Napanee Council ponders poultry, potholes, and plenty more

Tanner Pruner is greeted by his best pal Chicken Wing after getting off the school bus. This dynamic duo live just outside of town on a rural property, so they aren’t encumbered by the bylaw issue. Photo submitted.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 11, 2023, Napanee Council’s discussion covered a wide range of topics.

In regard to one of the major ones, backyard hens, the chickens are not coming home to roost… at least not yet.

Natasha Augustine made a deputation to provide additional comments in favour of allowing for backyard hens, as Council requested at the March 28 meeting, following a brief discussion on the matter of investigating the possibility of an urban backyard hen by-law. 

Augustine submitted a letter to Council promoting the merits of having a “small flock of hens… of [six] or less.” She detailed her own experience with three hens on her 0.2-hectare lot, stating that “the clucking is very low… Without a rooster around, the dominant hen sometimes makes a ruckus for a short time each morning, doing her best to crow but falling short. This is all less of a nuisance than barking dogs might be, in my opinion… Rats and raccoons aren’t a problem if feed is stored correctly, and smell isn’t an issue if coops are regularly cleaned. Poorly tended compost piles create bigger problems than a small flock of chickens.”

Further, she stated, “Most of the surrounding municipalities have implemented Backyard Hen bylaws in recent years. The most established might be Kingston, who started with a pilot project 12 years ago. Based on an article posted by the Kingstonist, it seems like they have had much success.” She suggested that Council vote in favour of allowing backyard hens: “My suggestion is that it be a permit-based system, to retain a level of conformity and control over backyard flocks.”

Augustine continued, “Having a Backyard Hen bylaw in place will go a long way towards promoting food sovereignty and environmental sustainability… Between backyard chickens and gardening, it’s definitely possible to have a successful urban homestead in our town. I feel that this is something we should encourage, rather than be the only municipality in the area to say ‘no backyard hens.’”

Councillor Mike Schenk stated that, while he agreed with the idea in principle, he was concerned about the current avian flu crisis. “I just don’t want to take that risk at this time… I’m in favour of backyard farming, of having some backyard poultry and… teaching your kids, and supplying eggs and poultry… [but] avian flu is a grave concern in the poultry industry right now. So, at this time, no. I’d wait until they’ve developed the vaccine. Hopefully, that’s going to be coming down very shortly.”

Council decided to vote against backyard flocks for now, with the intention of revisiting the issue later. As Councillor Angela Hicks stated, “I think if we revisited this in September it would give ample time for the next year’s spring crop of chicks.”

Council also received an unscheduled deputation from C.J. O’Brien, who expressed concern over the condition of Cooks Road. “The road condition has deteriorated to the point where it’s become dangerous [and] our vehicles are getting damaged on a weekly basis because of very bad potholes… In 12 years, most of my neighbours have agreed that this has become an ongoing problem. We’ve had a lack of maintenance on the road for years, and now it’s come to the point where it’s… dangerous.”

Cooks Road in Forest Mills has become a danger according to Napanee resident C.J. O’Brien. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

He gave the example of an ambulance, recently called to a neighbour’s home, being forced to “take extra time to get to the residence because the condition of the road was so bad.”

O’Brien said that, according to Deputy Mayor Brian Calver, “the road is supposedly scheduled for reconstruction. And I’m hoping that can be moved up to a priority or emergency — to get it done as soon as possible before we have a serious problem or serious accident on the road.”

Mayor Terry Richardson thanked O’Brien and stated that his concerns would be taken seriously and forwarded to the roads department for appropriate investigation and actions.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) John Pinsent spoke to the fact that the town’s General Engineering Services Contract was soon coming to an end. He asked that Council approve the renewal of the contract with G.D. Jewell Engineering for a one-year term. According to the relevant report from Pinsent, “the average value of the contract is estimated at $400,000 per year, varying by project scope per year.”

Pinsent further requested that Council direct staff to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for general engineering services in 2023 as part of a broad review of all service contracts during this term of Council. “[This is] by no means a performance issue with the engineering firm; it is just a matter of making sure that’s still the best value for the dollar,” explained Pinsent.

According to the CAO’s report on the matter, in 2018 the Town issued an RFP for general engineering services, and Council awarded a five-year contract to G.D. Jewell Engineering at its March 27, 2018 meeting. The contract contains the option for a renewal at the Town’s discretion.

This contract will expire on April 30, 2023, the CAO report stated, and is being brought to Council for a decision on whether to renew, extend, or take alternative action. Infrastructure Services’ recommendation is to renew the agreement. Discussion with Council through the budget process has included a commitment to review all existing service contracts, where feasible, during this term of Council.

The CAO’s recommendation is to renew the contract for a one-year term to allow for the continuation of engineering work in progress, with the intent to go to market (via RFPs) later in 2023.

After some debate, the decision was made to offer the engineering firm a one-year contract extension.

Council also received the Finance – 2022 Council Remuneration report for information purposes only.

Greater Napanee Town Hall on Wednesday, Apr. 12, 2023. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Councillor Hicks was quick to point out, “For those watching from home, this is simply a report showing what was paid out to the municipal councillors in 2022… This isn’t about increases or anything else. [I] just want to be very clear about that.”

Other topics on the agenda included the installation of a rather small telecommunications pole and satellite dish by Rogers near the Napanee Train Station on property owned by CN Rail, an update on the purchase and installation of a Raw Water Reservoir Liner Replacement for a total project value of $345,040, and the renewal of the Loaf N’ Ale pub’s outdoor patio licence for the summer.

As always, you can find out more about these topics and other important Council goings-on by visiting the town’s Civic Web Portal and YouTube Channel.

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