Fire Chief Corwin Quade about Fireworks By-Law complaints which included sample by-laws from some other municipalities. Quade said currently only two by-laws govern fireworks in MV:
- The open-air burning by-law 2019-22 states that fireworks cannot be set off during a total fire ban.4.2 (1.1) No person shall at any time set, maintain, or allow any open air fire, during a LEVEL ONE (1) fire ban, other than: (d) Fireworks, chimineas, ban busters.
- The noise by-law 2011-18 says 4.2.1 No person shall cause any unnecessary noise between the hour of 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.
During a lengthy discussion Council agreed that councillors and Quade should track all complaints and that the Township should ask local cottager/lake associations to send out educational messages about being mindful of neighbours. CAO Suzanne Klatt said that the noise by-law is nine years old and this was a good opportunity to review it with a view to potentially including fireworks. Members of Council agreed that staff could bring this back to Council in future.
Deputy Treasurer Janice Brisson-Zelney reported to Council that arrears of unpaid taxes as at June 30 2020 are $802,649.41. This compares with $676,481.02 at June 30 2019. The detailed breakdown by year (not including 2020) is:
She said she believed large part of the increase was due to Council’s direction not to actively collect arrears during the COVID crisis. She said the “penalty holiday” directed by Council during April, May and June resulted in a loss of revenue totalling $18,177.62 and that this helped to reduce financial stress on MV ratepayers due to COVID-19. Council thanked her for the report and directed that staff should recommence collection of tax arrears as soon as possible given their workload.
Wastewater treatment plant litigation
At the August 7 Council meeting, Mayor Kim Love reported, after an in camera discussion, that “Council directed CAO/Clerk to contact Suzanne Hunt to advise they approve the proposed municipal settlement agreement as presented.”
The Township’s lawsuit was commenced more than seven years ago; i.e., four years after the reason for the claim, being cracks in the tank, was first detected. The Defendants are the Township’s contractor, AECOM, Geo-Logic which provided engineering soil analysis services, OCWA which provided project management services during construction, as well as J.C. Sulpher Construction who actually built the tank. In May of this year, CAO Klatt advised The Current that as of March 31 2020, the Township had incurred $64,000 in legal expenses over the course of the seven years. The Current recently reached out to CAO Klatt and the Township’s lawyer seeking information about the cost of repairs and the total amount of compensation that is being claimed. The Current received no response to these requests.
Perhaps the Mayor’s comments are a sign that a resolution to this long running dispute is pending, which will hopefully result in a recovery not only of compensation but reimbursement of the substantial legal costs.
Water meter replacement program
Brisson-Zelney updated Council that the meter replacement program would begin after Labour Day weekend and that residents on the village water system can expect to receive a notice from Neptune asking them to make an appointment for the meter replacement.
High speed internet / broadband capability
Reviewing correspondence from EORN (Eastern Ontario Regional Network) about their Gigabyte Project and from Craig Kelley at County of Renfrew, members of Council said that since the telecoms suppliers know where their signal gaps are, MV could initiate the discussion of where additional cell towers could be sited by telling the suppliers the Township would be open to discussing such towers on municipal land if the sites were suitable.
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