Conservation authority updates Limerick council on 2022 plans

·7 min read

At their meeting on Dec. 20, Limerick Township council received an update from the Crowe Valley Conservation Authority on their 2022 budget and their transition plan, which went into effect in Oct. 2021. In addition to some correspondence from the CVCA General Manager and Secretary Treasurer Tim Pidduck, Councillor Jan MacKillican, the township representative to the CVCA and the vice chair of the CVCA board, also weighed in on the conservation authority’s financial updates to council.

At the Dec. 20 council meeting, MacKillican went through the problems with the 2022 draft budget and the fact that the CVCA needs to boost capital to meet their needs.

“They haven’t had a lot of capital over the years. They haven’t put a lot of capital away in reserves. And there are some pretty big things like dams [especially to the Marmora Dam] and the system that reads the dam levels that needs to be replaced [a flood warning system that’s been in use for over 30 years],” she says.

MacKillican noted that if they did nothing except raise the levy from the membership municipalities, Limerick’s payments would increase by approximately 5.7 per cent. However, they hope to raise capital in other ways to preclude this kind of increase.

Pidduck listed these alternatives to raise capital in his letter to Victoria Tisdale, the clerk and treasurer, dated Dec. 6, 2021. He said that the options include but aren’t limited to; borrowing the funds from the CVCA’s financial institution, borrowing funds from the CVCA’s reserves, borrowing funds from the CVCA’s reserves and replenishing the amount borrowed, using the reserves without replenishing, using some combination of reserves or levy or levying for the funding in 2022.

In response to a query from Mayor Carl Stefanski, MacKillican said that there had been a lot of staffing changes at the CVCA in 2021 and they had saved on staffing as a result. She said that staffing levels were back to normal. Stefanski remarked that they did a lot with such a small permanent staffing complement; around six or seven people, which MacKillican agreed with.

“We were down two people at one point. Even the administrative assistant was out doing logs for the dams and Tim [Pidduck] was out doing logs too. They’re incredibly flexible, in my opinion,” she says.

St. Ola dam was another topic that MacKillican told council that she had broached with Pidduck, as there may be a crack in that dam. If that is so, and the dam gave way at some point, it could leave St. Ola under up to eight feet of water, according to Councillor Kim Carson.

MacKillican said that while the CVCA doesn’t own the dam, she’s hoping they could include something in their capital budget to at least get the testing done to ascertain if there is a crack and if so, how bad it is.

“If we can’t get the money from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, because I think that will take years, then it would be great if we could get some capital support from the CVCA for Limerick to get it tested. It really needs to be tested because we’ll be wondering if it’s leaking and what day it’s going to crack, because that would be disastrous. Ideally it should be to the same standards as the other dams and it’s not,” she says.

Pidduck told Tisdale in his Dec. 6 letter that the CVCA board had reviewed the 2022 draft budget presented by staff at their Nov. 18 board of directors meeting, and that over the minimum 30-day review period, it was being distributed to the member municipalities including Limerick.

According to Pidduck, the operations budget and the capital budget for 2022 are going in opposite directions, because while the operations budget only has a slight increase over 2021 (even with a cost-of-living allowance), the capital budget has to incorporate large items like dam repairs and the obsolete system now monitoring dam levels and that if either of these items is put off or neglected, the liability risks for the CVCA increase, as does the risk for the member municipalities.

“It all boils down to risk management. It really isn’t much different than municipal risk management responsibilities for roads, bridges, etc., other than we look after the infrastructure for water. Fortunately, the CVCA can apply for additional funding from the Provincial government for some assistance with dam repairs and if approved, it will provide 50 per cent additional funding to help alleviate the burden on the CVCA and its member municipalities,” he says.

Other capital expenditures need to be considered in this budget (and subsequent budgets), according to Pidduck, and will include items to assist the CVCA in delivering their core programs and services. These items include a new vehicle, equipment for using an EOS base station positioning system for gathering GIS data for determining floodplains and elevations, and finally funding to ensure Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act compliance.

As per regulation 687/21, the CVCA must develop a transition plan and Pidduck told Tisdale more about it in a letter to her dated Dec. 2, 2021. In Oct. 2021, three new regulations were made under the Conservation Authorities Act to ensure that these authorities deliver their flood risk management programs and services and that they conserve natural resources. The regulation provides enhanced opportunities for municipalities to determine the level of funding for the CVCA non-mandatory services and programs. The set date for the transition as stipulated in the regulation is Jan. 1, 2024.

Pidduck reveals that to commence the process, the CVCA board of directors approved the transition plan at their November meeting.

“As you may be aware, this plan must be circulated to our member municipalities and the Ministry of Conservation, Environment and Parks by Dec. 31, 2021. There is no immediate action required by council or yourself, as the primary purpose at this time is to make sure council is aware of the plan and the target dates for each step,” he says.

Once the plan has been circulated to the member municipalities, the next thing they need to do is identify and categorize the CVCA’s inventory of programs and services. Once this is done, it will be reviewed and approved by the board by the end of Feb. 2022, according to Pidduck. He says that the plan also looks at timelines for the development of funding agreements for any non-mandatory programs and services, while the long time period for the implementation of the plan allows a good opportunity for the CVCA to negotiate agreements with its member municipalities. In addition to Limerick Township, the other member municipalities are; Havelock-Belmont-Methuen, Marmora and Lake, North Kawartha, Highlands East, Wollaston, Faraday, Tudor and Cashel, Trent Hills and Stirling Rawdon.

“The CVCA is looking forward to this process to clarify questions regarding funding and our mandate as we discuss levy requirements and agreements for non-mandatory programs and services. This opportunity will undoubtedly benefit the residents whom we serve and continue to strengthen our municipal partnerships,” he says.

Pidduck informed Tisdale that the next CVCA board meeting will take place on Jan. 20 and that the board would appreciate any input from Limerick to assist with the decision-making process for the 2022 budget. Pidduck further said that he’d be happy to meet with council if they had any further questions or concerns going forward.

Tisdale confirmed to Bancroft This Week that MacKillican will be attending this CVCA board meeting on Jan. 20 and will report back to council any new developments at their Feb. 21 council meeting.

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times

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