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City considers suspending certain road programs, limiting access to municipal facilities as council grapples with a $2.5 million shortfall

KAWARTHA LAKES-The City of Kawartha Lakes is considering suspending certain 2020 operating road programs such as ditching and brushing, deferring capital projects and maintaining limited public access to various buildings and facilities as council grapples with a $2.5 million dollar budget shortfall.

CAO Ron Taylor explained that the City continues to target “break even” on the 2020 year-end budget, despite over $5.7 million in budget pressure due to the pandemic. To date, staff have generated $3.3 million in savings, leaving a remaining $2.5 million forecasted shortfall. At the July 28th council meeting council directed staff to work with all departments to further reduce 2020 budgets through continued service suspensions and reductions, where appropriate and feasible.

Mayor Letham commented, “This was a bold decision by Council today. We’re trying to close the gap between revenues and expenses, and work toward a balanced budget. I believe our cautious approach to bringing services back will achieve this. It’s going to mean some continued inconveniences between now and year end, but I think our residents appreciate that we’re focused on delivering the essential services while keeping taxes as affordable as possible during these difficult times.”

The Federal government has announced $4 billion in one-time emergency assistance to all Ontario municipalities over the next four to six months. This shared funding is targeted toward municipal operating relief, transit, social services and public health.

Taylor  provided a presentation to Council summarizing the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a review of service levels and finances to date at the meeting.

In order to have the lead time to prepare ice pads and to provide community groups and leagues the assurance of ice availability, staff recommended to Council that six arenas (seven total ice pads) be prepped for staggered openings through the fall based on demand: Lindsay will open first, followed by Fenelon Falls, Little Britain, Emily/Omemee if demand warrants. Following that, Woodville and Manvers arenas will open if warranted. These facilities are geographically spread out throughout the municipality, and partially staffed already or serving other functions. Health and safety protocols for the first opening at the Lindsay Recreation Complex on August 17 will involve strict parameters such as no access to dressing rooms and limited numbers of users.

Oakwood, Bobcaygeon and Ops arenas would remain closed for the 2020-21 season, but could be available for public meetings, gatherings and other recreational functions.

“User groups are going to need some flexibility as they’re dealing with unknowns. We’ll try to meet the demand while avoiding opening buildings that are not used to their full potential,” commented Mayor Letham.

Officials say staff has polled user groups for 2020-21 ice pad bookings and interest expressed suggests strong demand for ice pad bookings, with many facilities exceeding on average 40 hours per week.

Officials say they are working toward the following targeted re-openings as well:

  • Fitness classes at Lindsay Recreation Centre beginning August 10, Gym (fitness equipment) to open August 31, by registration
  • Lindsay Arena (ice pads) to open August 17 subject to demand
  • Arena Halls (Fenelon Falls, Emily/Omemee, Little Britain and Lindsay) to open August 4 for bookings
  • Targeting 1-2 multi-function service centres to potentially open later in August/early September to provide certain services to the public (under review)

Kawartha Lakes entered Stage 3 of re-opening as of July 17

  • Most businesses and services can open in Stage 3, subject to compliance with varying health protocols and occupancy limitations.
  • Indoor gathering limits increased to a maximum 50 people, outdoor gathering limits increased to a maximum 100 people.
  • Childcare centres permitted to increase children attendance (effective July 27)
  • Mandatory masks in commercial establishments effective July 13, updated July 17 to apply to all places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public.
  • Many services have returned including landfills, public swimming at Lindsay Recreation Complex, some library services and recreation facilities. For a full list of services that have been restored and those that remain closed.

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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