Simcoe County Forest ‘Packard Tract’ Forest & Habitat Restoration Project
In 2018, a 42.5 hectare (105.2 acre) parcel was acquired as an addition to the Simcoe County Forest ‘Packard Tract’ in the Township of Essa. An assessment of the property identified opportunities to substantially enhance planned forest restoration to include habitat creation for the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler.
County Council received a report on the progress of work on the Packard Tract. Substantial completion is planned for 2022. The project will include the enhancement of previously planted areas, harvesting, site preparation including a potential controlled burn, seeding, and the planting of 35,400 trees.
This complements and aligns with the Forest and Habitat Restoration Project currently underway in the Museum Tract (Midhurst).
Barrie Collingwood Railway Multi-Use Trail
In 2017, the County purchased a section of the Barrie Collingwood Railway (BCRY) approximately 38 kilometers long which extends from the boundary of the Town of Collingwood to Utopia (Essa Township). A 2018 Preliminary Design Report explored the feasibility of creating a multi-use recreation trail, in alignment with the existing Provincial Policy, Ontario Trails Strategy, Ontario’s Cycling Strategy, Ontario’s Cycling Tourism Plan at the provincial level and County of Simcoe Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan and Trails Strategy at the municipal level.
Council approved including the required studies and detail design for this project in the 2020 capital budget. Councillors also confirmed that the County should preserve the existing right-of-way as a transportation corridor, but discontinue its use as an active rail corridor, which will require the administration to follow a defined public process under the Canada Transportation Act. If successful, this will facilitate the removal of the rails and road signals.
This is a tremendous opportunity to connect Collingwood all the way to Essa with an active transportation trail. Further public consultation will occur as this project unfolds.
County prioritizes curbside recycling collection
The County continues to experience impacts to curbside waste collection services, primarily blue box pick-ups, and is now taking further steps to get waste materials off the streets. In addition to prioritizing garbage and organics to minimize collection misses of these materials, and limit odour impacts to residents, the County has brought in an additional contractors to support with the collection of recycling to the end of September 2019.
As the County’s contractor, Waste Connections, continues to experience challenges with staffing due to labour shortages, County Council voted to cancel this year’s curbside collection of electronics, which had been scheduled to occur from September 16 through 27, to allow more resources to focus on the collection of garbage, organics and recycling materials. The cancellation of the curbside electronics collection program for 2019, and these other changes, will not result in any additional costs to taxpayers.
Residents are reminded that electronics can be dropped off at a County waste management facility free of charge at any time throughout the year during regular operating hours.
The best way to receive information in real time is through the new Simcoe County Collects app, which can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play free of charge.
Lake Simcoe Regional Airport Ownership
In 2009, the City of Barrie and the Township of Oro-Medonte authorized the creation of a municipal services corporation to manage the strategic and day to day requirements of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport. In 2014, the Airport Agreement was amended to reflect the County of Simcoe's purchase of 20% of the City of Barrie's shares. On June 12, 2018, County Council approved a resolution which received a new Strategic Plan for the LSRA, requiring substantial investment to expand the regional airport in an effort to boost regional economic development, create jobs and grow commercial, passenger and commuter air traffic.
County Council approved the acquisition of an additional 50 shares from the City of Barrie and 20 shares from the Township of Oro-Medonte, which will see the County of Simcoe become the majority shareholder with 90 shares. The City of Barrie will continue as a key joint owner holding a 10-per-cent stake in the regional airport. The strategic acquisition will allow further development and expansion of the airport to serve regional economic development and job creation objectives. Consultation and engagement with the public regarding the strategic plan will be scheduled in the near future.
Long-Term Care Funding
On May 28th and 29th of 2019, the County of Simcoe received a series of notices from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (LTC) regarding: a 2019/20 accommodation fee increase of 2.3 per cent to all LTC residents, an annual inflationary increase of 1.0 per cent to Long-Term Care Homes, Level of Care funding based on the 2017/18 annual Case Mix Index results; supplemental funding for Behavioural Specialized Unit and High Acuity Priority Access beds (0.7% increase), funding formula changes applied to several program areas; and the elimination of two significant supplemental funding envelopes (High Wage Transition Funding and the Structural Compliance Premium).
As a result of these funding changes to LTC, the County of Simcoe will experience a provincial funding cut of $380,675 in 2019 with an annualized impact of $875,418 in 2020. County Council approved plans to employ an annual funding stabilization fund of $340,000 to offset the 2019 impact, leaving a net shortfall of $40,675 and $535,418 beginning in 2020. New base funding will also be allocated to increase 0.5 FTE of Personal Support Worker hours at Simcoe Manor and an in-depth review of operations will be undertaken to identify potential strategies to reduce costs to address the remaining funding shortfall of $41,000 in 2019.