Tree Commissioner/Weed Inspector Quarterly Update
The Tree Commissioner/Weed Inspector presented the Quarterly Update for the period of April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020. During this time a total of 17 applications to harvest were submitted by Elgin County’s Local Municipal Partners as follows: West Elgin, 8; Dutton/Dunwich, 1; Southwold, 2; Malahide 5; Bayham, 1 and none in Central Elgin. The total volume harvested amounted to approximately 455 board feet. The total forested area involved in harvests was approximately 525 acres.
During the second quarter, only one (1) application was received regarding the clearing of a portion of woodlot. The total area
associated with this application was 0.6 hectares and at the time of the report it was still in the public consultation phase of the application process.
In addition to the harvest applications, four (4) weed complaints were received in the second quarter of 2020. Two (2) complaints were for weeds not regulated by the Weed Control Act – Including The remaining two (2) complaints resulted in two (2) adjacent landowners voluntarily destroying Poison Hemlock on their Malahide properties. For both the Giant Hogweed site and the Poison Hemlock sites future monitoring and weed destruction efforts will be required over the next several years.
The report provided some public education about the dangers of Giant Hogweed, Wild Parsnip and Poison Hemlock. Getting the sap of a Giant Hogweed plant on your skin and exposing that skin to sunlight can lead to severe burns in the area of exposure. Poison Hemlock is one of the most poisonous plants in Ontario. Consuming small quantities of this plant can be fatally toxic to many animals, including humans.
Council Approves Policy Governing Long-Term Care Visits and Absences During a Pandemic
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March visits to and absences from Long-Term Care Homes (LTCHs) were suspended. A gradual and cautious approach has been taken by Public Health, the Ministry of Long-Term Care and LTCHs to resume visits first using virtual means and progressing to window visits, outdoor visits, and finally indoor visits. On August 28th, the Ministry of Long-Term Care announced a change to short stay absences (for those who leave the Home for health-care related, social, or other reasons) and temporary absences (for those who leave the Home for one or more nights). Council approved a policy outlining the requirements for visits to, and absences from, Elgin County Long-Term Care Homes during a pandemic. Elgin County continues to monitor the pandemic situation closely, working with Public Health and the Ministry of Long-Term Care to ensure resident and staff safety.
2019 Annual Report and Audited Financial Statements
County Council approved the 2019 Annual Report, Financial Information Return and Audited Consolidated Financial statements during their meeting September 22. The report, which fairly indicates the financial position of the County, was verified by an independent auditor.
The 2019 Annual Report included a message from Past Warden Duncan McPhail, a list of 2019 accomplishments, and a detailed breakdown of the County’s 2019 budget and financial position.
Major projects undertaken in 2019 (some still ongoing) included the redevelopment of Terrace Lodge Long Term Care Home, the replacement of the Port Bruce Bridge and the opening of the County’s new Provincial Offences Administration Building,
as well as a cumulative donation of $3.5-million to the St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital that will be completed in 2022.
The following is a breakdown of 2019 net spend by service category: Transportation Services ($8.3-million or 30 percent), Homes and Senior Services ($5.2-million or 19 percent), Library and Cultural Services ($3.3-million or 12 percent), Ambulance Services ($2.9-million or 11 percent), Social Services ($2.2-million or 8 percent), General Government ($2.1-million or 8 percent), Property Tax Related ($1.2-million or 4 percent), Planning and Development ($1.1-million or 4 percent), and Public Health Services ($1-million or 4 percent).
The full 2019 financial report can be found here.
Council Defers Consideration of By-Law Prohibiting Off Road Vehicles on Elgin County Roads
As of January 1, 2021, in accordance with Provincial Legislation, all Off-Road Vehicles (ORV) will be permitted to use municipal roads unless the municipality has passed a by-law prohibiting or restricting their use. The Director of Engineering Services and the County Solicitor presented a report recommending that Council consider passing a by-law prohibiting these vehicles on County Roads. Previous County Councils prohibited the use to ORVs on County Roads in 2004 and again in 2014 through Council resolution. County Council deferred the consideration of a by-law and directed staff to investigate exemptions for agricultural use, consistency with actions at the Local Municipal level, and to ask for additional information from the Elgin Group Police Services Board regarding enforcement.
Council Considers COVID-19 Body Holding Service Options
In an effort to improve Elgin County’s capacity to respond to both the ongoing pandemic as well as other crisis situations involving significant mass mortality, County Council considered options for body holding services. The PaLM lab team (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine) and the City of London Emergency Management Team have created a five (5) transport truck trailer fleet with appropriate storage and shelving to handle 250 bodies. The County of Elgin was given the option of having access to this fleet in the event of a mass casualty situation in the community by contributing to the City of London to offset the ongoing operating expenses associated with this service. Council decided instead to pursue a local option, with an update to be provided at a future Elgin County Council meeting. The County Emergency Management Coordinator/Fire Training Officer will reach out to Elgin/St. Thomas funeral homes and reassess their position on capacity should a second wave of COVID-19 occur in Elgin. If capacity becomes a concern, Staff will contact local transportation/trucking companies who may be able to offer a more advantageous arrangement.
Councillors Review Woodlands Conservation By-Law
County Councillors reviewed the Woodlands Conservation By-Law. A review of the By-Law was identified as an action item in the Staff Operational plan portion of the Elgin County Council 2020-2022 Strategic Plan under the Fostering a Healthy Environment strategic priority. Staff provided Council with a review of related Provincial Legislation, the By-Law’s provisions and application, a history of its enactment, and the process to apply for an exemption under the By-Law. Staff sought Council’s feedback as to whether there were concerns with the existing By-Law and whether a fulsome review should be conducted. Council provided staff with feedback and indicated they would like a housekeeping review conducted on the existing By-Law. A report will be brought back to Council at the October 13th meeting.
Elgin County Close to Finalizing Strategic Plan
Work on the Elgin County Council 2020-2022 Strategic Plan began in 2019 under the leadership of Past Warden Duncan McPhail. Since this time, extensive work has been done to establish strategic priorities and associated action plans for Council and staff. Elgin County Council’s 2020-2022 Strategic Plan will act as a roadmap for serving, growing and investing in the community, and seek to align the County’s efforts and resources in support of these strategic goals. At a Special Council Meeting on September 22, County Council with the assistance of a facilitator set performance measurement framework for ensuring the priorities identified within the plan are achieved. A consolidated document containing Council’s Strategic Priorities, the Staff Operational Plan, Council’s Action Plan and the Performance Measurement Framework will be reviewed by Council at a future date.
For regular updates about the Elgin County Council 2020-2022 Strategic Plan, visit www.elgincounty.ca/strategicplan.
The complete September 22, 2020 County Council Agenda package can be found here.