February 9, 2021 - County Council Highlights

Elgin County Council Approves 2021 Budget

At their meeting on February 9, 2021, Elgin County Councillors approved a $72.4 M operating cost budget and a $39.1 M levy – a $1.8 M increase over 2020.  The levy represents a tax increase of 2.9% on an average property and as an example equating to approximately $61 on a $350,000 home. The 2021 Budget is a financial plan that has been developed to produce the best possible outcomes for Elgin County residents in a way that utilizes tax dollars in a prudent and responsible manner. Careful planning, the use of reserves and leveraging debt have allowed for modest, reasonable tax increases over the next ten years.

In 2020, Elgin County Council finalized its 2020-2022 Strategic Plan which acted as a roadmap for resource allocation throughout the 2021 Budget planning process. The Strategic Plan prioritizes investing in Elgin in a way that is financially responsible by ensuring Elgin has the necessary tools, resources and infrastructure to efficiently deliver programs and services now and in the future.

For more information about the 2021 Budget process or to view a complete copy of the Elgin County 2021 Budget please visit www.elgincounty.ca/budgetcommittee.

Additionally, a 2021 Budget Fact Sheet has been created to provide quick, high-level Budget details. 

Delegation Summary

Elgin County Council received several delegations at its meeting on February 9, 2021 including:

Elgin Ontario Health Team

Elgin County Council was joined virtually by Councillors from the City of St. Thomas to receive a presentation regarding Elgin’s Ontario Health Team Application. The province of Ontario is currently undergoing a restructuring of the health system and the creation of a central Ontario Health agency which will be comprised of regional Ontario Health Teams. The goal of these Health Teams is to strengthen how providers work together to provide care to patients. The Elgin Ontario Health Team has submitted its full application to the Province and once it has met all criteria it will become a designated Ontario Health Team and members will move to an integrated funding envelope. 

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital MRI Application

The President & CEO of STEGH presented information to Council regarding the Hospital’s application for funding to implement Magnetic Resonance Imaging Services in St. Thomas. Residents of Elgin are currently required to travel to other regions for this service and sometimes forced to endure long wait times. The Warden was directed by Council to send a letter of support to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance advocating for provincial operating and capital funding to make Magnetic Resonance Imaging service a reality for the Elgin community.

St. Thomas Elgin Social Services Update

St. Thomas Elgin Social Services provided Council with an annual update on the status of its three (3) areas of operation – Children’s Services, St. Thomas – Elgin Ontario Works, and Housing & Homelessness Services.

Additional presentation materials for the above-mentioned delegations are contained within the Elgin County Council February 9, 2021 Agenda Package.

Local Business Support Initiatives

Economic Development provided an overview of the local business support and workforce initiatives that the department has been involved in over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the dissemination of important provincial and federal government funding information to local businesses in need, the Support Elgin Campaign promoting the goods and services that Elgin County businesses have to offer, and extensive involvement in several Workforce Planning and Development Board initiatives. A detailed account of these activities is available here.

Planning Update

Jacklin Farms Phase 3 Draft Plan of Subdivision

County Council granted Draft Plan Approval for Draft Plan of Subdivision Jacklin Farms Phase 3 to be located in the Municipality of Central Elgin (Lynhurst). The applicant, Prespa Construction Limited, requested approval of a residential Plan of Subdivision, consisting of 26 single detached residential building lots, 34 semi-detached residential building lots, one (1) block for future road right of way, all served by four new municipal streets.

The Ridge at Talbotville Gore, Phase 2 Final Approval

Final Approval was given for Phase 2 of The Ridge at Talbotville Gore Plan of Subdivision on January 27, 2021. This subdivision will be located in the Township of Southwold (Talbotville) and is comprised of 57 single detached residential building lots, and one future residential block (Block 58), all serviced by the extension of Glengariff Drive and two (2) new local streets.

Museum Committee Appointment

County Council appointed Ms. Donna Lord of the Middlemarch branch of the Elgin County Women’s Institute to replace Mrs. Helen Van Brenk on the Elgin County Museum Advisory Committee.  Mrs. Van Brenk has provided 16-years of dedicated service to both the Committee and the Elgin County Museum, including 7 years as Chair. The County of Elgin would like to recognize these significant contributions and thank Mrs. Van Brenk for her dedication to the preservation and dissemination of Elgin County historical information. Her efforts have contributed greatly to ensuring that the future generations of Elgin County will learn about Elgin’s rich heritage.

Library Services Update

The Director of Community and Cultural Services provided Council with an update on Library Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The last update was provided in October when Council had approved a transition to Curbside Plus, an initiative that allowed limited patrons into library branches while maintaining health and safety protocols. In-branch visits were eliminated when the province went into lockdown on December 26, 2020; however, unlike the first provincial lockdown in March of 2020, Libraries have been allowed to remain open for curbside pick-up only. This is a testament to the important role that libraries play in ensuring the emotional and mental well-being of residents during these difficult times. Throughout the pandemic curbside pick-up has remained popular and Elgin County has seen increased usage of online services.

Council were also informed that Green eRecycling who had previously provided e-waste recycling services at several of Elgin County’s library branches was unable to provide this service going forward. Over the course of the program over 75,000 kilograms of e-waste were collected through the library system and a large portion of was used by the STEAM Centre in its programming.

The STEAM Centre continues to collect and refurbish desktops, laptops, and tablets in good condition which are donated to students, Indigenous communities and people with limited income as part of its re//BUILD.IT program. E-waste can either be dropped off by appointment at the STEAM Centre (located at 745 Talbot Street in St. Thomas) or they will arrange for pick-up.  Appointments for both drop off and pick up can be made by calling the Centre at 226-212-0048 or by e-mailing rebuild.it@steameducation.ca. 

Engineering/Facilities Update

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Update

The County of Elgin’s joint public-private partnership funding proposal with the Municipality of Central Elgin and ERTH Corporation was successful in receiving funding from the Zero-Emissions Vehicle Infrastructure Program. This project will install 20 electric vehicle charging stations in public places, on-street, in multi-unit residential buildings, at workplaces or for light-duty vehicle fleets. Council directed staff to provide a report detailing the process involved in charging owners of electric vehicles a nominal fee to utilize these charging stations. This report will be received at a future meeting of Council.

Council Considers Conceptual Designs for Lobby and Council Chambers Remodel

Council were presented with various conceptual design alternatives prepared by L360 Architecture Inc. showcasing six (6) Council Chamber and main entrance lobby reception area renovations and budgetary construction cost estimates presented for the Council’s consideration and direction. Council selected Option 4 which includes a modest remodel to include enhanced IT solutions, potential increased seating for staff, accessible doors, and new furnishings. This option does not increase the footprint of Council Chambers. All options can be viewed as part of the February 9, 2021 County Council Agenda Package.

Elgincentives Renewed for 2021

The County of Elgin is currently in the process of exploring the possibility of forming a joint Economic Development Corporation with the City of St. Thomas as recommended in the recently finalized Service Delivery Review. In the meantime, County Council has directed staff to proceed with a status quo Elgincentives Program for 2021 while continuing to work with Local Municipal Partners to conduct an ongoing review of the program to ensure alignment with community needs. Staff will present alternatives for the program to Council as part of the 2022 budget review process.

Settlement Areas Expansion

At the request of Councillor Purcell, Elgin County Council discussed the approach to Official Plan Settlement Areas and what process might be undertaken to expand Settlement Areas as part of the upcoming Official Plan Review. The amount of Settlement Area land in Elgin County (and all municipalities) is governed by the Provincial Policy Statement and is based on population projections. Several of Elgin’s Local Municipal Partners are experiencing an influx of new residents fleeing larger urban centres and looking to settle in rural areas. It was noted by some Council Members that population projections may not accurately reflect the reality of these new circumstances. This issue will be explored further with a future report to Council.

Annual Accessibility Status Report

Elgin County staff are required to prepare an annual accessibility status report on the progress of measures taken to implement the strategies outlined in the Multi-Year Accessibility Plan. Staff presented an overview of accessibility related accomplishments for 2020. The full Annual Accessibility Status Report for 2020 is available here.

The complete February 9, 2021 County Council Agenda package can be found here.