At Melancthon Council meeting Thursday February 18 there were several questions about the Official Plan (OP) process. Melancthon's long time planning consultant has been "working" on this OP now for over 5 years. And Mayor Fawcett advised at this meeting the taxpayers have paid over $100,000.00 to this planner on his work on the OP alone. And, my comment, he is still nowhere near having it complete-nice work if you can get it.
Note: Provincial legislation states the OP must be in conformity and updated every five years. Melancthon's current OP is from the late 70's. I believe Jorden was the planner at that time.
In fact in January 2010 (yes one month ago) this planner submitted a work plan with regard to this OP and he is already 2 weeks behind on it. Think about it, in one month the planner is already two weeks behind on a project he has been working on for FIVE YEARS.
A ratepayer pointed out that Melancthon's 2008 Financial information return (the last year for which figures are available) show that planning fees of $65,349.00 were paid to this consultant. who in 2008 never set foot in the office. In fact, only in June of 2009 did this planner start attending in the office ONE DAY A MONTH. This blogger expects that the planning fees in 2009 will be significantly higher due to, or rather thanks to Highlands grand plans for us all.
It doesn't seem to matter what comes out of this ratepayers mouth, it is ALWAYS questioned by Council, so here is the link, everyone can check these figures for themselves:
So the question to Council was, for another $10,000.00 or so, will Council be budgeting in 2010 for a full time planner in order to be able to focus on completing the OP in a more timely manner, as well as deal with the daily issues that arise, particularly in these trying times and oh yes, attend Council meetings.
Mayoralty Candidate Bill Hill (currently Deputy Mayor), in short said NO-he would not support that. And then of course the reason the planner is 5 years behind on the OP is (altogether now) "it is the province's fault". According to Bill, everytime the planner gets "close" to having the OP finalized the Province springs something new on the planner via legislation/regulations/etc.
It was pointed out to Bill that other municipalities and planners are well versed on what is coming down the pipe and are able to work around these challenges and get their work done in a timely manner. Of course Bill did not agree. Surprised? If you have attended a council meeting you shouldn't be. If it isn't Bill's idea-it will never float.
In case anyone has a line directly to Jerry Jorden, you might want to tell him there are numerous ways to keep current-other planners do it all the time. There is the NRU, the EBR, planning advisers at MAH, OPPI and e-laws with current bills, legislation that is in first, second reading or at committee, the Ontario Gazette....I could go on and on, but you would think Mr. Jorden might know of some of this stuff??? Wouldn't you? I am not a planner and I know about this stuff, but then what do I know?
Then Bill, correctly pointed out, that even though $65,000 went to Jorden's pocket, many planning fees were recouped through user fees so the taxpayers didn't really pay $65,000 in total. And yes, the FIR shows that out of the $65,349 that was paid to the planner, $57,502 was recouped in fees for a net burden to the taxpayers of $7,847.00. Not bad.
But then Bill couldn't seem to follow this next bit of logic: IF a good part of the planning fees are recouped and are not paid by the taxpayers (for instance in 2008 it was about 87%) how would hiring a full time planner cost anymore?
Here is the simple math-hire an experienced, full time planner for, lets say $80,000.00. If 87% of the planning fees are recouped ($69,600.00) that means it would cost the taxpayers $10,400.00 in 2010 to have a FULL TIME PLANNER in the office. The net cost to taxpayers in 2008 were $7,847.00.
That means in 2010, over 2008, it would represent a net increase on the budget of $2,552.00 to have a FULL TIME PLANNER in the office. This planner could even use some of that time to check legislation, keep current, do research, write bylaws, reports, etc. etc. etc. etc.
But our Mayoralty Candidate stated at the Melancthon Council meeting on February 18 he is NOT in support of that and again everything is the province's fault.
I wonder what would happen if our roads employees didn't get a road plowed for FIVE years, because the MTO keeps changing the standards, but by golly they are going to keep working on TRYING to get the roads plowed. How long would Council put up with that?
Make no mistake, spending $100,000.00 in five years to have a planner not complete just ONE job is NOT good leadership, nor is it the fault of the province. It is the fault of an inexperienced Council and perhaps an out of date/out of touch planner. And to be fair to Jorden, this isn't his only job.
I think that is the point, Melancthon needs a planner who's only job is Melancthon during these dark and difficult times.
And just to point out and remind everyone this is the same planner and Council who didn't feel it necessary to make any decision on the turbine issue several years ago (neither yes or no), nor did they peer review a single study submitted. By making no decision, it jumped over the provincial ministry process, where they would have taken a look at these studies and went straight to the OMB where they do NOT peer review anything.
Result 111 turbines in Melancthon and still counting.
Next up, 2,400 acre open pit limestone mine and that is just to start.