The following are Highlands East Council briefs from the virtual meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24.
By Darren Lum
The pandemic is far from over and virtual council meetings are likely to continue to enable access to the public.
Highlands East CAO Shannon Hunter said the EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) has recommended to “not consider in-person meetings until the next phase of the road map to reopen is implemented by the province.”
She added with rising COVID-19 cases the status is unlikely to change soon, but the township is working towards setting up for a “hybrid version,” which includes live streaming and in-person council and committee meetings.
“It is a means for the public to be able to have access,” she said.
Councillor Suzanne Partridge asked for clarification about whether this fell under the purview of council.
Hunter said this was only a strong recommendation to continue live-streaming meetings and was presented for council to discuss.
Partridge and Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall wondered about separating council and committee meetings.
Hunter responded saying, “The reason we were doing one joint meeting is because of the IT (information technology) reasons. We were trying to streamline the requirements that were put on the county IT system, so change this, you could have individual committee meetings. If you choose to, it just means we’re going to have more administration to do the individual meetings.”
Committees of council, said township clerk, Robin Rogers, need to be transparent.
Ryall, who was concerned about members’ availability to attend, which can be related to working day time hours, anticipates a return to pre-pandemic days when in-person meetings were held, which had facilitated access to meetings for the public.
“I’m not suggesting we do this today, tomorrow or next week, I’m just saying we need to have a look at the overall policy, which can be in the fall,” he said.
Mayor Dave Burton said he wanted members of council to attend all council committee meetings.
A vote for a resolution to enact that practice was passed.
Highlands East buildings are open for use with COVID-19 restrictions
CAO Hunter said there have been many inquiries about the status of public facilities.
“People have been asking when are the facilities opening?” she said. “The answer is the facilities are open, but they’re open with restrictions as per the health unit, so people can use our facilities. However, there are restrictions laid out, as per the phase that we’re in with the reopening plan, so what that means is people still have to mask up and have to keep their six-foot separation. Those are the two main ones.”
Building records continue to be set
When it comes to construction values in Highlands East there has been constant exponential growth.
The latest numbers are $25,273,789 to this point in the year. Last year at this time, the township had $6,751,805. There were 133 permits (36 dwellings and 97 for other) issued, which is far more than thee 88 of last year.
Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall asked chief building official Laurie Devolin about if this demand poses a problem for staff to fulfill service and if there are other related issues?
Answering, Devolin said, permits are being issued on time and the newly implemented software CloudPermit, an electronic avenue for government building departments such as complete permit applications, which has helped, which has improved efficiency and streamlined communication at the building department.
Ryall said, “Keep doing what you guys are doing. I guess at some point in time we’re either going to go over the top, or it’ll stabilize and we’ll worry about that then. Thank you very much for what you’re doing and I really appreciate it.”
Ride along idea welcomed
During the delivery of CAO meetings with manager’s report delivered by Hunter, she said it was on ride-alongs with department managers where she was “provided perspective into the daily operations of the department.”
She added this to her weekly meetings with the managers, which are used to identify potential concerns and/or opportunities for improvement.
Council was open to periodic ride-alongs that will enable members of council to see what needs there are in the township related to “infrastructure deficiencies and projects.”
Councillor Cam McKenzie commended Hunter for the idea and for finding the time.
“It’s such a positive thing and immense benefit to the management of Highlands East. Thank you very much,” he said.
This was received as information.