Napanee Town Council meeting goes off-line due to cyberattack

Napanee Town Council Chambers were empty of observers for the special session of Council on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, at 3:59 p.m. Please see the bottom of this article for most recently updated information.

Original article:
The Town of Greater Napanee remains tight-lipped but is still clearly feeling the impact of a cybersecurity incident last week.

Just after 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, the Town released a statement confirming that, on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, the Town had experienced a cybersecurity incident which affected its servers and networks, leaving many of the Town’s services disrupted. Asked for updates on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, on what systems have been affected and whether sensitive data had been exposed, the Town responded indicating they were “not providing any additional comments at this time.” Any further updates on the situation will be issued via a press release, according to Kylie Huffman, Community Engagement and Communications Clerk for the Town of Greater Napanee.

Then, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, the Town published an announcement to social media stating, “The Special Session of Council scheduled for Thursday, January 18, 2024, to discuss budget has been cancelled” and would be rescheduled.

The announcement went on to say, “Council will still be meeting on January 18th to address time-sensitive business. This meeting will not be live-streamed via our YouTube channel. Per s.6.14 of the Procedure By-law, the meeting is not required to be live streamed as in-person access is available.”

Asked why the meeting wouldn’t be live-streamed as always, Huffman answered on behalf of the Town Clerk, “It was determined that livestreaming the meeting is not a priority for our [information technology] staff, as they are occupied dealing with the cybersecurity event.”

For the special session meeting that did take place Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, the Council Chambers were empty of observers. Mayor Terry Richardson opened the meeting with a welcome and reminded the assembly that they were going to be doing things “old school” that day: “We haven’t got the ability to do the live stream, so please bear with us until we get things back up and going.”

Before entering into a closed session to discuss, as per the agenda, “four labour relations matters… and a matter related to the security of municipal property and advice subject to solicitor-client privilege,” a brief open session meeting was held.

The first order of business on the agenda was the rescheduling of the Special Session of Council to discuss the 2024 Budget, which are now scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6 and Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, both at 10 a.m.

Councillor Bob Norrie questioned whether two meetings would give enough time to go through the budget “line by line,” and whether there would be an option for more time, if necessary, before Council voted on the budget. The newly installed Treasurer/General Manager of Financial Services for the Town, Ellen Hamel, assured the councillor that time would be sufficient, so Council voted to hold the two budget meetings on the aforementioned dates.

Next on the agenda was Bylaw No. 2023-0001 — to Set an Interim Tax Levy for 2024. The proposed bylaw sets out that an interim tax bill shall be levied and shall be based on 50 per cent of the total taxes and special area charges paid by each property owner for municipal, county, and school purposes for the immediately preceding year. This interim tax bill will be due in two equal installments on February 23, 2024, and April 26, 2024.

This is when the topic of garbage bag tags again reared its head. As Napanee residents will know, the “bag tag” has been an issue of much consternation and controversy over the last year since Council decided to implement a mandatory levy of $200 a year and distribute 50 tags per household.

The new treasurer pointed out, however, that the plan as previously published — to send out 50 bag tags at a charge of $200 levied on the February property tax bill — was not going to work as smoothly as anticipated.

Due to limitations in the Municipal Act, the interim tax levy is calculated at 50 per cent of the prior year’s taxes, and therefore the full $200 flat fee for the bag tags could not be reflected on the interim tax bill being mailed out in early February, Hamel explained. Yet the municipal software used by the Town does not permit the interim levy to be calculated with a separate special charge. Therefore, the 2024 bag tag fee of $200 will only be added to the final tax bill, with $100 included in the first installment and $100 included in the second installment.

Councillor Angela Hicks said she suspected this would “make the ratepayers happier,” since the garbage tags will still go out with the interim bill but the levy would be split up into two payments. Hicks also requested that, once it had been finalized, the Town publish this new schedule daily on its social media channels to reduce what she called “a lot of speculation and misinformation out there.”

Next up was Bylaw No. 2024-0002 — for the Disposition of Industrial Land. The Mayor explained that this was concerning the sale of 170 Kimmetts Side Road, Part Lots 12, 13, 26, 27, 28, 29, and that the Corporation of the Town of Greater Napanee would sell the lands to Ward’s Towing Service Ltd. for the sale price of $150,000.00.

170 Kimmetts Side Road is just north of Highway 401 in Greater Napanee, marked here with a red locator pin. Graphic via Google Maps.

There were no comments or questions, and the mayor noted that this had been discussed previously; the motion passed unanimously.

Finally, the mayor looked for a motion to move to a closed session. The open session ended, and the doors to the Town Hall were locked. Council is scheduled to “Rise and Report” from the closed session at its regular session of Council on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.

While the cybersecurity issue has disrupted normal proceedings, residents can obtain Napanee Town Council meeting information on the Town’s Agendas and Meetings web page, and can usually watch meetings on the Town YouTube channel.

Update (Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, at 10:35 a.m.):
Some services that were suspended due to the cyberattack on the Town of Greater Napanee’s networks have now been restored, according to the Town. Please see Kingstonist’s original coverage of the security breach for most recent updates on the matter here.

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