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Mayor's Corner

Mayor's Corner

Regular comments and updates from Mayor David Henderson

June 18, 2015

Water – NASA is telling the world that we are in danger of significant worldwide drought as water aquifers around the world are under severe pressure – NASA can track the water content by gravity measurements from satellites – areas where the water aquifer has declined have a change in the gravitational pull due to the loss of mass ( really!) We are exceptionally lucky to be located where we are located – Brockville has one of the best quality and largest sources of fresh water in the world – Quality and Quantity  - As over 20% of the world's freshwater passes by our doorstep as the Great Lakes Basin empties into the Atlantic  - and the City actually puts more water back into the river then it takes out (oddly enough, but we treat the water that goes through the system and there is also storm and groundwater that leaks into our treatment system  - so more water out than in). Living in Brockville is like winning the world water lottery jackpot – a good place to be as the world gets warmer and a little drier in many places.

June 10, 2015

Summer is upon us  - trees are filled out , the boats are in the water, cyclists are coming through town and the cottages are getting cleaned up  - City staff have done a great job in getting the city gardens planted and blooming and the place is looking sharp! - As we head into the Summer months many of the City committees reduce their number of scheduled meetings to accommodate vacations; City Council will meet Once in July and once in August for the full council meeting .

Economic Development in the city continues to take two steps forward and one step back as new developments come into play but a changing economy knocks down many of the long term players in the retail and commercial sectors – the City continues to invest in attracting and developing industries and developing our tourism sector  - stay tuned over the summer months to see how we put more emphasis on attracting additional residents to the area who are about to retire or have retired – residents who bring jobs and business to our community .

June 3, 2015

Fire Marque program – this is a program that the city signed up with a few years back whereby the City gets reimbursed for a number of fire related costs from a homeowners fire insurance. The city, in theory would gain between 15 – 20,000 $ a year and in fact it looks like the actual figure is a fair bit lower than this.

Homeowners actually pay for this type of coverage in their home insurance policy and some communities collect it , some don’t.

We have heard of some concerns from residents that they would have to pay these extra costs themselves – Nope – not the case. The deal we have with Fire Marque ( the group that collects the fees from insurance companies, which takes a percentage for themselves and then pays the funds to the city) is that they are to deal with the homeowners insurance company. The homeowner will not be forced to pay these fees out of pocket.

This came up recently as it seems that Travellers Insurance company demands that the fee be tacked onto a homeowners property tax bill before they will pay it out – something that the City of Brockville has not agreed to do. ( and has no current discussion going forward to do so). Fire Marque will have to figure out how to deal with Travellers Insurance but it won’t be by billing the homeowner.

April 7, 2015

Two weeks ago the river is fully iced over – One warm week, a little wind, and an icebreaker and Voila! The river is open and soaking up the sun.  Some pipes are still frozen but the frost is on fast retreat – Kudos to the work crews that did the water repair  - we had our fingers crossed that there would be no big surprises as the City water was shut down and it all worked out well.

Friday April 24th is ……the Mayors Corporate Community 30 Minute Warm-Up to The Clean-Up …..quite a mouthful and more humorous to those of us that remember the old 20 minutes work TV shows …. But on that day we are encouraging departments and company offices to spend 30 minutes outside at lunch cleaning up the green-space around their place of work – get out in the sun (or rain…) grab some pizza or something similar, rake some leaves, pick up some winter trash, soak in some vitamin D  - and promote the up coming Big Community Clean up day on Saturday May 2nd.

Saturday May 2nd – the first Saturday of May – is Community Clean Up Day  – a chance to pick a park, a creek, a green-space anywhere in the city, grab a rake and a garbage bag and make a a difference – Check the soon-to-be-updated website by googling brockville community clean up.

Making our world a better place, one rake at a time.

March 16, 2015

Municipal borders –  in Ontario, if a municipally owned building is within the municipality that owns it there are no property tax or payment-in-lieus of property tax for the service provided by that building. If however, the building/property is outside of the municipality that owns it, in a neighbouring municipality , it must pay payments-in-lieu to the other municipality.  So a water service or a waste-water treatment plant will be charged a tax or not depending on where it is located….interesting thought given that they are both services that are necessary for achieving urban densities which lead to economic development, business expansion and residential attraction and both are necessities for living in healthy, environmental communities and in fact both are highly mandated by the province…….yet two such services, identical in size, service, and customers, may have to charge their customers two different prices because one is located in the jurisdiction of the owner while one is not .

Its hard to not think of a waste treatment plant as a service that benefits everyone in the area around the plant and the same for a water treatment plant. Its hard to understand why the Province of Ontario does not recognize that municipal services infrastructure should be financially supported and not penalized, by all levels of government in the province if we want to develop our economy and maximize our resources.

Perhaps this will change, there are indicators that the province is at least lending an ear to the idea that water and waste water properties should be exempt from municipal payments-in-lieu.  Such a change recognizes the need for such infrastructure and the value that it adds to the greater community.

March 10, 2015

Snowy streets and sidewalks, frozen pipes and water from Your Neighbour.

The one sure thing about a Canadian winter is that it is unpredictable. Last year we had Ice in the first storm of the year that didn’t leave until spring – this year we had hardly any snow through December and January then we got wollopped in February  - and better yet none of it left us through the whole. month , nary a single thaw day. 

At one point, three weeks into February we had approx 150 cm of snow for the year , 30 short of our annual average, and almost all of it came in February. But heres the real kicker – COLD  - February 2015 is now the coldest February on record for the city of Brockville since records began to be recorded. We had an average of –16 degrees celsius. 

This severe cold pushes the frost deeper into the ground the longer it is around which is bad news for water pipes. Brockville is built over rock in many places which meant that many years ago when some houses were built their water pipes were built relatively close to the surface – and relatively close to the frost in a cold winter. Current building codes and standards generally have the water pipes low enough that even in this record cold February the pipes are okay, but in the older areas of town we have seen frozen water pipes and houses without water until a city crew could connect a temporary pipe to a neighbour.

It is inconvenient but it won’t last long. To prevent a freeze many of us who live in the older sections have been asked to run a small stream of water as moving water is less likely to freeze and the City will discount the water bill during the current freeze.

Snow Storms, Ice Storms, severe Freeze-ups……ah Canada, home of the Flexible and adaptable

January 27, 2015

To twin a Pipe or not to Twin a pipe

– that is the question  - and the answer was no.

After a good discussion at the City Council budget meeting it was decided to forego the Provincial and Federal money (some $600,000) and not build a twin force-main from Centeen Park to the waste Treatment plant – foolish or prudent  planning?  At the end of the day what carried the argument were 3 numbers – 52  / 70 / 100  - the Current pipe is 52 years old, the pipe has an expected lifespan of 100 years and an expected lifespan before maintenance of 70 years. Building the redundancy now was deemed premature given the overall cost – time will tell if the decision was prudent or foolish but that is the nature of decisions with many unknowns, you make the best decision possible with the information available at the time – if the pipe breaks it will be deemed a foolish decision, if the pipe holds it will be deemed a prudent decision, and the longevity of the pipe may come down to simple luck, good or bad.

Interesting to note is the reaction on the online blogs from people who were following the discussion via newspaper reporter Ron Zajac's Twitter reporting of the debate – in bursts of 140 odd characters  - with just an inkling of the information available many were adamant about the clarity of the decision one way or the other which may prove the old adage that the least you know on a topic the more sure you are of your expertise.

January 19, 2015

The 10th annual Chinese Business Excellence Awards were recently held in Markham Ontario and Leeds and Grenville  again this year held a prominent position at the awards – not in receiving awards but in the presence of local mayors and community leaders who have been special guests of the awards ceremonies for 6-7 years now, thanks to the groundwork laid by former Mayor Frank Kinsella of Leeds and the 1000 Islands. The Business awards recognize achievements in business in Canada by the Chinese community  and each year 10 awards in various categories are handed out at the Markham Hilton Suites Conference centre in front of a crowd of 700-800 business people and the mayors, MPPs, and MPs from the Greater Toronto Area. Local leaders have been repeatedly invited as special guests since a number of us participated in a large group mission to China 7 years ago, and today we are introduced formally with the GTA mayors, asked to bring greetings, and help with handing out the awards. We often get a chance to highlight the 1000 Islands and most importantly get a chance to network with the fastest growing business and immigrant community in the country.

This year highlighted the fact that many of the award winners came to canada as students, and 15 – 25 years later they are running successful multi million dollar companies, employing thousands of people and investing large sums of money in developments, industries, properties, etc… As one award winner pointed out - “we came as students, we did not ask for handouts, and today we are employing, investing, creating wealth here in Canada, our home!” At our table this year was one of last year's winners, a young lady with a medical PhD who runs a company that invests in HealthCare facilities in Canada and China and who’s husband runs a successful restaurant in Toronto, as well as the Acting Mayor of Pickering and his wife who is in management in the area LHIN, plus a City Councillor for Markham, plus Teresa Huang, Vice Chair of the Guangxi Business Association of Canada.  Before the might was over Roger Hailey of Front of Yonge had set up a business meeting with one of the winners who, as one element of his large company, facilitates students from China who want to study in Canada, over a 1,000 per year, a definite growing market in our area that brings in money and a little cultural enrichment.

It takes time, effort and money to develop contacts and opportunities and this is one example of what can be done and needs to be done  - it is not a vacation or bonus to attend such an event, it is work, it takes people away from home on weekends and nights, and can be awkward and uncomfortable. There is no guarantee that it will lead to something concrete but it does allow you to build relationships and relationships are needed in any culture or community before investments of time and resources are made – and again – this is the fastest growing business and immigrant community in Canada and it is charging Canada’s growth.

January 12, 2015

Rotary Park and the Art of getting things done!

Eight years ago, I came into office full of fire and brimstone, ready to act, to move, to get things done. One of the first things on the agenda was …..getting artificial Ice in at the old memorial centre and getting a splash pad set up somewhere in the city. Here we are 8 years later and… we have a Splash pad AT the Rotary park where the old ice pad now has artificial ice and will soon have a protective roof cover.

Although I would love to take credit for making these things happen, credit goes to the Rotary club and many individuals in the community who have been tirelessly working at the project. The City was able to help at a couple of key points in the process, by putting together a splash pad report with money to make the pad happen which the Rotary club used as seeding to pull together a much bigger project.

Later on, when the artificial ice was being considered, the City was able to add some funding to complement the funds from the community and now, as a roof is being proposed, the City is again on board because of the efforts and results shown by the park committee to make it happen.

It may be that we at City Hall encouraged people to move forward on the project, or it may be that we simply enunciated elements of a project that the community also saw as important. What is important is that at the end of the day, community champions came forth with a project that fitted well with the goals of city council and the community at large…..and after a lot of hard slogging it happened – it is so often a matter of seeding ideas, having patience, seeing what ideas take root  - which ideas develop critical mass of support  - for every seeding that sprouts there  are many that wither but this one was clearly one that many others were thinking of as well – good job to the committee and all the volunteers.

January 5, 2015

2015 is upon us and we have reason to be optimistic. Brockville, like Ontario, is a net beneficiary of a low Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar, low gas prices, and a roaring US economy which likes to buy Ontario (Brockville) made products.

These trends will be with us for the coming year and possibly the next 2 or 3 years and they come at a time when the Brockville economy was already moving in the right direction with strong job recovery and a low unemployment rate – the challenge for us as a City is to capitalize on the opportunity the next 3 years offer – to continue the investments that we have started over recent years in diversifying our local economy.

The Aquatarium project represents a major investment in Tourism product and building traffic downtown. We are also on the cusp of having a Destination Marketing Program in place to generate significant new funds for marketing tourism.

The City is also taking concrete steps to expedite the review of a potential twin pad to replace the Youth arena by forming a focused ad hoc committee of council and allocating funds to the project in the capital budget. Such a facility has the potential to increase sport tourism opportunities in the City.

Industrially, the City is in the process of assembling industrial property to potentially service and make ready for investment – The City’s current stock of serviced industrial land is being steadily developed – leaving odds and ends of property sizes available that are difficult to market.

Industrial costs in the city remain extremely competitive in most areas _ taxes, water rates, sewer rates, planning costs, natural gas.

Institutionally, the City remains a regional centre  and The City has been a long time partner of the Brockville General Hospital and St Lawrence College – as the Hospital moves forward with an anticipated major build project the City will be a solid supporter of the largest single facility employer and a major quality of life attraction for the City.

The City also has long been an attractive place for people to retire to and at the same time the City has shied away from marketing to retirees for fear of the stigma of being a “retirement community.”   It is time that we stand up and welcome a market that wants to buy what we have to offer, people who want to buy the products and services that our businesses want to sell, a market that supports  other economic sectors without being a detriment to any areas. Retirees add to our economy, they buy services, support businesses, volunteer for charities. Their presence add to the services available locally and the opportunities available locally.

Over the next three years, we need to target all of the areas where we have something of valuable to sell -  competitive costs for Industry, Serviced available land, solid transportation connections – A  tourist market now with an additional key tourism product – a residential market that is ideal for retirees.

The opportunity is ahead of us.

December 30, 2014

New Year's Day Levee 2015 - Brockville Memorial Centre, 11:30 Doors Open, 12 noon brief speeches - Hot dogs/Hot Chocolate and free public skating to get a little exercise and say hello to your Civic Leaders.

The New Year's Levee is an old tradition, a chance to be greeted by your Civic Leaders and say hello. Come out one and all and bring your skates!

December 18, 2014

Birthplace of the Canadian Flag?

Hmmmm…..contentious idea naming one place as the place where it came to be. Brockville resident Bob Harper is pretty adamant that the bulk of the work on birthing the flag was done in Brockville and courtesy of Leeds Member of Parliament John Matheson back in 1965. 

As a city we know that Brockville played a role and that John Matheson played a role – to what degree these roles were more or less important than the many other locations and people we leave it to the public and the historians to debate, and there can't be much of a debate until people hear the story of the flag, the who, what, when, where of how the red maple leaf replaced the red Ensign.

The story of how the Flag came to be is a typically Canadian story – committees, volunteers, arguments, debates, plenty of emotion expressed through letters and verbal debates and nary a drop of blood. The end result is a national symbol recognized around the world for many good and endearing principles as well as darned good hockey.

Nobody seems to be questioning the facts of the flag story, just the relative importance of each person or place – and the debate is bringing history, our history, to the front page. Today, many of us know more about the Canadian Flag than at any other time except maybe 50 years ago when the flag was born.

Maybe other words or phrases could be used to describe the various roles and places, like the Doctor who delivered the flag, or the Mother of the Flag, or the place the Flag was Conceived, or the Midwife of the flag, or the place where the parents of the flag first dated…

If they encourage discussion today and we learn more, let's go for it!

Feb 15th, 2015, the Canadian Flag will turn an official 50 years of age. Let's celebrate.