Article by Valerie MacDonald

(L-R)Gail Latchford, Brian Ostrander, Mandy Martin, Bob Sanderson, John Henderson, Bob Crate, Bill Crane: NorCtyImage

Within less than half an hour, the public business of Northumberland County Council was concluded on Wednesday, March 17 after which councillors went behind closed doors.

There was also a special closed meeting on March 9 to discuss plans about creating the mass inoculation centre in the Cobourg Community Centre which opened this past Tuesday. When asked about this during the question-and-answer period for the media, Warden Bob Crate confirmed the closed-meeting’s topic. When pressed about how this was a legal, personnel or property acquisition matter permitting a closed session, County Clerk Nancy MacDonald said such in-camera “planning” sessions are covered under Section 239 2K of the Municipal Act.

Other media questions included County’s decision to support a staff report not to participate in a proposed energy-from-waste project involving Peterborough. Warden Bob Crate said he wasn’t changing his earlier position about considering that as an option for the County in the future.

“We’re in the midst of starting an Environmental Assessment” looking at all possible waste solutions for Northumberland County, and it would be “wrong” to pre-consider this one option, he said.

In response to a question about the Eastern Ontario Long-Term Care Facilities presentation at the committee level, the County’s Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer Moore, said it dealt mostly with staffing and funding issues and was not impacting the new build underway for the County-owned Golden Plough Lodge. County staff are continuing to monitor provincial legislation that governs building standards and the design for the new building “is meeting or exceeding” those, she said.

Most of the matters from the four committee meetings (Community Health, Corporate Support, Economic Development, Tourism & Planning, and Finance & Audit) are held separately at the beginning of the month before the County Council session which usually takes place on the 3rd Wednesday of the month.

During March, these committee items ranged from an update from the Ontario Health Team of Northumberland (comprised of 11 organizations) in which Northumberland Hills Hospital Chief Executive Office Linda Davis outlined the work being done, to the region’s unemployment. Davis said $375,000 was provided in provincial funding to get the team going, and that “double” would be received next year, while a Workforce Development Board report outlined how this region exceeds the provincial unemployment rates.  It also covered the programs underway to train workers to meet employers’ needs at a time when some workers have concerns about returning to work because of the pandemic.

Some of the committee items adopted included a standard template for trails license agreements. There isn’t one at this time with the local snowmobile organization and the County has asked members to stay off County Forest trails this winter. Central to the issue is insurance liability. Another resolution was to approve the extension of seven temporary positions at the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre in Colborne until the end of March, 2022.

A confidential report discussed in closed session by the corporate services committee (Public Service Salary Disclosures Report 2021) was adopted by council. This annual report, which outlines how much money councillors received as salary, for attending meetings, mileage etc. is usually made public.

While less is being discussed at the County Council level with this year’s new committee system, the public can view the committee and county council sessions and ask to be a delegation during the committee meetings. (County delegations are pre-arranged.)