Emerson Lewis sits in front of the new mural at Highland Wood. The artist Luann Coghlan inserted a detail special to Emerson and his wife Marie who recently died. On the tree she placed their initials: M.H. for Marie and E.L. for Emerson.

Municipality prepares for marijuana legalization

The following are brief reports of items discussed at Highlands East council on June 6.

Staff at the Municipality of Highlands East are preparing for changes coming once marijuana is legalized in Canada this summer.

CAO Shannon Hunter told council that a memo had been issued to staff regarding drug use in the workplace. That memo states that despite the changes to legislation “employees are prohibited from consuming possessing selling or transferring cannabis (including any substances containing cannabis) in the workplace which includes all of the municipality’s properties and vehicles.”

The municipality is also anticipating calls to the bylaw department by property owners about “smell and odour” from neighbours’ properties or potentially  about people using marijuana in public places.

Provincial legislation is being amended which would dictate a setback of 20 metres from a public place for those smoking marijuana.

The memo informs staff of the impact of marijuana: “employees are expected to report to work free from the effects (including side effects) of alcohol and drugs (including cannabis). Cannabis’s side effects can last depending on a variety of factors including method of consumption between three and 30 hours after consumption.”

Hunter said that the municipality would also need to accommodate those who use medical marijuana.

“Any employee suffering from a disability including substance abuse and/or uses medical cannabis should disclose that fact to the municipality and seek assistance and/or accommodation (in confidence) from the municipality before any safety incident and/or performance issues arise. The municipality is committed to providing suitable accommodations as required by law” the memo states.

Councillor Cec Ryall asked whether Highlands East’s bylaw officer would be expected to enforce federal regulations around the number of plants someone was growing. The current legislation specifies each person can grow four.

“Those are questions that are still being discussed” Hunter said. “I don’t know what to expect. No one knows what to expect and it’s going to be a work in progress.”

After much consultation between various Haliburton County representatives and Gwen Coish of Bancroft Community Transit it appears Highlands East is in a “no lose” situation when it comes to public transportation funding.

There had been considerable confusion earlier in the year when it became known that BCT had applied for a grant from the Ministry of Transportation to enhance services they already provide to the wider region and included Highlands East on that application.

Since there is a transportation initiative underway in the county there was worry that the funding BCT had applied for would jeopardize Haliburton County’s plan.

At their Wednesday meeting Hunter told council she had met with Coish and clarified the situation.
“Confusion was created regarding expanding this service into Gooderham Highland Grove Haliburton etc.” Hunter’s report reads. “This application before us does not include this however [it] could potentially be a future discussion.”

Part of why the situation is so confusing is that there are three different services or potential services being discussed.

The first is the current service from BCT which involves busing a few clients from Cardiff to Bancroft and back each Friday. Highlands East contributes about $10000 in gas tax dollars to that initiative each year.

The second is a funding initiative applied for by BCT through the Ministry of Transportation. This grant worth $500000 over five years is to enhance services in a much wider region outside of Haliburton County. Where it involves Highlands East is that it extends BCT services into Wilberforce.
“This application for our area not talking about the rest of Hastings for our area only speaks to Cardiff and Wilberforce. This is an enhancement to what’s already being provided in Cardiff but would also now be provided in Wilberforce” Hunter said.

The third is what Haliburton County is up to. At this point the transportation task force is creating a transit implementation plan for the county. It is expected that Highlands East’s gas tax dollars will be required at some point for Haliburton County’s system.

Councillors throughout the county had been concerned that Highlands East’s participation in BCT programs would either disqualify Haliburton County from receiving some funding or would remove Highlands East’s gas tax money from the equation.

Hunter said that wasn’t accurate.

“Haliburton County could eventually decide to put an application in for gas tax. … At that time if the application goes in Highlands East will have to determine whether they wish to go with Haliburton County application and remove themselves from the gas tax that’s currently being placed right now [with the BCT service] or stay with what we already have” Hunter said.

“If it’s a valued service [the BCT service to Cardiff] council could be in the position of considering doing a donation to offset the cost for that area.”

Ryall said from what had been presented it was a “no-lose” situation for Highlands East.

Hunter replied that other than a decision down the road about whether to move gas tax dollars from BCT to Haliburton County she didn’t foresee any issues.

Council resolved that Hunter would negotiate terms of the municipality’s involvement with the MTO grant program through BCT “ensuring two-way travelling to/from Cardiff/Bancroft and Wilberforce.”

Council directed staff to seek proposals to determine a cost for renovations to the building department in Gooderham. A layout was accepted by council which creates an accessible washroom and Wi-Fi lounge for the public.

Three options had been created and were presented to council and the public during a special meeting on May 24 states a report from Laurie Devolin chief building official.

“$25000 has been allocated for this project in the 2018 budget. Once the final draft of the floor plan and exterior site plan improvements are finalized and approved we can move forward with determining the costs associated with the construction” the report says.

The plans can be found on the Highlands East website and Facebook page.