Perth County Council discusses extension of climate change coordinator contract

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PERTH COUNTY – Director of Public Works John McClelland presented a report to council on Dec. 16 informing councillors of the intention to extend the contract for the climate change coordinator until Dec. 31, 2022, and that the seven area municipalities are budgeting to share the costs associated with the position.

In 2019, the county and the four local municipalities undertook a joint project to update their strategic plans. One common item, in all five plans, is minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the overall carbon footprint of Perth County municipal operations.

At a council meeting last February, resolutions were carried that Perth County entered into a new Local Partnership Agreement with the Municipality of West Perth, Township of Perth East, Township of Perth South, Municipality of North Perth, Town of St. Marys and City of Stratford for the shared services of the climate change coordinator for the period of March 1 to Dec. 31 with the potential for extension in 2022.

Since 2019, the seven area municipalities have shared a climate change coordinator, which was 80 per cent funded from a Federal Canadian Municipalities grant for the first two years.

A plan was presented to all municipalities in the fall of 2021, providing a framework and strategies to move forward on increasing adaptability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the community.

The consensus of the steering committee is that there is value, both from an administrative and financial perspective to continuing the partnership and utilizing common staffing personnel to move forward on climate change initiatives and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Each member municipality has indicated that they had included their portion of the climate change coordinator’s costs into their 2022 budgets. County staff have included their portion of the climate change coordinator cost, $14,000, as a contract line item in the Facilities Administration operating budget. Those budget discussions are expected during January and February.

“We keep extending this but are we ever going to put an end date on this because I don’t want to keep extending this forever and ever,” said Coun. Hugh McDermid.

McClelland said a final deadline has not been discussed yet, they were just dealing with the extension for 2022.

“In the report, I’ve indicated each municipality may have different targets, goals, budgets associated with climate change,” he said. “I acknowledge we may have different ideas moving forward but for the time being we share a lot of common goals in this and a lot of common ideas and so for 2022 at least it’s worthwhile in extending this partnership.”

Coun. Daryl Herlick said it’s no secret he has concerns and he worries the Greenhouse Gas reduction plan will lead to “blanket policies.”

“You’ll hear me say those blanket policies and overlapping policies, what conservation authorities are doing already… the source water protection, for example, is already going, well now we need the water protection,” he said. “These are things that are overlapping in my mind.”

Further to McDermid’s comment, Coun. Robert Wilhelm said he thinks that climate change is an issue and Perth County has to be part of the solution.

“I think that down the road it won’t be $14,000,” he said. “I think it will be a lot more the municipalities are going to have to contribute to try and curb this climate change and get carbon under control… in my opinion, there is going to be quite an expense down the road.”

Deputy Warden Ehgoetz raised an issue she has been concerned about in past discussions regarding the partnership between the seven municipalities.

“I’d like us to see how we are going to develop all this if we are going to stay as a group of seven or we are going to break off,” she said.

She pondered splitting rural and urban municipalities.

“This is a huge undertaking for one person to do, seven different municipalities,” said Ehgoetz. “Yes, we have some similarities, but we also have a lot of things that are different and each municipality is going to decide how we are going to move forward. So I think we need to have the steering group look at how we are going to move forward.”

She also suggested breaking into smaller groups of two or three municipalities.

“I’d like to see that come back to us before the year is over so that we’re not here in this spot next year wondering where we’re going to go forward with this,” said Ehgoetz.

Referring back to a delegation by Josh Boersen, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Director for District 9, Perth County, earlier in the meeting, Warden Jim Aitcheson confirmed that McClelland is on the steering committee.

“Could I ask that there be more collaboration with the outside groups and discussions as part of that work plan?” he asked.

McClelland said he will bring that forward at the next meeting of the steering committee.

“I just think it would be prudent to do that, to get as many people involved as possible,” said Aitcheson.

McClelland explained that the presentation of the report was just informational, advising council that money for the extension of the contract for the climate change coordinator would be included in the 2022 budget.

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner

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