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Town of Aurora Council Meetings October 23, 2012 – Reporting From Town Hill

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Welcome to our first report from Town Hill for the Town of Aurora Council Meetings held on October 23, 2012. Although not full coverage, this is our interpretation of the highlights of the 4 hour plus meeting.

The meeting began with an open forum. The mood of all five of the open forum presenters varied. Not uncommon, frustrations and objections seemed to dominate – community inclusivity, representation on committees and objections against building a 24-hour fast food restaurant in a quiet neighbourhood were the concerns. The mood was balanced when free tickets to the Legally Blond theatrical performance were given out and a statement was made in support of the Town Park Music Festival for the August long weekend.

York Region Transit presented Service Plan updates on the current transit system and future transportation service implementations to better serve their clients, Aurora transit commuters. Many good features and promises were flashed in front of council; unfortunately empty buses remain a concern.

The Sesquicentennial Committee (Town of Aurora Council Meetings) presented council with an alarming $400,000 “draft” budget for the Sesquicentennial celebrations based on rough estimates for a massive list of projects. This would translate to approximately $8 per resident, children not excluded. Council was very happy with the committee’s progress but at the same time frightened by the proposed amount of the “draft” budget and requested that some of the costs be offset.

After the presentations various topics were discussed by council and administrative staff, and agreed or disagreed upon during the Town of Aurora Council Meetings.

Town of Aurora charges regarding Freedom of Information were questioned by Cllr Gaertner; town staff will prepare a summary of historical information on the Freedom of Information requests.

There was some confusion when Cllr Gallo questioned staff about changes to the youth soccer fees. During a three minute back and forth conversation a simple math problem related to HST was the issue. Darn HST continues to cause issues.

Cllr Gaertner on behalf of the Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority was concerned about the safety of wildlife crossing a construction site. She was reassured that proper fences will be installed. We think fences will definitely reduce chances of wildlife construction-kill.

Cllr Buck chose to read her written comment disapproving the draft of the new Agreement for the Provision of Cultural Services at the Aurora Cultural Centre. At certain controversial moments in her speech the Mayor began to interrupt, however, Cllr Buck defended the relevance of her comments and was able to complete her message. Cllr Thompson stated that this is a first draft of the agreement and there is still an opportunity for improvement.

The public works department will be getting a new Joint Operations Centre that will conform to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standard by saving energy and minimizing environmental impact. The decision was made to upgrade from LEED Silver to LEED Gold standard based on a cost analysis focused on operational energy savings. It was not clear how ongoing maintenance and replacement costs were factored into the analysis. May we suggest the purchase of an extended warranty package?Cllr Pirri made a statement in support of the upgrade which in theory will save the town money, but he does not believe it will be easy to quantify the actual cost savings over time in practice. And Einstein wrote “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

Council approved a new financial auditor at substantially lower cost to provide audit services to the Town of Aurora and Aurora Public Library. The lower cost is a result of a package deal where Aurora will receive a shared pricing discount as part of the Northern Six Municipalities (N6). Cllr Buck raised concern over the new auditor’s ability to offer discounted price without discounted quality of service. We question the total number of auditors that will be assigned for the six municipalities – one, three, six?

2013 Budget meeting dates, times and durations were a concern for Cllr Buck and Cllr Gaertner. Full day budget meetings can be long and drawn out thus challenging the attention span of decision makers. Cllr Gallo requested staff to review the possibility of spreading the larger dollar departments over multiple meetings to ensure they are each given the attention they deserve.

The controversial Aurora Jazz+ Festival held in Town Park was under scrutiny. It was proposed that any interested organizations be given an equal opportunity to bid on hosting a Music Festival in Town Park for the 2013 August long weekend. The Festival would have an emphasis on showcasing local talent. Most of the town council was in favour of this motion however some raised clear objections.

Cllr Thompson informed council that he would be bringing forward a Notice of Motion following the recent Court decision declaring the actions of former Aurora Mayor Morris while in office as being “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation” (SLAPP). Cllr Thompson intends for current council to address questions, costs, preventive measures, and to apologize to the residents of Aurora for what has transpired.

Town politics is not a game and does need public engagement to ensure that our tax dollars are spent wisely. It is impossible for us at the Living in Aurora blog to cover every detail of each council meeting. Everyone has their own interpretation and we have ours. Reading Town of Aurora Council Meetings agendas, minutes, attending or watching council meetings, and following local newspapers are all ways for you to stay informed and engaged in our community.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON

REFERENCES & CREDITS
[1] Character Illustrations by Jessica Georgiou, Aurora, Ontario, October, 2012.

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