***UPDATE AT END OF ORIGINAL POST***
One of my favourite movies is the Christmas cult classic National Lampoons Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase who plays Clark Griswald, the fun family man who tries to make everyone happy throughout the Christmas Season.
This movie immediately came to mind when I received the latest report on revised plans and costs of building a new downtown library, to the tune of $67,000,000. To accomplish this, a city-wide increase to the tax levy is required, and once open it could result in further increased property taxes just to operate it.
So what does Clark Griswald have to do with Guelph’s potential $67 million dollar downtown library project?
Clark decides that he wants to surprise his family by installing an in-ground pool as soon as possible. It’s expensive but Clark isn’t worried. He’s 100% certain that his boss is going to send him his annual Christmas bonus which will cover the costs.
But (spoiler alert), the sure-thing Christmas bonus doesn’t arrive and mayhem ensues. Clark is a mess and doesn’t know how he’s going to afford the pool because he’s already committed to installing it by writing a personal cheque without enough funds in his bank account to cover it.
Thank goodness his wacky cousin Eddie sneaks off, kidnaps Clark’s boss and forces him to give the bonus after all! It truly was a Christmas miracle.
The report asking for $67 million on Monday is similar to Clark Griswald trying to install his pool without all the funds or information to do it.
It’s true, the upper levels of government have recently opened up applications for infrastructure funding that will allow Guelph to apply for our own Christmas Bonus which (fingers crossed) will perhaps cover some costs.
Yet we have a Federal election on October 21st, and we don’t know what the results will be, or what direction a potential party might take on these grants. They might keep them, they might scrap them. Who knows? On top of that, the Provincial Government still hasn’t nailed down the replacement of the removed development charges and informed municipalities of how this new funding would work for projects like the downtown library. Furthermore, we’re discussing this without the entire context of our completed 2020 capital budget and the 10 year capital forecast for all projects across our city.
We don’t have a Cousin Eddie that can run out before Council’s Monday night meeting and kidnap whoever they can to force them to write us a cheque that night.
Let me be clear, I fully acknowledge the current downtown branch is inadequate. A new library should be built, and on Baker Street.
But I’ll be direct and to the point here: We shouldn’t be making a $67 million dollar budget decision on a library this coming Monday.
Inevitably there will be those that want us to make that decision. Their resolve to building a new downtown library is their passion, and I respect that. They always delegate to the matter and continuously write letters to the media trying to push their case. That’s their right and I welcome those that are being respectful throughout this dialogue. Yet I believe some in the “build it now at all costs” camp don’t empathize with the thousands of people that are living paycheque to paycheque just trying to keep their head above water to support themselves and their family in this city.
I look forward to the discussion with my council colleagues, staff and the public. But in my opinion, Council should refer this decision to a future date where we have further clarity and a better level of comfort on the unknowns we currently have today.
Before the kidnapping of his boss, Clark technically does receive his Christmas bonus. He slowly opens the envelope in front of his entire family, hoping for the big cheque, but instead he receive’s a one year membership to the Jelly of the Month Club.
I am honoured to have your trust to oversee the finances and direction of this city while stewarding the taxpayers hard earned money. I didn’t run for Mayor to settle on a Jelly of the Month Club membership. I’m here to do things with excellence, armed with the right information and to implement projects at the right time while minimizing risk to your money.
This coming Monday is not the right time to make a decision for a $67 million Library, and I feel confident that the silent majority in this city agrees with me.
Mayor- City of Guelph
When I mentioned above that we should have this discussion at a future date, I should have been more clear about defining what “future” meant. All I’m asking for is about a 7-8 week pause. By that time (roughly first week of November) many touch points that will bring more comfort to this decision will have passed. Some have read my post above and immediately jumped to a conclusion that I am wishing for this to be delayed another year or more. This is not the case. Especially when the deadline for the application for upper level government funding needs to be submitted before Nov 12th.
Events like #RaptorsSquare in Downtown Guelph couldn’t have happened if it weren’t for folks that stepped up to help! Let’s collectively say a massive THANKS to the following businesses for donations towards permanent equipment in #Guelph’s famous Market Square! 👍🏻
In May, the Province of Ontario announced an Audit and Accountability Fund in the amount of $7.5 million to support municipalities in finding efficiencies within their organization.
We’ve moved the dial on this over many terms of Council by expanding our internal audit functions, establishing internal service reviews and continuous progress on a cultural change within city hall.
But there’s always more we can and must do.
This is why I’m pleased that we taking advantage of the Provincial funding through an expression of interest on a review of our “Time Attendance & Scheduling performance systems.”
Once a review is completed, it is expected to provide the City with a road map for implementing key deliverables that will result in organizational improvement(s) to the City’s TAS service delivery and realize both cost savings and enhanced capacity to deliver municipal service. The review will also serve as an input into a broader review that the Human Resources department is initiating which is specific to the business processes and technology of our people systems, e.g., payroll and benefits with an objective to identify an appropriate service delivery model that can both enhance and modernize the City’s current system which has remained relatively unchanged for the past 19 years.
The final audit report must be completed and published on the City of Guelph website by November 30, 2019.
I look forward to seeing this audit through, the efficiencies found implemented and more dollars staying in taxpayers/citizens pockets.
Council approves Creation of New Natural Heritage Advisory Committee:
Guelph, Ont., July 9, 2019 — City Council has approved a staff recommendation to create a Natural Heritage Advisory Committee (NHAC) with a focus on supporting environmental initiatives as part of Guelph’s Natural Heritage Action Plan.
“We know from engaging with our community that Guelph values an environment-first approach and recognizes the value in having an advisory committee focused on environmental matters,” says Melissa Aldunate, Manager of Policy Planning and Urban Design. “The creation of a Natural Heritage Advisory Committee will allow City staff to work in partnership with community members to develop policies and plans that nurture and protect Guelph’s natural heritage for the health of our city and everyone who lives here.”
The recommendation for the new committee came out of a review of the City’s existing Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) and River Systems Advisory Committee (RSAC). The review assessed the mandates of these committees and how best to continue to support Guelph’s environmental programs moving forward. City staff and members of the broader Guelph community, including current and former members of the EAC and RSAC, were consulted as part of the review. The review also included a scan of other municipalities’ environmental committees.
The review resulted in the recommendation for a renewed focus and mandate for an environmental themed advisory committee, and that the existing EAC and RSAC be disbanded as of December 31, 2019.
In the fall, Council will consider the terms of reference for the new NHAC, which is to focus on providing input into City plans, policies, strategies and studies related to natural heritage. Pending Council’s approval of the committee’s terms of reference, the NHAC will be instated in early 2020.
The Parks Operations and Forestry team continue to work on the Crane Park Revitalization Project.
During phase one, crews have completed buckthorn removals, graded the parking lot and are now ready for trail widening.
The next phase will be completed in two areas:
· Between College Avenue and Stone Road West to the Speed River
· Between Dovercliffe Road and the main trail
Starting July 15 to August 6, crews will begin widening sections of the trail between College Avenue and Stone Road West to the Speed River. These trail improvements will help improve safety and accessibility, reduce maintenance and protect the Speed River.
Work between Dovercliffe Road and the main trail will happen later this summer and into 2020.
Crane Park will remain open during construction, however, we’re asking residents to stay out of the marked areas until the work is complete. We will restore the natural area by planting native trees, shrubs and wildflowers in 2020, after the trail improvements are complete.