“Madawaska Valley offers good value to its rate payers”
On January 27th Michael Wildman and David Reid of Municipal Government Wayfinders presented their Operational Service Delivery Review (SDR) to members of Madawaska Valley Council at a Special Council Meeting. Above photo: YouTube/Madawaska Valley. Wayfinders are consultants who prepare reports for municipalities using an evidence-based approach which included the high-level online survey that residents were asked to complete between Nov.19-Dec.17. They also conducted interviews with staff and consultants, and visited many municipal facilities last October.
In their report Wayfinders recommended 66 opportunities for improvement and highlighted three priority topics: asset management, fees collected and procedural efficiencies. Some of the notable points in the SDR include opinions on the impact of the reduced projected lifespan of the landfill site at Bark Lake, the comparative financial position of MV, as well as suggestions about conducting municipal business more efficiently. Wayfinders also discussed the local impact of the “Muskoka Effect.”
Several assets may require replacement at the same time: Some interviewees felt that road rehabilitation was going well, but other assets may be falling behind. The arena, Township offices, and the water and wastewater system that is nearing 50 years old, were raised as examples. The report recommended that these assets should figure prominently in upcoming life cycling strategies.
Bark Lake landfill site: One of the findings that concerned Wayfinders was the landfill site at Bark Lake. Landfill Site, “reportedly with about 45 years of remaining life expectancy.” The report goes on to say “this estimate is based on limited information. Recent concerns … supported by an aerial topographic survey, suggest the life expectancy may be considerably less (11 years – less than 25 percent remaining)” and that “closure costs and timing will need to be reviewed with urgency.“
The report included the statement that the Township is “in good overall shape” subject to concern expressed about the high level of tax arrears which, according to a report presented at the Jan.11 Council meeting, amount to $1,280,030.19 as of December 31st, 2021. Wayfinders also found that most MV user fees are lower than their comparators, although MV water and wastewater fees and costs are considerably higher than the comparators. The SDR recommended that MV undertake a user fee study.
Wayfinders recommended streamlining processes and paperwork to more efficiently carry out municipal business, including:
- A curfew of three hours for Council in Committee meetings. The SDR sampling found the average length of MV meetings was almost six hours – three to four hours longer than elsewhere – and recommended among other things that MV should eliminate items from the Agenda that do not require Council decision.
- Setting priorities through expanded Master Plans and annual departmental work plans
The “Muskoka Effect”
The report contains almost three pages discussing the benefits and challenges of the “Muskoka Effect” that has put upward pressure on MV property values as new residents come from urban centres and more people work from home. It points out significant differences between Muskoka Lakes and MV including:
- Muskoka Lakes has three times the number of households than MV, with a median household income $20,000 higher than that of MV
- Its weighted assessment of $1,004,902 is four times more than MV’s which stands at $247,929
- Muskoka Lakes, like other larger municipalities, has more taxation revenue to help offer more enhanced services than MV
It concludes that newcomers to MV with higher expectations should be educated on these differences so they can better appreciate the good value for taxes paid available here.
Online survey records residents’ satisfaction levels
Respondents to the online survey described their levels of satisfaction with MV services:
- 7.5 percent were very satisfied
- 48.6 percent were satisfied
- 24.8 percent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
- 13.5 percent were dissatisfied
- 5.4 percent were very dissatisfied.
The lower levels of dissatisfaction recorded were viewed as a positive.
The online survey showed that 43.2 percent of respondents were not aware that they can view Council meetings online, and 60.5 percent did not know that they can submit comments or complaints about the Township through the Township’s website.