The Admin & Finance Committee was in session on Monday evening and covered a wide array of matters including but not limited to the 2018 Municipal Election, Animal Control and Fire Safety Plans.
The full agenda for the meeting is located at: https://grimsby.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/?preview=85407
2018 Municipal Election – Ballot Counting
The Committee first heard from the President of “Simply Voting”, a firm that is being recommended to be contracted to tabulate the ballots for the upcoming 2018 Municipal Election. For $36,136 the company will be offering the services of accumulating and tabulating the ballots (paper and on-line) for the next election.
Although the President of the company assured the committee that they have never had a security breach and that their system has never gone down, one would be hard-pressed to take that to the bank. There were a few interesting claims in this presentation, the first of which was that the election data and results would reside on servers in Canada… which in reality means nothing if their servers and data centre are not hardened.
The second claim was that they developed their “own encryption system” to secure election data, which sounds questionable at best. To go a little “James Bond” on our readers, both the Canadian and US Federal Governments use what is known as “AES” (Adavanced Encryption Standard) to protect their information. This is a freely available and “open-source” (can be used by anyone) algorithm that is secure and studied by security professionals before it can become a standard. If they are truly using a “security through obscurity” approach using their own encryption that is not published and peer-reviewed, then their claims of security are easily called into question due to potential exploits.
A third point was that data would be transferred from the Town’s tabulator machines to their laptops on election night via “USB stick”. This is a major security weakness and is jokingly referred to as a “Sneaker Net”, meaning you have to walk the file between two machines rather than send it over a secure network. Alderman Dunstall raised an issue about this in regards to the potential of data being corrupted or a USB key failing, which can and does happen.
The committee asked the Town Clerk to perform a “post-mortem” of the problems with the last two municipal elections and discuss the issues with Simply Voting. Recounts are always an issue and the Town manager suggested that they need to come up with a “recount” policy before the election and decide where to draw the line in the event of close races.
In his closing remarks, the President of Simply Voting made a colloquial reference to there being many ways to “skin a cat”… which provided an uneasy segue into the next topic. Kevin Strooband, Executive Director of the Lincoln County Humane Society was sitting behind the gentleman from Simply Voting and jokingly said “you might want to think about rephrasing that!”.
Renewal of Animal Control Contract
Mr. Strooband as mentioned above was on hand to take any questions in regards to the report regarding the renewal of the provision of Animal Control services to the Town by the Lincoln County Humane Society. The current contract expires on December 31, 2017 and the renewals for 2018 and 2019 would each increment by 1.5%.
Declining revenues from dog tags seem to be an issue brought up by the Committee, with the Mayor stating that dog tag/license sales were “down 9%” despite a “population increase of 7%”. With these revenues down about $5,000, it means either residents are not registering their pooch or people are no longer getting dogs… the former being the most likely reason.
Dog owners should take note that LCHS has and will be conducting “spot checks” at dog parks and other parks to ensure people have purchased their dog tag from the Town. Those without a license will be issued a ticket, although if you prove you have purchased a tag within 72 hours of the ticket, it will be waived. In enforcement circles this is known as a “forced payment”.
Fire Safety Plans for Fire Station 2 & Southward Park
The Fire safety plans for the new fire station and Southward Park were reviewed. And we use the term “review” to mean “briefly”, the report was over 200 pages long as you can see in the Agenda link above.
There was concerns raised that volunteer groups using these premises need to be aware of the fire safety procedures and how to make sure that things happen according to plan. Several recommendations were given by the Committee for reconsideration and clarification in the plans.
2016 Capital Projects Update/CoGen
The Town Treasurer provided a report on 2016’s capital projects, comparing them to the budget, and recommending how each will be financed. Most of the monies to pay for the $12.4 million in projects will be drawn out from previous contributions to reserves and reserve funds ($6.7 million), and another $4.5 million coming from charges to developers.
Before you ask… yes, the Town spent more money on the Cogen – $56,000 for the MOE noise testing and engineering fees to design the noise barriers. The actual walls were built in 2017.
On a related note, raised under the auspices of “New Business”, the Treasurer recommended that the ownership of the CoGen building be transferred to the Town. As it stands now, the Town pays for maintenance and repairs on the building which is still legally owned by Grimsby Energy. The big question is what will be the transfer price… there was discussion of “cost minus depreciation” or fair market-value.
This is to be discussed with the Town-owned Grimsby Energy, which we never get to see the finances of. In effect the Town will be negotiating with itself and the original cost of acquisition (by Grimsby Energy) and sale price may never be known. More to come on this matter for sure!
27 John Street Grant
Brite Developments, who cleaned up 22 John Street has requested a property revitalization tax increment equivalent grant for a similar property down the road. Based on land size and contaimination levels, it is estimated to cost over $2.0 million to clean up the 27 John Street site.
The town’s portion of the tax reduction, which will be done over 10 years, is $260,000 with the Region then committing another $639,000.
The Committee expressed great interest in seeing this property cleaned up and developed as it has become an “eye sore”.
WSIB Firefighter Liability
The Town received correspondence from the WSIB that may impact your property taxes in the future. Firefighters, including volunteer firefighters, who become diagnosed in the future with certain ailments or cancers that are highly linked with work-related exposures will now be covered through WSIB. The estimated potential liability figure given to the Town by the WSIB was $800,000.
The Treasurer was highly speculative of this amount and disagreed, commenting he will have an independent actuary estimate the Town’s potential liability in this regard.
Haws Drain Outstanding Payments
If you are on the Haws drain and haven’t paid the Town for your share, the Town is going to be looking hard for their payment. Despite sending out bills about a year ago, there are still many homeowners who either decided not to pay or simply forgot to pay. After one more reminder letter, the plan is to add the outstanding amounts to the taxes of homeowners who have not paid up.
Why is the Town only taking action after one year… was the matter simply forgotten?
If you made it all the way down here… or even if you didn’t… thanks for reading!