Napanee Council faces tough choices as draft budget finalized

Napanee’s historic Town Hall. Photo via Lennox and Addington County.

“Times are tight” has been a commonly heard refrain as the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee and its administration decide how best to balance the municipal budget, guided by provincial legislation.

At a marathon special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, which began at 10 a.m. and didn’t end until 5:40 p.m., things were bound to get heated — and certainly did when it came to discussing the possible hiring of new firefighters. However, many items were not publicly available to view due to “technical difficulties,” and, though the livestream of the meeting should have commenced at 10 a.m., it did not actually get online until 2 p.m.

According to the now available minutes of that meeting, Treasurer Ellen Hamel and Deputy Treasurer Nathan Murphy provided an overview of the budget discussions to date and the decisions that are still pending before Council. Mayor Terry Richardson confirmed that any decisions would be made by resolution at the end of the meeting. Department managers also spoke to the specific requests and operational impacts to their departments. 

Some tough choices were ultimately made through resolutions.

A request for a $65,000 articulating boom lift was provisionally approved.

Council decided not to proceed at this time with the request to rebuild the Strathcona Paper Centre soccer field.

Staff were directed to draft the 2024 capital budget based on Scenario 1 (which can be read in full here), with the inclusion of a trackless snowplow. Council also directed that no amount for the procurement of conceptual drawings for a pool facility be provisionally included in the draft operating budget.

The Arts & Culture Committee budget was cut by $2,000 to a total of $5,000 in the provisional draft budget.

Councillors Michael Schenk and Bob Norrie moved that no increase be included in the budget for supplemental contracted bylaw enforcement. The motion was defeated and a resolution by Deputy Mayor Brian Calver and Councillor Angela Hicks was instead adopted, that an amount not to exceed $60,000 be provisionally included in the draft operating budget for this purpose.

In relation to the fiery exchange that had taken place earlier in the day regarding the potential hiring of more firefighters, Councillors Dave Pinnell and Bill Martin moved a motion to allocate funding for two additional full-time firefighter positions to be included in the 2024 budget and asked for a recorded vote. Pinnell, Martin, and Norrie voted in favour, while Richardson, Calver, Schenk, and Hicks were opposed. The motion was defeated.

Pinnell and Martin then moved for a funding allocation for one additional full-time firefighter; again Richardson, Calver, Schenk, and Hicks were opposed, and this motion was also defeated.

In the end, Council directed staff, based on the direction provided at this meeting, to present the amended draft and capital budgets at the next special meeting of Council on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

Every motion passed during the budget meetings has been provisional or subject to final budget approval, according to the Town. Unless Council explicitly states otherwise, all direction given during budget meetings is pending final budget approval and cannot be acted on by staff until the budget is finally adopted. The direction from Council at special budget meetings helps refine the budget documents that staff prepare.

Video of part of the last meeting of Council (less the sections lost due to “technical difficulties”) can be viewed on the Town of Greater Napanee YouTube page.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, at 1:07 p.m. A previous version of this article stated that the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee directed Town staff to provisionally include the amount for the procurement of conceptual drawings for a new pool in the draft operating budget. In fact, Council directed that the amount for the procurement of conceptual drawings for a pool not be included in the 2024 draft operating budget.

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