Lanark County Media Release - March 22, 2023

Tuesday, 28 March 2023 13:47

Here are the highlights from the Lanark County Council meeting held March 22, 2023.

Homelessness Prevention Program Investment Plan Approved: Council approved the 2023-24 Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) investment plan, which allocates $1.5 million in provincial funding to various local supports. Funds are allocated in four operating service categories.

Social Services Director Emily Hollington explained the county is the service manager to provide affordable housing and support services for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. “The HPP aims to prevent, address and reduce homelessness, including chronic homelessness,” she said. “It is designed to help a diverse range of vulnerable people to meet their short-term critical needs, including people living in community housing, supportive housing, people with low incomes, social assistance recipients or others who require social services support, as well as those experiencing homelessness.”

Hollington recommended continuing with similar programs in 2023/24, which is supported by the strategic directions of the county’s 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan. The allocations were approved as follows:

  • Emergency shelter solutions: $100,000 (e.g., emergency hotel stays and contracting Victim Services for after-hours support services for those experiencing homelessness)
  • Supportive housing: $650,000 (includes Adult Support Housing, formerly domiciliary hostels)
  • Community outreach and support services: $187,647 (mental health and addictions supports, food security, case management and outreach (staff support, hygiene items, self-care kits) and By-Name List activities)
  • Housing assistance: $492,958 (short-term/emergency assistance such as rent and utilities arrears or deposits, moving costs, emergency repairs, as well as long-term assistance such as rent supplements for chronically homeless)

For more information, contact Emily Hollington, Director of Social Services, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 2101.

Community Housing Renewal Strategy Investment Plan Approved: Council approved the 2023-24 Community Housing Renewal Strategy investment plan, which allocates $482,900 under the Canada-Ontario Community Housing Initiative (COCHI) and $362,800 under the Ontario Priorities Housing Initiative (OPHI). The housing allowance, renovate and homeownership policies were also approved.

At the community services committee meeting earlier this month, Housing Services Manager Shawna Stone explained COCHI and OPHI are part of a multi-year plan up to 2028 to help stabilize and enhance the existing community housing sector and assist with affordability and expansion of affordable housing option. The funds can be used to support repair and renewal of existing social housing, protect affordability and expand the supply over time. COCHI is restricted to eligible housing providers on a per-unit basis.

Stone added the recommendations support strategic directions in the 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan and follow past practice for distribution of funds for similar programs.

The recommendation in OPHI is to continue with the Homeownership and Renovate programs and to introduce a new housing allowance that will replace funds that were available for rent support in a program that ends this month. COCHI and OPHI are 100 per cent federally and provincially funded.

The COCHI allocation will be distributed on a per-unit basis to seven providers. OPHI will be split with $100,000 to rental assistance and $244,660 for Ontario Renovates. Both allotments include some funds for administration. For more information, contact Shawna Stone, Housing Services Manager, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 2401.

Housing and Homelessness Call to Action Adopted: Council adopted a resolution calling on the provincial government to urgently:1. Acknowledge that homelessness in Ontario is a social, economic and health crisis;2. Commit to ending homelessness in Ontario;3. Work with AMO and a broad range of community, health, Indigenous and economic partners to develop, resource and implement an action plan to achieve this goal.

The call to action is part of a pre-budget presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs submitted by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. The submission focused on increasing the supply of housing and tackling the crisis in Ontario.

The resolution points to the toll the homelessness crisis is taking on families and communities, which “undermines a healthy and prosperous Ontario,” and states it is “the result of underinvestment and poor policy choices of successive provincial governments.” It notes a wide range of solutions is required, adding the impact is felt most at the local level, but more resources, capacity and tools are needed. “Leadership and urgent action is needed from the provincial government on an emergency basis to develop, resource and implement a comprehensive plan to prevent, reduce and ultimately end homelessness in Ontario.”

The motion will be sent to the Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Housing; Children, Community and Social Services; Health; and to AMO. For more information, contact Jasmin Ralph, Clerk, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 1502.

Child Services Overview Report Accepted: As part of ongoing orientation, council accepted a report by Children’s Services Manager Tammy Kealey-Donaldson that was presented at the community services committee meeting earlier this month.

Kealey-Donaldson explained the county is the service system manager for licensed child care and early years programming in the county and the Town of Smiths Falls. The county is responsible for:

  • Planning, administering and funding the licensed child-care system and early years programming
  • Administering the child-care fee subsidy
  • Developing a service plan in conjunction with school boards and child-care providers
  •  Supporting providers in such areas as governance, finance, operations and service planning
  • Overseeing provincial standards for quality licensed child-care and early years programming
  • Providing training to early childhood educators (ECEs)
  • Advocacy for the sector
  • Maintaining strong working relationships with providers and community partners

The children’s services budget has increased dramatically with the new Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) subsidy program ($10 per day child care), with more than $9.3 million – half of the total budget – allocated to that program. The new system is being phased in until 2025-26 and applies only to children ages zero to six years and to centres/licensed home child care agencies that applied to the county and were found to be financially viable. Those spaces will have an average fee of $10 per day by 2025-26. CWELCC also has a workforce compensation component that increases hourly wages of child-care employees.

There are currently 13 licensed child care providers at 27 sites in the county and Smiths Falls, along with two licensed home child care agencies that currently have a total of 26 licensed home child cares. Children’s Resources On Wheels (CROW) is the service agent for EarlyON Child and Family programs in the county. It offers playgroups in six communities, virtual and outdoor programming, mobile services, parent education and, this year, a focus on mental health of children and parents. The county also has a contract with ConnectWell Community Health to provide special needs resourcing.

Kealey-Donaldson said ECE recruitment and retention continues to be a huge issue. “We have a dire shortage of child-care staff. There is a critical shortage of ECEs and other support staff, such as cooks and cleaners. Burnout of ECEs is being experienced across the province, and a large number of childcare directors and managers are at retirement age,” she said. The county has undertaken recruitment and retention efforts, such as promotion, partnerships, new programming, paid training, scheduling improvements, capacity building and focusing on mental health.

Kealey-Donaldson highlighted expected changes to the funding formula, various services, the computer program, service plan updates and the “How Does Learning Happen” framework. Ongoing challenges are high inflation impacting operating costs for child care, extensive reporting and financial requirements with the CWELCC system, COVID recovery, stability of the system and the loss of the local ECE program at Algonquin College in Perth. For more information, contact Tammy Kealey-Donaldson, Children’s Services Manager, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 2301.

Heating Retrofit Project Approved: Following a lengthy debate, council approved a motion to award a contract for a $1.3 million heating retrofit project with work to be completed in two phases. Phase one is 195 Carss St. in Smiths Falls in 2023 and phase two is 16 Herriott St. in Perth and 176 Robert St. in Almonte in 2024.

This follows a report by Housing Services Manager Shawna Stone to the community services committee earlier this month. She explained that in the 10-year capital plan, the heating systems at those properties were identified as being in the poorest condition in the housing portfolio and require full replacements. The target is to replace existing electrical systems with high-efficiency gas boilers with an efficiency of 96 per cent or higher. The new boiler plants are intended to provide hydronic heat to units, hallways and hot water tanks.

The county issued a request for proposals (RFP) in 2021 and received one quote, but the project did not proceed due to uncertainties related to the pandemic, such as supply chain and labour. It was reissued in 2022 with no proposals received. This January, a third RFP was issued with one proposal received from 1000 Islands Mechanical. A review of the proposal found it to be a fair price with significant experience and excellent references.

Council passed a further motion asking staff to bring back a report on alternative heating options in order to be prepared for future options in community housing. For more information, contact Emily Hollington, Director of Social Services, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 2101.

Generator Fuel System to be Upgraded at Lanark Lodge: Council has authorized upgrades to the generator fuel system at Lanark Lodge to be completed as soon as possible using reserve funds if necessary.

In a report at the community services committee earlier this month, Director of Long-Term Care Carey Duncan explained an inspection in February determined the generator’s fuel and exhaust system needs to be brought into compliance within 90 days. This will require upgrades to the fuel tank and piping, exhaust and ventilation systems, generator room protection and follow-up inspections. Rental of an alternate generator will be required during the upgrade. Cost is expected to be less than $100,000. For more information, contact Carey Duncan, Director of Long-Term Care, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 7101.

Integrity Commissioner Contract Extended: Council has approved extending the current contract with Cunningham, Swan, Carty, Little and Bonham, the county’s appointed integrity commissioner, for five years. The decision follows a report to the corporate services committee by Clerk Jasmin Ralph earlier this month and exercises the contract renewal clause. Ralph explained all Ontario municipalities must appoint an integrity commission for both council and its boards as part of Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Legislation Act.

The integrity commissioner is an independent and impartial position that reports directly to county council and whose powers and duties are set out in the Municipal Act. They investigate complaints and alleged breaches of the code of conduct for members of council, review the code and make recommendations annually, advise councillors related to the code and rules governing ethical behaviour, provide summaries to council and provide individual investigative reports as required.

Ralph explained the procurement process in 2017 included local municipalities as well. “Lanark County clerks met to discuss the contract, and each of the lower-tier municipalities will be recommending that the contract be extended,” she said, adding the code of conduct is being reviewed and changes will be brought forward for consideration at a future committee meeting. For more information, contact Jasmin Ralph, Clerk, at 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 1502.

Upcoming Meetings: County Council, Wednesday, April 5, 5 p.m.; Community Services, April 5 (following County Council); Corporate Services, April 5 (following Community Services). County Council, Wednesday, April 26, 5 p.m.; Public Works, April 26 (following County Council); Economic Development, April 26 (following Public Works). Watch for details about public access to meetings on agendas and through online notifications. For more information, contact 1-888-9-LANARK, ext. 1502. Like "LanarkCounty1" on Facebook and follow "@LanarkCounty1" on Twitter!

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