Cobourg Taxpayers Association Celebrates Five Year Anniversary

The Cobourg Taxpayers association (CTA) is celebrating its five year anniversary.

There has been so much that has happened over the five years and with your help, we have accomplished so much. 

We have made numerous presentations and delegations, sent letters and emails to Council, met with individual Councillors and Town staff, and have spoken out when we felt residents were unfairly treated. 

We have worked to help residents address their concerns and issues with the Town. We will continue to do so and welcome everyone to contact us when assistance is needed in addressing their concerns.

We now take a moment out to list some of the more significant accomplishments over the last five years. 

Thank you to all for continuing to make Cobourg the best place to live.

Close the Beach Petition (May 2020)

The CTA prepared and hosted an online petition to close the Victoria Beach for the summer to keep Cobourg residents safe.

With the number of COVID-19 cases in the area low, residents were concerned that visitors to our beach from areas where the virus cases were significantly higher could spread the virus within our community.

The online petition signatures by location:

Council voted unanimously to keep the beach closed until August 31, 2020.

Improvement to Municipal Complaint Process (November 2019)

The complaint filed by the CTA to the Ombudsman for the improper closed meeting in November 2019 also included a concern the Town did not adequately respond to CTA complaints. Although the Ombudsman did not find a breach in the procedures, he did advise better clarity in the responses.

A private citizen also presented a delegation to Council on the Complaint procedure being inadequate.

The Town approved a much-improved Complaint Policy with timelines.

New Procedures for Public Notification and Engagement of Planning Act Applications (November 2019)

The CTA provided input at a public meeting on recommendations to improve the public notification, engagement, and meeting procedures for Planning Act applications.

Many of these recommendations are now included in the procedure.

Williams St. Brewery Overbilling Refunded (August 2019)

The Williams Street Brewery (WSBC) was overbilled for water and sewer charges. The overcharge resulted from a faulty “smart” water meter, which reported usage significantly in excess of the actual usage. WSBC made numerous attempts to resolve the issue including meetings with Lakefront Utilities Services Inc. (LUSI) executives, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), and appeals to the Mayor and LUSI’s Board of Directors. None was successful.

The CTA provided WSBC assistance with research, analysis, presentation material, and delegation presentation tips.

WSBC made a delegation to Council resulting in LUSI being directed to pay $10,000 to WSBC for the overbilling plus interest.

East Village Curbs and Sidewalks Completed (June 2019)

Residents of the East Village subdivision development had gone for over two years without their driveways being completed. The developer had not installed curbs and sidewalks, contrary to the subdivision agreement with the Town. This prevented the builder from completing the driveway work.

The CTA assisted the residents in lobbying Council with the preparation and presentation of their delegation to Council.

The issue was resolved prior to the delegation, by the developer agreeing to get the curb and sidewalk work done.

Question and Answer (Q&A) at Committee of the Whole Council Meetings Implemented (February 2019)

The CTA requested Council provide residents with an opportunity to be able to ask questions at Council meetings. We also made this an issue during the 2018 election campaign. In February 2018, Council added into the Procedural Bylaw the ability for people to ask questions at the end of Committee of the Whole Council meetings.

Improper Closed Meeting (November 2018)

The CTA filed a complaint with the Town Ombudsman that:
the Parks & Recreation Advisory Steering Committee meetings were not open to the public and failed to provide agendas and minutes of the meeting.

The Ombudsman agreed with our complaint that this was an improper closed meeting.

Waterfront Plan Marina Expansion Stopped (June 2018)

The Waterfront Plan contained an extensive section on expanding the marina into the West Harbour. This was opposed by the CTA as well as numerous concerned citizens and groups including the POHH (Preserve Our Heritage Harbour) and the Dragon Boat/Canoe Club. Fourteen delegations to Council were heard on the topic, including several by the CTA. Most opposed the marina’s expansion into the west harbour.

Council decided that there would be no Marina expansion into the west harbour.

CTA Proposes a Substantial Salary Increase for Councillors (May 2018)

The CTA did a delegation to Council making a case for substantially increasing the salaries of Councillors.

Salaries paid to Councillors is below the minimum wage. The salary should be adequate to attract a more diverse mix of candidates. It would also encourage a new broader pool of candidates and the retention of qualified individuals.

The CTA did another delegation on this subject in May 2019. Even though Council did not approve the increase, we will continue to bring this matter forward in the future at the appropriate time.

Ombudsman Fee Eliminated (November 2017)

The Town’s fee schedule included a $25 fee to submit a complaint to the Town Ombudsman. No other Ombudsman organization charged a fee and the CTA was successful in eliminating this fee.

Sidewalks Priority Policy Implemented (May 2017)

The CTA assisted residents from Abbott Boulevard and Northwood Drive, who did not want sidewalks installed on their streets. The CTA showed residents on how to lobby Council and effectively present their concerns by delegations to Council. In response to the Abbott Boulevard delegation, Council asked staff to prepare priority guidelines to determine the priority order for sidewalk installation. Sidewalk installation was suspended until the guidelines were approved by Council.

Northwood Drive successfully argued that a non-existing school should be removed from the score grid. This lowered Northwood’s priority score and the sidewalk installation was cancelled.

Council Meetings to be Broadcast (July 2016)

The CTA conducted a survey in December 2015 asking residents “Do you support having all Council meetings video-recorded and available on YouTube?”

97% replied yes. The CTA emailed Councillors with the results and were finally able to convince Council to broadcast Council meetings.

Lakefront Utilities Inc. (LUI) Proposed Rate Increase Reduced During the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) Hearing (July 2016)

In 2016, LUI filed a cost of service increase application with the OEB as required every 4 to 5 years. The OEB uses the application to set the rates LUI can charge for its services.

The OEB invites the public to participate. Several “professional” intervenors, Energy Probe and the Vulnerable Energy Consumers Coalition (VECC) had applied to be present. The CTA joined them. The additional cost to LUI due to the intervenors was about $39,000, of which the CTA’s portion was $600.

As a result of the intervenor’s participation, LUI’s cost of service request and the proposed rate increase was reduced by 24%. This was effective over the 5 year term of the agreement (2017-2022).

Skateboard Park to Remain Open (April 2016)

The CTA brought attention to the Town wanting to close the skateboard park. The CTA encouraged Town staff and user groups to meet and talk about the issue. A news release brought further attention to this issue.

The result was the skateboard park being repaired, rather than being demolished. The skateboard park is still in operation today. (Sept 2020)

Northumberland Medical Arts Inc. (NMAI) Development Fee Waiver Rejected (December 2015)

NMAI was a consortium of doctors and investors proposing to build a “medical arts building” (doctors private practice offices) on hospital land at the corner of Burnham Street and Depalma Drive. NMAI asked the Town to waive over $312,000 in development charges and other fees.

The CTA opposed this, as it appeared to be contrary to the Municipal Act, sect 106, which denies financial assistance to commercial enterprises.

The CTA made delegations to Council on this topic and encouraged concerned citizens to contact Council members. Council deferred a decision on the issue to enable it to do further due diligence.

At the end of February 2016, Council denied NMAI’s waiver request.

New Grants Policy Created (October 2015)

The CTA presented a delegation to Council, outlining areas for improving the current Grants policy. Council requested a review and implemented a more comprehensive Grants policy.