June 1, 1998
1. 1998 Regional Budget Finalized
Regional Council has finally approved a 1998 budget - one worth waiting for - which will see regional services maintained at the 1997 level while holding the line on taxes. Council also approved no increases in the water rate and sewer surcharge, and decreased the fire supply rate for residents who are connected to the Region's water supply system.
Residents may recall that when the regional budget was first tabled in February, the total taxation requirement for existing regional programs (including the cost of Police and OC Transpo) had increased by $20 million. This was compounded by the cost of downloaded services such as ambulance and social housing which left us another $50 million in the hole.
To address this $70 million shortfall, Regional Council approved the use of two one-time provincial grants totaling $43 million as an interim measure to deal with down-loading. Because Council was placed in the position of not being able to deal with the 1998 budget until now, it became impossible to achieve the magnitude of permanent cuts required. However, Council did state its commitment to identifying long term solutions, including further negotiations with the Province, to deal with downloading in 1999 and beyond. We must begin immediately to review our operating and capital budgets to identify solutions for next year's budget.
Council also approved departmental budget reductions of $4.5 million, and a reduction of $15 million to the Sewer Capital and the Transit Capital Funds. Reductions of over $4.4 million were approved to the vested benefit funds, family benefit caseloads and to the initial police budget requirement.
Overall, Regional Council approved $1.4 billion for operating and capital expenditures for 1998, including OC Transpo's operating budget of $185 million and a further $115 million for the Ottawa-Carleton Police Service.
2. $4 Million Allocated to Reforest Ottawa-Carleton
The January 1998 ice storm had a significant effect on the forests in our Region. Preliminary evaluations have indicated that 80% of some tree species have suffered damage from ice loading as well as the complete loss of 10% of the forest cover. If we are to ensure the continued good health of our urban forests mitigation of this damage is required through a comprehensive restoration program.
I am pleased to report that preliminary approval has been given for the preparation and coordination of a 4 year Forest Renewal Program to serve as a model for Eastern Ontario. It will finalize the initial cleanup and eliminate all tree related hazards. Included is the development of a long-term strategic Forest Business Plan to evaluate trees, design and analyze local studies measuring response of trees to the ice storm, and recommend long-term management supportive policy and procedures. The final component is the implementation of a systematic tree inventory and evaluation program to identify and assess risk management issues.
The funds for this initiative will come from Canada Ontario Infrastructure funds that were unallocated as a result of savings in tendered projects such as roads, transitways and pavement rehabilitation.
Preservation and protection of the Region's forest cover is identified as a priority in the new Regional Official Plan. This project is a step in the right direction to ensure a healthy natural environment and livable urban community for future generations.
3. Central Experimental Farm
As previously reported, Agriculture Canada is reviewing its future plans for the Experimental Farm. RMOC has hired a consultant to keep us apprised of all issues surrounding this review, and my office will endeavour to keep interested parties informed. Please let me know if you would like more information.
At present, the following facts can be treated as a given:
4. 1998 Beach Recommendations - Mooney's Bay
In Ottawa-Carleton, the Environmental Health/Communicable Disease Control Division monitors water quality at all beaches within the Region. It is the responsibility of the Medical Officer of Health to make recommendations from a health perspective regarding the use of recreational waters for bathing purposes. The most relevant factor in determining the beach water quality is the knowledge of the sanitary conditions at the site, supplemented by the bacteriological analysis of the water. Historical sampling results permit an analysis of past trends of bacterial influences at a site, while ongoing daily sampling permits analysis of current factors influencing the bacterial load at any given time. Rainfall is another factor which affects stormwater contribution to the river.
I am pleased to report that water quality at Mooney's Bay beach was excellent in 1997, not exceeding the provincial standard in any of the water samples collected. There were 5 rainfall events where more than 10 mm of rain fell, however the bacterial quality of the bathing water remained good. It is the only beach in Ottawa that is recommended to open without restrictions. (Westboro and Britannia must close for 24 hours following a rainfall of 5 mm or more.)
The Health Department will continue to monitor all beaches in the Region on the same schedule as 1997, with increases as necessary.
5. Electro Radar Trailer
On May 12, the Environment and Transportation Department unveiled its latest "tool" to promote a safer roadway environment - the electro radar trailer. This device, which was unveiled on Riverside Drive, is a drive education/awareness tool which provides approaching motorists with a clear indication of their actual driving speed in relation to the posted speed limit. In addition, a message board displays information related to the roadway environment - in this case the fact that drivers are entering a residential area.
The electro radar trailer, powered by a solar panel during the day and batteries during hours of darkness, is capable of 24 hour operation on any Regional road.
In 1996, close to 500 pedestrians in our Region were injured in a motor vehicle collision. This joint initiative between the Regional Departments of Transportation, Health and Police Service will improve safety in our community.
6. Light Rail Pilot Project: Progress Report No. 2
KPMG has been retained as management consultant (with IBI Group, Dillon Consulting Ltd. And Canarail as sub-consultants) for the procurement process.
A detailed communications plan is being developed by the Working Group and Steering Committee to optimize the efficient and effective flow of information to and from the public. A public form is scheduled for June 18 to present a preliminary analysis of alternatives, and is likely to be a workshop-style event. Subsequently, a public meeting will be held in July to present the recommendations upon which the RFP will be based.
If you would like to receive a copy of updates on this project, please contact my office.
7. Community Environmental Project Grants Program
Environmental project proposals are being solicited from non-profit groups that will help RMOC meet its objectives in the areas of solid waste diversion, water efficiency, wastewater and the water environment. This program provides funding for small scale community-based initiatives that are managed by community associations (and the like) interested in the environmental betterment of Ottawa-Carleton. A total of $30,000 is available from the 1998 program.
The deadline to receive proposals is Monday, June 22, at 4:00 p.m. They are to be sent to the Acting Director of Finance and Operations Support Office on the 4th Floor of 111 Lisgar Street. For more information, call Cynthia Stables, CEPGP Project Manager at 560-6088, ext. 2791.
8. Council Backs Conference Centre Plan
A plan to enter into a long-term lease with the Federal Government for use of the Conference Centre facility located across from the Chateau Laurier Hotel has been endorsed by Regional Council. Final negotiations will now begin between RMOC, the Feds and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame to ensure that the renovations and operations of the building occur without cost to the local taxpayer.
9. Special Council Meeting to Debate Governance
The Regional Chair has called a special meeting of Council to consider
a proposed motion on governance in our Region. (copy appended #2). If constituents
have any comments or direction on this matter, please do not hesitate to
contact my office.
Please accept my best wishes for a safe and happy summer!