Hall Monitor: A Discounted Option

Kingston City Council sat for meeting number 22-2019 (agenda) on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, where, after a delayed start from a closed session regarding staffing and corporate structure, they focused on an affordable housing project, a budget request from the County of Frontenac, and potential changes to the municipal fee discount program among other topics.

Photo by Kristina Guevremont.

The evening opened with two delegations. First, Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health spoke, discussing the recent study they had completed regarding radon levels and the subsequent warning they had issued. As a result of testing, the Soil Gas Mitigation strategy was implemented by the City for new construction. There was also a delegation from a resident who spoke to the importance and need for the Vision Zero plan outlined in the agenda.

Key Topics

Council spent some time discussing their affordable housing priority, notably the development of 1316-1318 Princess Street. Questions were raised about the final unit count for the property, expected to be approximately 164 units, and if these were to be new units or units being relocated from other parts of the city, noting that the Rideau Heights regeneration strategy suggested relocating units out of that neighbourhood. Staff confirmed that not all of the 90 units that council is looking for will be located in this development and that some are in development with private companies elsewhere. Staff are next seeking partnerships with Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation, Home Base Housing, and Kingston Co-Operative Homes to develop the property.

There was discussion about the requested budget from the County of Frontenac for Land Ambulance Services and Fairmount Home for the Aged — both services operated by the County for the City. At the time of the municipal budget talks in January, only an estimated budget increase of 5 per cent was included, though staff had asked external partners and agencies to target no more than a 2.5 per cent increase. Since then, the County finalized its budget and requested a 9.8 per cent funding increase. Three options were presented by staff for council to consider — the original estimate of a 5 per cent increase; the County’s requested amount including a 9.8 per cent increase with increased service levels; or a middle option. Council approved the middle-ground option granting $9,893,642.00 to the County, approximately a 7.5 per cent increase from the previous year. It is expected that this decision and the disagreement between how the City and County interpret the contract will be taken to mediation.

Lastly, council discussed potential changes to the municipal fees program. The proposal being presented was to remove discounts for adults based solely on age and move to a system that looks solely at income, while increasing the low-income number being considered. There was significant debate on the value and importance of an age-based income, while additional debate was being held on the value and importance of an expansion of the availability of discounts for those with a lower income. Two options were voted on: First the proposal to remove age-based discounts and increase the cut-off for low income consideration was defeated by a vote of 9-4; then, an option to reduce the discount while increasing the cut-off for low income consideration was also defeated by a vote of 7-6. After, a new option was presented to “grandfather” existing seniors into a discount, but not extend it to new seniors, while still increasing the cut-off for low income consideration to a point higher than it is currently (but lower than the other options). The entire motion got deferred back to the Administrative Policies Committee for further debate and so that the public could speak to the committee.

Additional Discussion

Elsewhere through the agenda, council approved a roof replacement at the British Whig Building downtown, approved a five-year licensing agreement to access the Office 365 software suite, authorized the 2020 Kingston Penitentiary public tours, enabled staff to continue to work on a ‘Possible Made Here’ marketing campaign for company and people attraction, endorsed the Road Safety Plan and the included ‘Vision Zero’ commitment, and began work to remove single use plastics from municipal operations.

There are meetings of the Arts, Recreation and Community Policies, Planning and Housing and Homelessness Advisory Committees, as well as the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing and the Working Group on Climate Action scheduled before council next meets on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019.

Born and raised in Kingston, Tommy Vallier bleeds limestone. An avid council watcher since 2004, he first began reporting on municipal affairs in 2011, helping to modernize meetings and make them more accessible through social media and live video. When he isn’t focused on City Hall, he’s an avid gamer, theatre supporter, and Disney fan.

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