by Cecilia Naismith
Cobourg council settles on December raise
A last-minute amendment to a motion before council made a further adjustment to the raise for councillors that has long been anticipated to take effect Dec. 3.
Councillor Debra McCarthy made the motion at council Monday for the amendment, which she said bridges the gap between the modest raise suggested by an ad hoc committee council convened for the purpose of studying the question and a more recent presentation by the Cobourg Taxpayers Association that advocated for a substantial raise – so substantial that, in addition to a significant increase for the mayor, it would have roughly doubled the remunerations for deputy mayor and councillors.
Speaking for the association, Paul Pagnuelo argued that better compensation would attract better councillors.
The original motion before council Monday would have approved the recommendations of the ad hoc committee for a mayor's remuneration of $37,940, a deputy mayor's remuneration of $22,679 and councillors' remuneration of $18,128, with the direction that council re-examine the matter in a year and take another look at the suggestions Pagnuelo put forward.
McCarthy suggested that council instead approve 25% of that substantial raise, and that the next council (following the fall elections) look at the matter in a year and determine if they wish to phase in the remaining 75% - perhaps over the remaining three years of their term.
McCarthy's formula put the mayor's remuneration at $40,440, the deputy mayor at $27,679 and councillors at $23,128.
Though she's not running for re-election herself, she sympathized with councillors running for re-election and having to justify the hike. But the fact is that the workload of each councillor means the remuneration amounts to far less than minimum wage. This is especially true of the deputy mayor, she pointed out, who is front and centre during budget time and has the especially demanding wide-ranging general-government portfolio.
“I personally know how much the deputy mayor did in the past four years because, every time I came to town hall for any reason whatsoever, he was here,” Councillor Forrest Rowden agreed.
And though she thought she had been prepared for the workload when she won her council seat, McCarthy added, she has found it almost untenable.
She expressed her hope that this amendment is at least some movement toward better compensation.
Venture 13 innovation may include solar energy
Lakefront Utilities Services Inc. has partnered with the Veridian Corporation and Solera Sustainable Energies Company Ltd. on a project that adds more innovation to Venture 13 – energy from solar panels on the roof.
Lakefront president and chief executive officer Dereck Paul was joined by a Solera representative to explain how this would work at Monday's Cobourg council meeting.
With Cobourg aboard, he explained, they would co-invest in a solar-generating project that they would build, own, maintain, insure and operate long-term, the cost broken down in agreed-upon percentages among the three partners.
“No moving parts, no noise, no penetration from the roof – it's very much innocuous,” the Solera representative said. There will be no capital outlay required from the town, and no risk to the town.
The solar panels will operate parallel to the Lakefront structure, he added, so that Lakefront can take over in case of interruption to the solar-panel output.
The energy produced will be about one-third of that required by the building's tenants, and it will be purchased by the town at an agreed-upon rate that will save them money in the long run (as well as improving the green profile and innovative reputation of Venture 13). He estimated perhaps $500,000 in savings over 25 years.
An engineering review has confirmed the integrity of the roof to host the structure, he said. And in the event roof repairs or replacement are required, the panels will be moved.
The next step is execution of the power purchase agreement and the rental agreement to lease space on the roof.
“It's a great opportunity and a great partnership for the Town of Cobourg, moving forward on Venture 13,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.
“It's all about innovation and new technology, so I very much appreciate you have been able to work with the Town of Cobourg on this,”
Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre wants you
The Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre has opened for its seventh season, Joan Chalovich told Cobourg council Monday, and she hopes everyone will come have a look at this year's exhibit.
Since the museum opened in 2012, they have had a different exhibit each year, just to keep things interesting. This year, it's Built: Exploration of our Built Heritage. Meanwhile, panels and other elements of past exhibits can be seen at the Via station, Cobourg Community Centre and Alderville First Nation.
The displays are exciting, she said, but the numbers are a concern. They attracted about 3,000 visitors their first season, but that number was down by one-third last season.
They rely on grants and donations to stay open, Chalovich said, and this includes memberships from about 150 individuals and families. Fortunately, she said, they often include additional donations with their annual membership renewals ($20 for individuals and $30 for families). And grants have helped them hire students in the summer (two this year, she said).
“The Cobourg Museum Foundation is fortunate to have some dedicated and skilled volunteers,” Chalovich added, singling out three - George Parker (who has provided the very popular outdoor exhibit, a model of the old Cobourg-Peterborough Railway), Keith Oliver (whose research was invaluable, especially during the relocation of the cottage that now serves as their administration centre) and Stanley Isherwood (treasurer and volunteer who takes responsibility for each year's exhibition).
“We want it to be known in the community that one of the most challenging parts of operating the heritage centre is to find volunteers,” she said.
“It's only open through the summer months, and our students are a great help to us. But our board members are finding it very challenging for volunteers, because it takes so much of their time. We are speaking to our volunteers and to the public to say, if you can even find one afternoon a week to meet and greet visitors, we think you will enjoy it.
“It's our hope most of the residents of Cobourg and the area will visit this summer. The exhibits are new and really worthwhile to come and see.”
Councillor Suzanne Seguin, who has already paid a visit, offered compliments on the interactive displays and children's activity table.
“It's a good place for families to come, and we see them come back several times throughout the summer,” Chalovich agreed.
“It's a good place to spend the afternoon on a rainy day.”
Dressler celebrations rate banner-policy variance
Cobourg council agreed at its Monday meeting to grant a variance on a certain provision of the town's new banner policy for the upcoming sesquicentennial of Marie Dressler's birth.
Marie Dressler Foundation representative Rick Miller reminded council of his previous presentation some months back, in advance of the new policy's adoption.
While Nov. 9, 2018, has already been proclaimed Celebrate Marie Dressler 150 Day in Cobourg, Miller said, the celebrations will go on for several months.
Now that there is a banner policy, he has noted that section 3.2 specifies that an approved banner can be displayed on a lamppost for up to a four-week period immediately prior to whatever date the banner publicizes.
In the case of the Dressler sesquicentennial, a number of celebratory activities are planned.
“We will be requiring continuous display of the banners from Aug. 15 through Nov. 15,” Miller said.
“As we understand it, we are the first organization to make this request.”
He added that the foundation has also supplied a map indicating the locations where they wish the banners posted.
“In such a significant year for Marie Dressler celebrations, it's certainly not an unreasonable request,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.
Council expressed its agreement when it passed the motion to grant the variance.
Linmac gets accessibility award
Going above and beyond what's required in its addition to Victoria Place at 955 Elgin St. W. has won Linmac Developments Inc. an Accessibility Recognition Award from the Town of Cobourg.
Accessibility advisory committee chair Janet Warren shared details with council at Monday's meeting, in advance of AccessAbility Week (May 27 through June 2),
Warren said this is a time to promote inclusion and accessibility in the community and workplace, to celebrate the contributions of Canadians with disabilities, and recognize the efforts of those who actively remove barriers to give all Canadians of all abilities a better chance for success.
The award, she added, honours someone who has taken the importance of disability into account when building. While accessibility guidelines exist, Linmac took them further.
Warren recalled how her committee first saw the project site plan in 2016. The committee's mandate is to review such plans, ask questions and provide ideas.
It is now a beautiful new building with four businesses already moved in (and space for one more), incorporating numerous suggestions the committee had to offer.
Warren listed a few of the features that make it stand out, like the eight barrier-free parking spaces that offer easy access to an extra-wide sidewalk (and concrete barriers on parking spaces adjoining that sidewalk to prevent car bumpers from overhanging and restricting that space). And in the pedestrian entrance from Elgin Street, there's a textured block to indicate to the visually impaired where the entrance to Victoria Place is.
She loves that customers of the Home Plate restaurant can easily take advantage of an accessible attractive outdoor patio space and the universal-design entrance doors that open automatically for everyone.
A committee colleague of Warren's approached the dais with her guide dog to say how proud she was to have had a part in this structure, and to point out how these features benefit a mother with a stroller or a shopper pulling a cart as well as a customer with a walker.
All these features make the addition a most amazing facility, Councillor Debra McCarthy stated.
“We appreciate your not only adding to the business community, but doing it in a very accessible way, which is so important to all the citizens of Cobourg,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said to Linmac representative Drew Macklin.