by Deron Johnston
The new North Grenville Council held their first official meeting as Committee of the Whole (CoW) on Monday, December 10, at 6:30 pm at the North Grenville Municipal Centre (NGMC). The meeting was a long one and ran until 8:50 pm, but that’s to be expected as the new council gets acquainted with the processes and agenda of a formal meeting in the council chambers.
Furthermore, for an initial meeting, there seemed to be a very full agenda, with the new council members appearing comfortable asking questions of municipal staff and making comments of their own on a variety of agenda items.
Speaking of council chambers, there was a new format to how council and municipal staff were positioned physically within the space they occupy for meetings in the theatre.
Council remain as they did before, in front of the theatre stage facing the theatre seats where members of the public and press sit. Municipal staff now sit with their backs to the theatre seats and face council in two separate rows, with one row of three chairs on the left side and one row of three chairs on the right side.
The only exception is the Clerk, who now sits on the Mayor’s left. If a member of municipal staff need to speak to a matter, they must get up to a lectern to the left of the chamber, where they face council on the left, and their municipal colleagues on the right. The table for questions from the press and public remains in the middle and lies between the two rows of municipal employees.
Newly sworn-in Mayor, Nancy Peckford, took some time to adjust to the process of chairing this type of meeting, but she demonstrated good humour as Clerk Cahl Pominville offered his assistance to guide council’s deliberations. There’s no doubt she’ll have the hang of it in short order. Unlike the previous mayor, Mayor Peckford made the effort to elaborate on certain points and added context to the discussions to help attendees and those watching at home understand some of the items that were being considered.
One hot button item of discussion was a recent accident at the NGMC in which a van drove into the side of the building causing damage to the building itself. Through discussions, it was discovered that the estimate to repair the damage will cost approximately $16,000, but the municipality’s insurance deductible is $25,000. Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Mark Guy, advised that it was not worthwhile to use the insurance, but recommended instead to take the money to repair the building out of a contingency reserve.
This sparked the question as to why the driver who caused the accident was not responsible for the damage, and why the municipality had to assume those costs. The end result of this back and forth was that municipal staff were asked to exhaust all options to recover the costs through insurance, and report back at Monday’s Council meeting.
Mayor Peckford also advised that there will be two public meetings to solicit resident feedback about whether the Municipality of North Grenville should allow cannabis retail shops in North Grenville. CAO, Brian Carré, added that the dates for those two meetings will be after the Committee of the Whole meeting on January 7 at the NGMC, and then at the Bishops Mills Community Hall on January 8.
It was also revealed that the format, times and locations of Council and CoW Meetings will be changing. Meetings will now take place on Tuesdays, starting in February, 2019. The first and second Tuesday of each month will be Committee of the Whole meetings. The third Tuesday will be a regular Council Meeting at the NGMC and the fourth Tuesday will be a Town Hall style meeting in different locations across the municipality, including rural hamlets where appropriate facilities exists.
From the looks and sounds of this new council, it appears as if there may be a lot more discussion coming from the council table than previously heard, and that North Grenville residents are about to be consulted and engaged on a scale not seen before. Hopefully, municipal staff are up for this new and unfamiliar challenge.