Central Huron adds promotional videos, murals before budget approval
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Central Huron Council is set to approve its 2021 budget at its April 19 meeting, though Director of Finance Jeff Boyes has cautioned councillors against nickel-and-diming their way to a late-stage budget increase.
Council held its final budget meeting late last month to discuss a number of smaller expenses ahead of final budget approval, which was scheduled to be on Monday, April 19. On the agenda was a handful of issues to be discussed before council could put the final stamp of approval on the year’s budget, formally adopt it and present it to the public.
The first issue came by way of the Goderich Rotary Charitable Foundation asking for a grant to create pickleball courts in Goderich.
According to a representative of the group, approximately 25 per cent of the group’s membership comes from Central Huron, but the courts would be in Goderich.
Councillors were not overly keen to contribute to the $160,000 project if it wasn’t in the municipality, instead suggesting that pickleball courts could be created in Central Huron. Councillor Dan Colquhoun said he had been approached by numerous residents in Clinton about the prospect of playing pickleball, but that they were hoping there would be an option in the town, not necessarily in Goderich.
Councillor Marg Anderson also noted that pickleball had been played in the Central Huron Secondary School gym for a time, but that it had been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic subsides, she said, it’s feasible to think the school would again be hosting the sport.
Council didn’t commit to the project, but instead directed staff to prepare a report on pickleball options in the municipality. However, councillors noted that the report didn’t necessarily mean council wouldn’t contribute to the Goderich project, just that more information was needed before a decision was made.
The second issue up for debate was the replacement of the municipal office’s phone system, which had been pre-approved in the budget at an estimated cost of $18,000. Council accepted that report with no discussion.
The third issue was a video marketing and strategic plan expense in the amount of $50,000. This had been added for discussion by Councillor Alison Lobb at council’s previous budget meeting, held on March 9.
She had recommended that the municipality employ Goderich-based production company FauxPop to create promotional videos on the municipality and that she felt it was a very important step.
Chief Administrative Officer Steve Doherty cautioned Lobb, saying that council would have to open the process up to competitive bidding with that estimated price. However, Boyes said the process could be tailored to ask for qualified bidders, that would bring FauxPop into the mix.
Lobb said the contract didn’t necessarily have to go to FauxPop, just that she knows the company does great work.
Boyes also cautioned council about engaging in a process of “death by 1,000 cuts” after the budget had essentially been approved, adding big-ticket items like the video contract being discussed. Mayor Jim Ginn agreed, saying he didn’t want council to add a number of items in the home stretch of the budget deliberation process.
Council approved the expense, but directed staff to utilize money from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) fund, which is to be used specifically for community improvement projects. Anderson also suggested council add a line in the motion capping the expense at $50,000, which council accepted.
Boyes said that would be appropriate, telling council that the fund had $139,000 in it at the moment, but new equipment at the YMCA in Clinton would also be coming out of the account.
Council also approved an additional cost of $30,000 to be paid for by the NWMO fund for the revitalization of the mural on the K&J Pharmacy building in Clinton.
Colquhoun said the project was actually supposed to move ahead several years ago, but the property having changed hands put the brakes on the project. The new owners were due to make some improvements and the mural wouldn’t be updated until those had been completed, he said. The building has since been sold again and the new owners are open to the mural being revitalized, he said.
Council approved the expense and also directed Community Improvement Co-ordinator Angela Smith to proceed with additional murals around Clinton. She informed council that, due to the success of her online paint nights and mural painting for her back alley project this summer, several volunteers had expressed interest in painting murals throughout the town.
Ginn suggested Smith “strike while the iron is hot” and proceed with the eager volunteers, saying she would likely only have to pay for a few hundreds dollars’ worth of paint, which she could handle out of her department’s annual budget.
Council also approved Smith’s “small projects” budget and the rural capital paving plan with little discussion. The rural capital paving plan reallocated funds for the paving of Tipperary Line to paving on Hullett-McKillop Road for just under $450,000. Council had approved this change at its previous budget meeting.
Council also approved the addition of concrete sidewalks from Goderich to the VLA subdivision, at the east end of Goderich, for a cost of $2,150.
Despite all of those changes, the core budget will not change ahead of council’s vote to approve the budget on April 19.
The budget, as it stands, is moving forward with a three per cent increase to the municipal portion of the levy, which equates to an overall 1.81 per cent increase to the tax rate (which factors in the municipal, education and Huron County levies). The levy translates to an increase of $22.36 per $100,000 of residential assessment across the municipality over the previous year.