During their Monday, June 22 virtual meeting, members of Council were advised by staff that the most recent estimate of the costs to the municipality resulting from the COVID-19 state of emergency will be more than $145,000.
Staff had previously estimated an impact to the municipality of just over $86,000, however as the state of emergency continues to remain in effect, costs continue to rise.
“Report CAO2020-06 COVID-19 Update #2 highlighted the net financial impact of lost revenues and added expenses up to June 30 at $86,300,” CAO Rob Armstrong told council in his update report. “Costs for implementing mitigation measures such as signage and plexiglass barriers at various locations to allow public access are estimated at upwards of $20,000 for all facilities. Purchases of required personal protective equipment, sanitizers, and added cleaning supplies are expected to be upwards of $10,000 for the remainder of the year. Staff also expect that with the return to work of staff and the need for enhanced daily cleaning at facilities, total added costs could be as much as $30,000 for the remainder of the year. Given the above, staff now expect the minimum financial impact of the emergency to be $146,300.”
In presenting his report to council, Armstrong stressed that the projected financial impact is an estimate and could grow.
“Further losses can be expected if added revenue shortfalls occur should Meaford Hall not be able to reopen shortly and if possible revenues streams from the Harbour and Memorial Park are not met,” noted Armstrong.
As the province slowly reopens, municipalities are grappling with delivering services while at the same time meeting stringent distancing and cleaning requirements; a challenge, given recent calls for the reopening of Meaford's public washrooms.
“Should the municipality be able to start Phase 3 of the Parks and Facilities Reopening Plan later this summer or early fall, significantly more cleaning will be required at public washrooms. It is anticipated that upwards of an extra 100 hours per week of staff time will be required to meet this cleaning program. For every month that all public washroom facilities are open, staff estimate the cost of added staffing and cleaning supplies to be a minimum of $9,400,” Armstrong told council.
Early in Monday's meeting two deputations were made calling on the municipality to reopen public washrooms at Meaford Hall, and at parks with such facilities. While staff have planned to install portable toilets at some locations as many municipalities are currently doing, some members of Council were adamant that Meaford should instead open its public washrooms to the public.
Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney inquired as to what would be involved with opening the Meaford Hall washrooms to the public.
“It depends on the level of service that is desired,” municipal Clerk Matt Smith told Council. “During normal times, the washrooms at Meaford Hall are open pretty much nine to five, Monday to Friday, and then whenever the building is in use at other times. The building isn't in use at all right now, so it would very much depend on what Council wanted as far as access to that building.”
Smith explained that because there is no outside access to the Meaford Hall washrooms, in order to open them to the public the lower level of the building would need to be staffed for the entirety of the desired operating hours.
“It would have to be manned 100 percent of the time that it is open,” Smith advised. “Right now we have some staff in upstairs, but we don't have staff there full time, some are working from home, and obviously we have laid off our part-time and casual employees. So, opening the (Meaford Hall) washrooms Monday to Friday, nine to five, wouldn't be too difficult. There would be cleaning costs associated with that.”
Smith noted however that the expressed desire has been for those washrooms to be open into the evenings, which would add to the required staff hours and cost.
Councillor Ross Kentner suggested that Meaford should abandon the plan for portable toilets and instead open the washroom facilities at Meaford's parks.
Smith reminded Council that Meaford is still in phase two of Ontario's re-opening plan.
“We are still in phase two within the reopening plan, and we don't want to be encouraging large numbers of people into our parks and so on,” Smith noted, adding that phase three will present more opportunities for the return of services. In phase three the provincial plan specifically references the reopening of washroom facilities in municipal parks and municipal halls.
Staff made six recommendations to Council as follows:
1. Directs staff to retain a consultant to complete the development of a corporate Communications Strategy by the end of 2020, with an upset limit of $35,000, funded through the Economic Development Reserve Fund;
2. Directs staff to strive to re-open customer service activities at the Administration Office, Council Chambers, and Fire Hall as of July 6, 2020, pending acquisition of protective equipment and provincial regulations;
3. Directs staff to provide public washrooms (port-a-potties) in select municipal parks from June 26, 2020, based on a twice-daily cleaning procedure, pending acquisition of protective equipment and provincial regulations;
4. Delegates authority to the CAO to adapt corporate policy where necessary for the remainder of the municipal emergency;
5. Adopts the Municipality of Meaford Facilities Reopening document as a guiding document, and;
6. Direct staff to continue with the Patio Pilot Project and approve funding from the Community Improvement Plan to cover the application fees and costs to establish the patio in accordance with the Community and Economic Improvement Plans.
Council approved the recommendations from staff with only Councillor Ross Kentner voting against.
Other highlights from staff's COVID-19 update report to Council:
Service Level Changes/Non-budgeted costs
Some service level changes have already been decided by Council or the Emergency Control Group, including the closure of the Blue Dolphin Pool and the cancellation of municipal summer camps in 2020. Other recreation services are discussed in more detail below.
The following service level changes are considered operational, minor in nature, and have been approved by the Senior Management Team.
Museum Gift Shop & Tourist Information Centre
Both of these items are 'high-touch' in nature, whether they be customer viewing of gift shop items or browsing of tourism brochures.
These services will be limited to a smaller selection than normal, and will be available on request, instead of providing direct customer access.
Leaf and Yard Waste Fees
Fees for the purchase of mulch and other items at the Leaf and Yard Waste Depot have been waived for 2020 to avoid cash handling issues.
Marriage ceremonies will only be available in a small-group setting at a municipal facility. Staff will not perform out-of-hours weddings at external locations.
Additional cleaning services will be required at staff locations to ensure that the potential for virus transmission is mitigated.
Parks and Facilities Reopening Plan
A plan has been developed to support a methodological and phased-in approach to responsibly lift restrictions for The Municipality of Meaford’s Municipal Parks and Facilities as we move into the post-peak phase of COVID-19. This document is based on guidance provided by the Grey-Bruce Health Unit, Ministry of Health, as well as the lifting of provisions from the Ontario government.
These considerations support how, not when, we will be able to move into and across the phase of reopening.
Additional signage has been developed and will be posted. Port-a-potties will be located at McCarroll Park, Meaford Harbour, William Croft Athletic Fields, and Memorial Park. These washroom facilities, although provided by a third party, will be serviced by staff. In addition to routine cleaning, surfaces that have frequent contact with hands shall be cleaned and disinfected twice per day. Commonly touched surfaces include doorknobs and handles, door push plates, push buttons, toilet seat, water taps, and push handle of soap dispensers.
With the announcement on June 8 that private campgrounds could open, staff quickly met to determine that the MECG approved date of July 3, 2020, was still appropriate. During the next two weeks seasonal staff will be hired, basic health and safety and workplace training will occur and park opening operations will gear up.
Staff have developed a revised campsite layout that reduces the overall number of sites on the upper deck to accommodate campers with full service trailers only.
The recent announcement from the Province with regard to Phase 2 or reopening has permitted restaurants to open outside patios. The Province has stated the following:
Restaurants, bars, food trucks, and other food and drink establishments (e.g., wineries, breweries, and distilleries) can open for dining in outdoor areas only, such as patios, curbside, parking lots, and adjacent premises.
Establishments must take appropriate measures to ensure physical distancing of at least two metres between patrons from different households, including:
- using reservations
- limiting number of patrons allowed in the outdoor space at one time
- ensuring enough space between tables, including to allow for movement
- access to indoor facilities is limited to patio/outdoor dining area access, food pickup, payment, washrooms, or other health and safety purposes
Liquor sales licensees who wish to temporarily extend the physical size of their existing licensed patio, or temporarily add a new licensed patio within the approved period are authorized to do so, if all the following criteria are met:
- the physical extension of the premises is adjacent to the premises to which the licence to sell liquor applies
- the municipality in which the premises is situated does not object to an extension
- the licensee is able to demonstrate sufficient control over the physical extension of the premises
- there is no condition on the liquor sales licence prohibiting a patio
In order to assist businesses through the recovery, staff suggest that financial assistance be provided from the Community Improvement Plan for 2020. This could be considered under both the Downtown and Economic Community Improvement Plans under accessibility. Council should endorse the continuation of the program and provide the financial assistance under the Plans.
The Farmers’ Market commenced operations in the Market Square on June 12 in a revised format. They will remain at Market Square for the 2020 season. Customers pre-arrange their order with the vendor and pickup in the south-west corner of the Market Square parking lot adjacent to Meaford Hall.
A sub group of the Recovery Support Team has also been working on a proposal for Market Square that would see the western six metres (two parking stall widths) of the parking lot cordoned off by planters to establish an outside picnic area for the public as an important recovery measure to generate liveliness in the downtown. The area would see the removal of 14 parking spaces. In addition to approximately ten picnic tables, there would be garbage/ recycling containers, and three areas for performers. They are also requesting access to public washrooms, preferably at Meaford Hall.
There has been some desire expressed by the Business Improvement Association to consider some use of all or part of Market Square as an event space to assist in the revitalization of the downtown. Staff have indicated that this should be considered as part of the update to the Official Plan as there are many other parts that will need to be considered with a proposal of this nature, such as parking.
It is noted in this report for the purpose of making Council aware of the concept and that staff will continue to work with the sub group to consider the proposal when the Province and Medical Officer of Health consider the lifting of the restrictions and the related guidance documents that would currently apply to this proposal.