The last council meeting was a short one, lasting only 45 minutes; nevertheless, several important issues were discussed. Council confirmed the receipt of a letter from MPP Steve Clark, saying that he would be consulting with municipalities across the province to address the issue of joint and several liability. This has been an issue for municipalities in the past, as they have had to pay more than their fair share of damages in the case of law suits concerning a municipality.
Councillor Bob Foster asked Mayor Doug Struthers whether he knew how Minister Clark was planning on consulting with them. “Previously, they have only consulted with large municipalities,” he said. Unfortunately, the letter did not outline how and when Minister Clark would be contacting Merrickville-Wolford to hear their thoughts on the issue.
Another issue that was raised at the meeting was the waiving of fees for the use of Municipal properties. This includes the Merrickville-Wolford Community Centre and the Fair grounds. In 2018, council waived $12,900 worth of rental fees, creating a loss in revenue for the Village, and took up a large part of the $13,650 earmarked for community grants. “Staff generally do not recommend waiving rental fees for the use of the Community Centre,” it said in the report to council.
Staff have recommended that requests to waive rental fees be received at the same time as requests for community grants. That way, staff could make sure grants and in-kind services stay within the constraints of the budget. After receiving the report, council has directed staff to prepare a draft policy to create consistency related to the waiving of rental fees and approval of grants to be used going forward.
Resident, Joan Spencer, approached council during the public question period to highlight some inconsistencies with the current rates for renting the Community Centre and the Fairgrounds. Currently, a full day rental of the Community Centre costs $200 and renting the Fairgrounds for a day costs $250. However, renting them both together for the day costs $750, $300 more than if they were rented separately. Joan also says she would like the non-resident rate to be higher, seeing as anyone who uses it from outside the municipality does not pay taxes in the Village. “I would like to see this reviewed so it comes in line,” she said at the meeting. Treasurer Kirsten Rahm acknowledged the discrepancy and says she will look into it.
Tony Flemming, of Cunningham Swan, has been appointed the municipality’s Integrity Commissioner. This brings the municipality in line with Bill 68, which requires all municipalities to have an Integrity Commissioner. The municipality will employ Mr. Flemming on an as-needed basis, at an hourly rate of $295.
Finally, council agreed to waive the rental fee for the Community Centre for Christmas in Merrickville, as many not-for-profit community organizations use it during the celebration. Christmas in Merrickville Chair, Mark Scullino, had asked council to agree to waive these fees for the entire 4-year term of council. However, it was decided that they would agree to waive the fees for 2019 only, and then defer to the future whatever fee-waiving process that will be prepared by municipal staff.