Hastings County Council briefs
Hastings County has thrown its support behind a resolution calling for the provincial government to make a change in its hydro policy regarding seasonal residents.
The government has reduced Hydro One consumer delivery charges by a total of 25%.
This reduction does not apply to seasonal residents.
The resolution, introduced at county council’s meeting, calls for this to be changed, and the charges removed from “all Hydro One customers.”
Hastings County has decided how to share its $1.2 million federal gas tax allocation with its municipalities.
The County will retain just under $80,000 and the remainder will be distributed to the 14 member municipalities.
At Hastings County Council this week, Tweed Mayor Jo-Anne Albert announced that a new play by the Tweed and Company theatre group will mark Canada’s 150th birthday.
Albert said “Hastings the Musical,” which tells the history of Hastings County, will run for more than a week, beginning June 28th.
A hi-tech economy for Eastern Ontario
Eastern Ontario is taking steps to be prepared for the upcoming “mobile, hi-tech, fifth-generation economy.”
The Eastern Ontario Regional Network is now working on access to mobile broadband service for smart phones and tablets, as well as building a first-responders public safety broadband network.
Hastings County CEO Jim Pine reported to Hastings County council Thursday, “The world is going to change with the technology and we have to have the infrastructure and technology, the cellular technology, here.”
He says goods and services and people are going to be moved by autonomous vehicles in the future, all the major companies are working on it.
Pine says the project will take about five years and $300 million.
The Eastern Ontario group has applied to the federal government for funding and meets with provincial government officials on Monday.
Pine expects approvals before the end of the year and completion of the project in five years.
The project covers the area from the Ottawa River to the Durham region.
Pine says Quebec and Ontario are now planning a hi-tech 5-G corridor and Eastern Ontario is right in that path.
A number of Eastern Ontario counties have also applied, including Northumberland and Peterborough, and Pine hopes Hasting County will do so next month.
Pine says the group is working with private sector partners as well.
Celebrating 200 years with a sculpture
Belleville may be in for a special art tribute to mark its 200th birthday this year.
The idea, presented to city council this week by Prince Edward County Green Trust, is to give the city a marble sculpture featuring a maple leaf.
Spokesperson Tanya Baldwin says it would mark not only Belleville’s birthday but also Canada’s 150th birthday.
Artist Doug Stephens would be the lead sculptor, with help from Peter Lebaron and others. Baldwin said two quarries have indicated they would partner in the venture.
Baldwin says the group will ask artists from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory to complete the work with an insert on the reverse side, at a later date.
She says they are looking at a number of possible sites for the work, but the number one location would be the parking lot across from city hall near the river.
It would need to involve city staff for preparation of the site.
Councillor Jack Miller said “the key to revitalization of downtown is increased residential and the arts community.”
Council received the presentation and referred the proposal to staff.
Get training, walk into a job
Another class has graduated in a Quinte area skills program aimed at training people to work in local industry.
The provincially-funded program called Elevate Plus trains people for positions in manufacturing and food processing.
It is the third graduation in the program run by the Quinte Economic Development Commission with about 15 graduates each time.
QEDC Executive Director Chris King says this is important since the unemployment rate here is well below the provincial average and trained workers are needed.
King says the program will be expanded to go beyond food processing training.
Belleville city council briefs
Belleville Fire Chief Mark MacDonald praised city staff and city residents at city council Tuesday, regarding the ongoing flood situation.
MacDonald said there were “unprecedented” water levels and the citizens “listened to officials and were very understanding” about restrictions.
Director of Recreation Mark Fluher told council Meyers Pier marina is now open but Victoria harbour facilities are shutdown.
Fluhrer said he’ll be coming back to council this fall with “some things to think about” concerning the marina.
Mayor Taso Christopher declared a conflict and left the council chambers last night as council considered a bylaw issue.
It was regarding a Lease Surrender Agreement between the city and Belleville Sports and Entertainment Corporation, a subsidiary of BSE Ventures Incorporated, doing business as Belleville Bulls Hockey Club.
Christopher declared a conflict since “he is a part owner of a business that sells sporting goods.”
Councillor Kelly McCaw questioned the cost which Director of Recreation Mark Fluhrer said was $38,000.
Council approved the bylaw on a vote of seven to one, with McCaw voting against and the mayor out of the chambers.
Belleville City Council has established a downtown parking review committee.
The committee, chaired by Councillor Mike Graham, includes four councillors, two members at large and a representative from the Belleville Downtown Improvement Area.
The committee will be responsible for discussing short, medium and long-term needs for parking in the downtown core, as well as coming up with strategies to address those needs and presenting them to council.
The committee has been asked to report back to council in October.
Belleville will reach out to city property owners, over a plan to remove or scale back the vacancy rebate program.
The program was implemented in the late 1990s and gives owners an option to apply for a rebate on taxes paid on properties that were empty for more than 90 straight days of the year.
Municipalities are now being given the flexibility to adjust the plan to specific community needs.
The Downtown Business Improvement Area will be reaching out for feedback, and a public meeting will be held in June.
Homeless shelter to open this fall
Plans for a homeless shelter in Belleville are moving ahead.
Spokesman for the Grace Inn Homeless Shelter, Jodie Jenkins, told council the privately-funded charitable shelter will be in the former Irish Hall.
It has met the zoning requirements and expects to open this fall.
Jenkins noted that there are 800 homeless people in the area each year and the community needs the shelter.
Grace Inn will have 15 beds for men and five for women, with only 15 occupied at any one time.
It will serve breakfast and dinner and be closed during the day.
Jenkins says Hastings County social services department is “on board.”
Councillor Garnet Thompson called it “a great addition” to the city since right now social services pays to send the homeless to Kingston and Peterborough.
Councillor Mitch Panciuk urged the group to apply for funding through the city’s casino money.
Seventy volunteers will be operating the shelter which will have a budget of $135,000 a year.
Belleville’s Bridge Street bike lanes go ahead
Belleville’s moving ahead with a west-east bike lane despite some opposition and after hearing about the health benefits that could save money.
Cyclists packed the council chambers as council prepared to consider the plan to have bike lanes on Bridge Street between Church Street and Haig Road.
Councillors indicated they had been lobbied by citizens both for and against the plan.
Councillor Egerton Boyce said bike lanes are much safer than doing nothing, and it “frustrates” him that people don’t see it as useful, not just for leisure.
Bridge Street resident Eric Baragar spoke to council opposing the plan, saying there is “overwhelming opposition” to it by residents, and pointing to large vehicles using the street which he said would be a hazard for cyclists.
A recent Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit survey indicates that cycling reduces millions of dollars in health care costs.
Health promoter Tanya Hill presented a long list of statistics to city council last night showing the Bridge Street bike lanes could reduce the cost of health care by nearly $2 million over 10 years.
Hill said a recent survey showed a demand for improvement for cycling both on Bridge Street and North Park Street and that 97% of cyclists surveyed support bike lanes on Bridge St. E.
The report estimated that there were nearly 51,000 cycling trips on Bridge St E. in 2016.
The Health Economic Assessment found that increased cycling on Bridge St. could result in between $852,000 and $1.7 million in accumulated health benefits due to reduced mortality over a 10 year period.
Hill said every $1 invested in infrastructure on Bridge St. could result in between $2.78 to $5.56 in health benefits.
She praised the city’s work “in building a cycling friendly community” and pointed to a number of events during bike month, including a Bike to Work breakfast beginning at 6:30 a.m. on May 29.
City staff indicated the street is wide enough for the lanes. Council voted unanimously for the project which will go ahead this year along with lanes on Adam Street and College street East.
Five companies receive start-up funding
Five Quinte area high-tech companies have received federal start-up funding, creating 22 new jobs.
The announcement of $500,000 under the Eastern Ontario Development Program was made by Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis and Rick Holmes of the Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation in the Loyalist College Digital Media Centre, on Tuesday.
The funding will be matched by $616,000 in incremental private investment by the start-up companies.
Ellis says it’s difficult for new companies and there’s a fine window of opportunity.
Holmes says people have great ideas and unless their companies get off the ground they will go to other countries.
The five companies, Nectar Desk, Tire Wizard, Komodo OpenLab, Marion Surgical, and Screaming Power will each provide matching funds.
Marathon hike on Millennium Trail
Two women will undertake a day-long marathon walk across the entire Millennium Trail in Prince Edward County Friday.
Jennifer Cobb says the hike is a fundraiser for the resurfacing of the trail, and $2,000 has been raised so far.
Beginning at 7 a.m. Friday Cobb and Sally Peck will walk 49 kilometres, from the start of the County trail in Consecon to Highway 49 in Picton.
Anyone wishing to donate can go to pecmilleniumtrail/Facebook or donate at the County office.
Flooding poses a risk for well water
Public health officials are warning people with wells and septic systems about the risk involved during flooding situations.
The Hastings Prince Edward Health Unit is reminding people to take precautions because of the widespread flooding this spring.
In his report, senior public health inspector Andrew Landy says the risk of contamination to wells and shore wells is high when flooding occurs.
The water from wells and shore wells may not be safe to drink if the well has been flooded.
Residents are advised not to drink the water from any well that has been flooded, and are reminded that boiling this water will not remove chemical contaminants.
Once flood levels have receded, well users are advised to test their drinking water to ensure it is safe.
Septic systems can also be adversely affected.
If a septic system has been flooded, it is recommended that users decrease water use in order to prevent sewage back up into the home or the introduction of pollution into the environment.
Landy remindsd septic system users not to pump out septic tanks during a flood, and to stay off the soil absorption field. These activities can compact the soil, reducing the ability of the system to treat waste water.
For further information, you can visit the health unit website at www.hpepublichealth.ca or call 613-966-5500.
Getting back to work
Hastings-Quinte Ontario Works “Employment Connection” program had a successful month of April.
It filled 99 jobs, with an average wage of $13.32 an hour.
More than a third of those jobs, 35%, were in the retail-customer service sector.
Another 30% were in general labour, and manufacturing accounted for 20% of the hiring.
The Ontario Works caseload for Hastings-Quinte sits at just under 2,900.
Last year, at this same time, there were 300 more people on the Ontario Works benefits.
Drones for emergency services
Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services is hoping to take to the skies later this year.
The local service is in a partnership with Renfrew county in the federal government research program in using drones for paramedic services.
Chief of Paramedic Services Doug Socha says it could also involve the smart glasses that the local agency is already testing.
He says the paramedic could be “looking through the smart glasses and actually be seeing the drone as it’s flying.
The first step in the drone program is happening in Renfrew County.
Socha says the drones could be used to give emergency services an enhanced view of an emergency.
The local service has also applied to the federal government to be part of the separate smart glasses research program.
Socha says his unit has one set of glasses and is having some success with it.
He is is waiting to see if the federal government approves the application for funding this summer or fall so serious research can be undertaken.