Yard sales banned, but open building permits OK to proceed
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The April 28 St. Marys Town Council meeting, which lasted just over two hours in duration, covered a wide variety of topics with one common thread: COVID-19. There really is nothing that is not impacted by the current pandemic, therefore the Mayor, Council and Town staff have much to consider in this ever-changing environment.
Building and Development Services Report
Grant Brouwer, Director of Building and Development, noted in his April report that development within the town was very active in the year’s first quarter.
“There are some good takeaways here,” said Brouwer. “We issued 21 building permits in the month of March, bringing our year-to-date total up to 26. Historically we were at a 40-year averages, with last year at just over 50 permits, so we are closing in on being about halfway to where we were for all of last year.”
Brouwer added that Building and Development Services are working through a number of constraints on the facilities side in relation to COVID, with some projects continuing while others are delayed. With regards to annual maintenance at the Pyramid Recreation Centre swimming pool, this work is occurring ahead of schedule since the pool is shutdown anyway. As a result, the pool will not require its traditional September shutdown.
Brouwer noted that the spa removal, originally slated for September, will be deferred to the 2021 annual shutdown.
“We weren’t sure if we had enough window to get the removal complete in case we got the green light to re-open again,” said Brouwer. “We don’t want any hindrances or roadblocks when we move to re-open the pool in 2020.”
Councillor Marg Luna asked Brouwer for clarity on the issue of construction projects, citing the current development near Maxwell Street and James Street South which has recently restarted. Brouwer replied that, per the Provincial order 82/20 that spells out when essential businesses can work, as long as the building permit was issued before April 4th, they have the ability to continue on working. Presently, there are roughly about 400 open permits that have been issued by the Town of St. Marys.
Fire and Emergency Services Report
Fire Chief Andy Anderson reported that call volume is down 31% year-to-date, with 31 calls for service received as of April 28.
Administration offices of the Fire Chief and Chief Fire Prevention Officer have been moved to the Municipal Operations Centre (“MOC”), though the Fire Prevention Officer is currently laid off as a cost saving measure during COVID-19. All fire apparatus, rescue equipment and the dispatch office has been successfully moved to the MOC.
“Firefighter morale is good,” said Anderson. “We have our PPE in place, and we have all of our protocols in place; that was a real confidence builder. Our PPE right now, we can sustain for a solid 6 months at the current call volume.”
Anderson added that four candidates have participated and successfully passed through the second phase of the recruitment process.
Public Works Report
Director of Public Works Jed Kelly reported that there are a couple capital projects underway at present, located at St. George Street and on Egan Avenue. Asphalt patching contractors will begin their work in town shortly as well.
Kelly added that all contractors have COVID management plans in place, including social distancing and hand washing protocols.
Mayor Strathdee asked Jed Kelly to review what’s happening with the Landfill since it is a common question from the public.
“We are accepting scheduled appointments at the landfill,” said Kelly. “There is no contact between the patrons and our staff. Basically, we’re treating the patrons like they are commercial haulers. We’re giving them accounts and mailing them bills. We give them a one-hour window so that there’s no cross traffic. We’re not currently accepting e-waste or hazardous waste due to material handling. We’ve also canceled the yard waste program until July 1. However, we do have a service level at the MOC with the 24/7 depot.”
CAO/Clerk Brent Kittmer has learned from the Stratford Police Chief that although their overall call volume is down for many crimes, their calls relating to property crimes (theft and vandalism) are up roughly three-fold.
“People are taking the opportunity when there aren’t many people in public spaces to vandalize, and they are breaking into sheds, and cars in particular,” said Kittmer. “With the thefts, these are always crimes of opportunity, and they are almost always in situations where someone hasn’t locked their shed or hasn’t locked their car. The police have re-engaged their “Lock It or Lose It” campaign, and we will be pushing that message out through our own social media as well.”
Deputy Clerk Jenna McCartney facilitated a Council discussion on the topic of yard sales. Council unanimously agreed that yard sales should be temporarily banned until further notice. The Stratford Police are willing to support the ban and help communicate that to the public.
Many aspects of the 2020 Community Grant Project are on hold, due to several associated events being delayed or canceled due to COVID-19. However, Council passed a motion approving the release of funds to United Way Perth Huron ($7,265), GOALS Breakfast Program ($857), St. Marys Lincolns ($3,700), and St. Marys Station Gallery ($2,900) in relation to the 2020 Community Grant program, with the latter three reflecting the acknowledgement of costs incurred by the organizations earlier in the calendar year.