North Grenville council has established a new reserve fund to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the municipality. Council held a special meeting last week to establish the fund and transfer almost $1,000,0000 into the reserve. The money was rerouted from a few capital projects the municipality had planned on tackling this year. North Grenville CAO Gary Dyke says they went through their list of capital projects and assessed them on whether it was important for the municipality they be done right away. “Anything that had to do with safety, maintenance, or operations were not eligible for the list,” he said in a press conference held over the phone last week. “It’s ones that were needed, but we could actually put them out a year or two and not negatively impact the municipality.”
Gary says they chose to re-allocate funds from the capital budget to ensure that the municipality does not have to go back to the tax base to respond to COVID-19. “This is existing budgeted money,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s going to be enough for us, but we will keep looking at that as we go forward.”
With the re-allocation of funds, the COVID-19 Response Reserve will make approximately $960,000 available for the municipality to respond to the pandemic. The money will be used to re-coup foregone revenue due to council’s decision to waive new penalties and interest on property taxes and waste and wastewater accounts, and being unable to rent out their facilities for a least the next few months. They will also be upgrading the technology at the Municipal Centre to allow council and staff to interact with the public and media in real time. “It is incumbent of us, as a council, because we can’t meet in person,” Mayor Nancy Peckford said at the press conference. “We must meet virtually, but with the capacity for the public to engage in the meeting.”
Mayor Peckford also noted that this technological upgrade will be useful in the long term. “These aren’t one-shot investments for these three months,” she said. “I think they can have long term value when it comes to creating online spaces for residents to participate more meaningfully.”
Gary says a large percentage of the COVID-19 Response Reserve will be used to address the needs of the community. Mayor Peckford and Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman held consultations with the business community last week so they could take stock of how the municipality can help support them. The municipality will be allocating resources towards creating a marketing and promotion plan to aid these local businesses. They also want to create a portal on their website to allow business owners to access information about possible aid and funding sources at the federal and provincial level.
“What we are trying to create is almost a concierge service, so that businesses only have to come to us, and we can do the heavy lifting into where they need to go to find the greater support,” Gary said.
While they clearly have an idea of how COVID-19 Reserve Fund dollars will be used, Mayor Nancy Peckford says council will continue to discuss how they will be deployed. “Council has a strong appetite to have more discussions, but the first step was establishing the sources of revenue for the reserve fund, she said. “That’s why that list was so critical, because it gives us a tangible number to work with that will be fairly close to where we end up.” Many of these discussions will be held at special council meetings on Wednesdays at 10:00am. The meetings will be live streamed and archived on the municipal website.