County council hears half-way budget report

by Cecilia Nasmith


With the budget year half-way through, Northumberland County council heard a progress report on 2018's second quarter at its July meeting.

Chief administrative officer Jennifer Moore related the county's milestones, under the headings of the four strategic pillars – economic innovation and prosperity; sustainability, infrastructure and services; thriving and inclusive communities; and organizational excellence.

Under prosperity, Moore reported that a manufacturing-attraction specialist is now at work on the county's behalf to respond in a professional manner to investment inquiries. Funding to provide a settlement-services co-ordinator for three years has been received in a bid to attract new Canadians. The fourth annual Multi-Cultural Day in Port Hope was a success, a colourful showcase of dance, costumes and food. And the Summer Company Program has launched nine outstanding young entrepreneurs with an expo event at Staples.

Under sustainability, there was an update on emergency-services bases. The one in Roseneath is on track for fall completion, the one in Colborne is complete, and the one in Campbellford has seen an RFP issued and a successful respondent chosen – the target to complete this one is April 2020. The Golden Plough Lodge rebuild process continues, with 10 integrated-design meetings planned this year. The Brighton landfill's future-development process continues also. An agreement to provide waste-collection services to Alderville First Nation is in place and the service has begun. As well, county staff has grown to include a grant writer.

Under communities, the second annual Homelessness Registry Week was completed. The Journey Together EarlyON Indigenous team has begun program implementation and planning. The RFP has been awarded for the delivery of shelter services, and the Renovates Northumberland program (a partnership with Habitat For Humanity Northumberland) is helping home owners who need assistance in obtaining badly needed repairs. The county assisted with the evacuation and emergency sheltering of 44 residents in the aftermath of a fire in Port Hope.

Under excellence, they are developing performance metrics for regular reporting to council and to the public. Paramedic vehicles have been equipped with red and blue lights that will make them easier to see for added safety, and five of 13 power lift-load stretchers have been installed for paramedic and patient safety.

Treasurer Glenn Dees spotlighted financial news, such as the fact that the new stretchers are $350,000 under budget. On the other hand, the bitter winter weather in April has put the county over-budget for the treated salt used in road maintenance.

For the first time, the Materials Recovery Facility has flipped fron a surplus position to a deficit one. Dees said this is primarily a result of falling prices for mixed-fibre products.

Other important points included a cooling housing market (mainly due to the new mortgage stress tests) and almost $500,000 that has been realized in interest revenue (which will be allocated to reserves).

Inflationary pressures continue, and the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates four times since last summer. However, Dees said, the county does have healthy reserves that can be drawn on if needed.