This past week Town Hall had quite a full schedule with several end-of-year meetings. If you were too busy buying gifts or are already celebrating the holiday season, we have the meetings notes for you.
We apologize for a long-ish post, but we have done our best to trim things down without disposing of the interesting information.
Administration & Finance Notes – December 11, 2017
The Director of Finance provided some clarification on the 2016 Auditor’s Report. The significant deficiencies identified in the report included a lack of internal controls and segregation of duties for financial transactions. This has been identified as an ongoing issue by auditors and the Director indicated that they will be starting to bring forward new policies now that additional staff have been hired in IT. Mayor Bentley noted that this has been a concern for a couple of years now and should be the first thing to get cleaned up.
Assistant Director of Finance, Ms. Hannah noted that the Town does not have a PO system (matching purchase orders to invoices and payments received) in response to a question as to how Finance knows if an invoice has actually been paid. The response was that invoices are always recorded as funds received (before the money has actually come in). Finance does a review later of subsequent payments to ensure they are put against the proper year.
If you were wondering about where the $9M sale of NRBN went (read our posts here and here) and the increase in Financial Assets/Investment in Niagara Power Incorporated from 2016 ($16,164,107) to 2017 ($21,962,249) it is directly related to the transfer of two non-regulated companies (GEI and GHI) to Holdco2 and the sale of Niagara Region Broadband Network.
Some background on the “backdated” restructuring in 2016 can be found in this NTW article:
Alderman Kadwell questioned the increase showing as only $5.8 M. Mayor Bentley responded that the NRBN shares were held by Grimsby Hydro and the proceeds were put back into Grimsby Hydro. The “Retained Earnings” line in Note 4 reflects the retained earnings in the sale of NRBN.
Page 15 – Note 4 of the draft auditor’s report:
“4. Investment in subsidiaries
Niagara Power Incorporated (“NPI”) and 1938427 Ontario Inc. (“1938427”) are the holding companies of the three Town of Grimsby (“Grimsby”) utility subsidiaries. Grimsby Power Incorporated (“GPI”) is 90% owned and controlled by the Municipality and held by NPI. The remaining 10% is owned by Fortis Inc.. Grimsby Energy Incorporated (“GEI”) and Grimsby Hydro Incorporated (“GHI”) are 100% owned and controlled by the Municipality and held by 1938427. Effective January 1, 2016, NPI transferred its ownership of GEI and GHI to 1938427.
GPI is structured to carry out all the regulatory requirements including capital and maintenance work on the plant infrastructure (poles, wires and underground equipment). It is also responsible for the local administration plus the billing and collection function that was previously done under the auspices of the former Grimsby Hydro-Electric Commission. As well, GPI is also the provider of electricity to customers who do not sign an agreement for power with a retailer.
GEI is a services company which is responsible for exploring green energy and other business opportunities. GEI is currently building a 1 megawatt bioreactor facility.
GHI is the unregulated services company which is involved in fibre optics for the efficient distribution of internet services. It held a 25% equity ownership in a region-wide telecommunication business known as Niagara Regional Broadband Networks (“NRBN”), which it sold on October 14, 2016.
Niagara West Transformation Corporation (“NWTC”) was structured to provide for the long term power requirements of Grimsby and area customers. The main assets are a transformer station located south of Grimsby from which electricity for approximately half of Grimsby customers is drawn. On October 1, 2015, NWTC amalgamated with GPI.”
“NPI has guaranteed the indebtedness of its subsidiary, GPI, in the amount of $ 6,500,000. As of December 31, 2016, $ 3,452,000 (2015 – $ 3,758,000) of the loan was outstanding and all financial covenants have been met.
NPI has guaranteed the payment of a penalty in the event of early termination of a fixed rate loan agreement between GPI and a bank. The company’s liability is estimated at $ 622,605 (2015 – $ 787,319).”
Recount Policy and “Lame Duck Council”
The Town Clerk is in discussions with other municipal clerks on how the recount policy will be implemented for the 2018 municipal election. In the past, there have been very close election results (less than 10 votes) resulting in recount requests.
The Clerk’s report states that:
“No recommendation is being made with regard to development of a separate policy respecting circumstances requiring a recount, but rather to allow the legislation to test itself and continue to follow past-practice of considering provisions already contained within the Municipal Elections Act relating to recounts.”
She further stated that candidates will be provided with the recount guidelines upon registration.
Mayor Bentley suggested that it would be beneficial to discuss what the threshold should be for a recount and set the benchmark ahead of time. Town Manager Brandt suggested that it can be raised at the next Council meeting and Aldermen can provide their feedback for the Clerk to take to the next Regional Clerk’s meeting. As well, applying the same policies for recounts for Regional Chair as well as Alderman may be a consideration.
Alderman Kadwell raised the concern about the possibility of a “lame-duck council”. This means there must be a reasonable certainty that at least 75 per cent of the current council will not be returning in the new term. Under the Municipal Elections Act, lame-duck council powers are severely restricted to prevent any shenanigans by outgoing politicians . They cannot hire or fire any officer (such as the CAO or Clerk) or any employee of the municipality. They cannot dispose of any municipal property with a value exceeding $50,000 and they cannot make any expenditures or incur any other liability exceeding $50,000. Town Manager Brandt stated that this is a misunderstood piece of legislation and it is pretty rare you get a “lame duck council”.
So, we put the question to you… considering the unrest and discontent with the status quo in Grimsby, do you think we will have 6 of the 8 current Aldermen returned to their seats in the 2018 election – – or will we have a “lame-duck council”?
A number of municipalities have passed bylaws to cover their bases in this event. Cobourg passed a “lame-duck” bylaw for this election which is outlined here: https://www.cobourginternet.com/images/2017/Bylaw-re-Lame-duck-period.pdf
Planning & Development Committee Notes – December 12, 2017
The Council Chambers saw a much larger than usual attendance for the GO Transit Secondary Plan public meeting. Residents came out in full force to voice their concerns. Even if you do not live near the proposed GO Station, this Plan will impact you.
The consultant hired by the Town stated that although there is no target, the plan must be of a reasonable scale to support intensification (putting a greater number of people into one place). Member Gillespie commented on the plan as trying to “stuff 10 lbs into a 5 lb sack”.
Some issues identified included:
- The Secondary Plan boundary is not correct (north boundary should be clearly the QEW, not including the Winston Road Neighbourhood) and does not agree with the Region and consultant reports.
- Additional changes were presented to Planning members (as stated by Planning staff member, A. Shanks) just prior to the meeting and not circulated to the public.
- Traffic impacts and congestion.
- Need for a grade separation (ie. an overpass or underpass) at Casablanca and the rail tracks.
- Active transportation and bike lane safety, especially on the Casablanca overpass with suggestions that the bike lanes (both directions) be on the west side.
- Concern that homes in the stable neighbourhoods to the east of Casablanca may be torn down and redeveloped with 3 storey or higher mixed-use developments (the response was that the low density designation and development policies for this area would remain).
- A Livingston Road extension is shown through the woodlot, which has yet to be decided.
- The Greenbelt is not shown on any of the drawing schedules – the Province has confirmed the Greenbelt and it is not something to be toyed with – omitting it on the schedules is a “sin by omission”.
- The land use designations for the south of the transit area should remain Protected Countryside/Speciality Crop and Tender Fruit as per the Greenbelt designations.
- The potential for Metrolinx to force a multi-level parking structure into the Greenbelt (south side) with the current plan design.
- A lack of clarity as to maximum heights permitted.
- That Section 37 height and density bonusing may be invoked (under 9.4 of the Official Plan) resulting in much greater heights (this was confirmed that this section of the OP could be used, resulting in higher than stated maximum heights and densities).
- The lack of a Section 37 framework was identified previously and the Town has not yet finalized a policy.
- Inconsistent wording in the Secondary Plan and application of shadow studies to determine negative impacts – the Town does not have established criteria (as many municipalities do) to provide developers for the required studies (they stated they just use “best practice”).
- Vague or loosely defined wording that the Town can permit “marginally taller buildings on a case-by-case basis” when there is no definition or direction as to what that means or how it would be applied.
- That the land parcel identified in the north east interchange area of the Winston Road Neighbourhood Secondary Plan should not be included in the Secondary Plan as mixed-used high density as it is outside the defined limits,
- Who owns that parcel in the interchange? After some moments of apprehension, The Town said they own it. This parcel has been identified in the Waterfront Trail Master Plan as potential lands for beach access parking and is designated as a view corridor and should not be built on . This parcel was never identified as developable in the Town Official Plan, WRNSP, Region’s or consultant’s schedules and preliminary reports to date – it is also in the MTO setback.
- The population and employment numbers quoted in the amendment (4,750 people/1,870 jobs to 2041) – where did they come from? The Regional representative stated these numbers included the Winston Road Neighbourhood growth and need to be corrected.
- With the recent passing of Bill 139 directly impacting this plan and the public’s right to appeal any of the decisions, it is critical that it be done right and correctly – defer approval until all changes and corrections have been incorporated and the public has an opportunity to comment on the final plan – there has not been full disclosure on all the changes to the public.
Member Finch moved to defer approval of the plan to allow for time to incorporate the changes and additional public input at a second public meeting. This motion was passed and it will be brought forward to Council this Monday for approval.
Since this motion was passed, Mr. Seaman of the Planning Department has prepared a memo for the December 18 Council meeting requesting that a further public meeting not be held – you can view the memo here: Planning Memo to Council
Feel free to draw your own conclusions… that’s all for now!