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Council chamber upgrades, parking lot work given green light

Funding for new DOMB truck gets OK despite criticism from Emond: 'If the DOMB were a little more co-operative on the See You on the Patio program, I would be more interested in supporting it'
2018-06-07 Orillia council capital plan
The Orillia Council chamber is shown in this file photo. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

Here are some more highlights from the city’s recently completed capital budget discussions.

Council chamber upgrades

Nearly half a million dollars will go toward audio/video and accessibility upgrades to the council chamber at the Orillia City Centre.

Coun. Jay Fallis was in favour of the IT work and wanted a separate report on accessibility upgrades — of which he was also in favour — but otherwise said “the facility we have is more than adequate.”

Renee Recoskie, manager of property and environmental sustainability, noted work needs to be done to improve accessibility, including ramps and making an exit fully accessible.

The work would also include painting and new furnishings. Fallis felt that was not necessary.

A staff report noted the $492,000 cost would help make the chamber “more accessible, able to provide the necessary AV technology to meet multiple meeting formats and reflect the progressive and professional nature of the city.”

Mayor Steve Clarke said the upgrades are “an absolute must.”

“Accessibility is something that must be addressed,” he said.

Fallis introduced a motion to separate the IT component from the rest of the project, but that wasn’t supported by his colleagues.

“I would really hate to think that we’re going to have great IT and still have the same microphones,” Coun. Tim Lauer said, suggesting it would be better to go “holus bolus.”

While it’s a costly endeavour, staff noted there is a possibility it won’t burden the taxpayer. They have applied to the Canada Community Revitalization Fund for a grant. They haven’t heard yet whether it was successful, but if it is, there’s a chance it could cover the entire project.

Centennial Park parking lot

Work to redesign the parking lot at Centennial Park will begin after budget committee approved a $75,000 staff request.

That money will go toward consultants who will begin the detailed design process.

Some council members were hesitant to support it, with Lauer repeating his call for a working group to be created to help inform the process.

Because the design process is slated for 2022, a request for proposals would need to be issued, so a working group would have to be “effective and efficient,” advised city clerk and CAO Gayle Jackson.

Also, a working group isn’t something that is formed on the fly. A councillor wanting to start one would typically prepare a report for council’s consideration. Lauer said he would do that in December.

Some councillors were concerned about the plan to eliminate half the existing parking spots in the lot.

“The part that really concerns me is the parking footprint when people use the boat launch,” said Coun. Pat Hehn.

She wondered aloud whether the redesigned lot should be for use only by Orillians to ensure “our residents are taken care of first.”

Coun. Ted Emond worried about “a conflict between the boat launch and the trail.” However, it was council that decided the launch would remain, so he suggested the budget request be approved so staff and consultants can find a way to “allow those two to co-exist.”

DOMB truck replacement

The city will give the Downtown Orillia Management Board (DOMB) $10,000 to go toward the purchase of a used pickup truck.

The one currently in use — a 2008 vehicle the city provided in 2018 — is nearing the end of its useful life, and the city doesn’t have a truck in its fleet to provide to the board, budget committee was told.

“The DOMB have shown that they really do have a need for a truck,” Hehn said, adding it is used daily and helped during the See You on the Patio program.

That led Emond to criticize the board’s efforts.

“If the DOMB were a little more co-operative on the See You on the Patio program, I would be more interested in supporting it,” he said. “We are going beyond the mandate of what the taxpayers should be paying for.”

He asked why the board couldn’t draw the money from its reserve, which has a balance of about $60,000.

Coun. Rob Kloostra noted a pricey purchase is in the DOMB’s future as it will need a new machine for sidewalk maintenance.

Budget committee approved the funding request, with Lauer saying there is a “reciprocal relationship here that is worth looking after.”

“Given the amount of taxes that come out of the downtown area, I think we can afford to do this,” he said.

Keep an eye on OrilliaMatters for further budget highlights.

All of budget committee’s decisions are subject to ratification during a special council meeting Dec. 6.