MAHC facing $3 million deficit
The head of Muskoka Algonquin Health Care painted a grim picture of the organization’s financial condition during a visit to Bracebridge general committee earlier this week.
Muskoka Algonquin CEO Natalie Bubela said the organization’s financial outlook is “dismal”, and they are currently facing a projected deficit of $3 million for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Bubela said the organization, which operates both of Muskoka’s hospitals, needs $9 million in equipment and technology upgrades and $30 million in infrastructure. She said those costs far outweigh the money they bring in through their foundations and auxiliaries.
Hospitals are responsible for 100% of the cost of new and replacement equipment, as well as facility renovations.
Despite the challenges, Bubela said there are opportunities available for funding and MAHC remains optimistic that they can access those funds.
Evelyn Brown, the MAHC board chair, said the standards for healthcare are changing and significant retrofits to the hospitals are required. However, she emphasized that neither the hospital in Bracebridge or the one in Huntsville are closing any time soon.
Mayor Graydon Smith said council will continue to support MAHC and advocate with the Ministry of Health.
Impact of development fee cuts remains unclear
The effect of significant cuts to development fees in Bracebridge remains unclear some three years after the policy was initiated.
In July of 2014, Bracebridge council opted to slash the cost of non-residential development from $14.63 per square metre to zero. The District Of Muskoka also imposed significant cuts to their development charges.
On Tuesday, Bracebridge general committee was reviewing the schedule for 2018 municipal budget deliberations when Coun. Rick Maloney asked staff what effect the development charge cuts had on new development so far.
Cheryl Kelly, the town’s director of development, said she had no firm figures but anecdotally it appeared to be making a difference. She said the recent decision by Mattamy Homes to re-start work on their Bracebridge subdivision could by directly connected to the cuts.
Town treasurer Stephen Rettie, said according to the percentage of commercial assessment, there was a small but gradual increase since the decision, but he agreed that it was difficult to determine the actual impact of the cuts.
Kerr Park revamp continues
The tennis courts at Kerr Park have taken the next stage in their ongoing renovations.
The courts had fallen into a state of ill repair in recent years, but on Tuesday the Town’s general committee agreed to $82,000 worth of upgrades to the court’s lighting system.
In 2016, two of the four tennis courts at Kerr Park were resurfaced and both
tennis and pickleball lines were incorporated.
Staff are awaiting the results of the Recreation Parks and Trails Master Plan to determine if additional tennis courts are required or if the remaining two courts should be repurposed to meet other hard surface sport court needs.
The repair or repurpose of the remaining two courts will be included in the Town’s draft 2018 Municipal Budget and Business Plan.
Sidewalk safety toops council concerns
Concerns over the safety of pedestrians in the Bracebridge Falls area sparked a debate during Bracebridge’s most recent general committee meeting on Tuesday.
Coun. Mark Quemby said recently he had heard from several concerned citizens regarding the stretch of road on Dill Street leading down to Wharf Road. The area currently has no sidewalk, and Quemby said the stretch is on a steep, winding section of road that is heavily used by pedestrians.
Coun. Steve Clement said that strip of road has been an issue for years but the big problem is that it is bordered by private property on one side of the road and solid rock on the other.
Mayor Graydon Smith he didn’t want staff to divert their attention into the issue right now. He said staff already have a plan for sidewalks, and council should leave up to them to decide based on their own criteria.
“If we did this every time someone asks us about a sidewalk, staff would be writing reports on sidewalks all the time,” said Smith.
None the less, the majority of council agreed that the stretch of Dill Street should be included for consideration by staff in future sidewalk planning.
Bracebridge wants more river patrols
Bracebridge councillors wants more cops on the water.
That was the message during a Bracebridge general committee meeting earlier this week.
Coun. Mark Quemby said he’s heard from paddling clubs saying they have concerns about the safety of the Muskoka River, and the speed of vessels traveling the waterway.
Quemby, who lives on the river, said it appears to him that patrols by the OPP are down this year, and they do provide an effective deterrent to unsafe boating.
Coun. Archie Buie agreed, and said he had recently been contacted by a constituent who was concerned about unsafe boating and the effect it was having on the erosion of the shoreline.
The committee agreed to officially ask the OPP to increase marine patrols on the Muskoka River.
Bandshell could be dedicated in Maestro’s memory
“The Maestro has left us.”
That will be the inscription on a new plaque at the bandshell in Memorial Park in Bracebridge if all goes according to plan.
Earlier this week Bracebridge general committee considered a request from Anna Granger – the daughter of John Morra, who was the Bandmaster of the Bracebridge Citizens’ Band from 1929 to 1956.
Morra passed away in 1972, but his daughter said the bandleader had brought a great deal of joy to the citizens of Bracebridge on Monday nights during the summer for 27 years.
Council was largely supportive of the idea, reminiscing on scenes of the band playing to the crowd in the park during days past.
The idea will now be referred to Town staff.