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As was announced last week, Councillors are now back at City Hall chambers, but the media and public still need to tune into the stream. But it was still nice to see them back in their usual spots behind plexiglass—and get better audio.

Mayor Danny Breen also said it was “great to be back” after being away for several weeks.

Cllr Ian Froude was absent and Cllr Ophelia Ravencroft was attending the meeting virtually.

Mayor Breen kicked off the meeting by proclaiming today as Heritage Day and the third week for February—so, this week—as Heritage Week.

“Heritage Day is the time to reflect on the achievements of past generations and to accept responsibility for protecting our heritage. And whereas our citizens should be encouraged to celebrate Newfoundland and Labrador’s uniqueness and to rejoice in their heritage and environment,” he said.

“And whereas in 2022 the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador will celebrate their rich and diverse heritage.”

Then they ran a Civic Awards video, starring Cllr Maggie Breen, featuring several historic restored homes that celebrate built heritage. She said in the video that nominations for Heritage Awards are now open until March 31—but more on that later on in the meeting.

First item on the agenda, Council approved the reappointment of Ken Baggs and Andrea Marshall as the City’s two representatives on the St. John’s International Airport Authority Board of Directors. It’s for a three year term that starts once their current term expires on August 31.

According to the agenda, Board Chair of the SJIAA Tom Williams—yes, he’s the brother of that other Williams—asked Council to approve their reappointment.

Closing the Book on the 2021 City Election

Council then accepted the tabled Election 2021 Final Report and its recommendations.

Cllr Burton thanked the City’s clerks for putting this report together, as well as for its suggestions for future elections. She noted the City doubled the number of drop off centres for ballots, going from five to 11.

You can check out the Final Report here, starting on page 19 but for some highlights, the election cost $354,755, a similar figure to previous years even though there were additional costs that came with doubling the number of satellite centers and the increased costs of professional and special services.

As well, the report stated voter turnout was 47.1 percent of registered voters, slightly below previous elections. It cited a few factors for the decline, like how Mayor Breen, Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary and Cllr Ian Froude were all acclaimed. As well, it added that voter fatigue could have been an influencing factor because it was the third election in eight months—which Mayor Breen echoed in his comments in council.

Another interesting feature of the report is the final breakdown of voter turnout by age bracket, revealing a strong turnout of the 18-24 group but a markedly low turnout among those aged 25-44.

Breakdown of voters in the 2021 St. John’s municipal election by age. (Source: City Agenda, 21 February 2022.)

Some of the report’s recommendations for future elections include making sure that staff who are familiar with operating the letter opener machinery are around to help out with things like torn ballots that have to be recreated in front of scrutineers.

As well, the report suggested that the counting room get a different layout so scrutineers can look on safely from a distance for “social distancing rules.” (This raises a couple further questions: do scrutineers always have to be a certain distance away or is this about COVID-19? And as a follow up, when we have the next municipal election in 2025, does that mean they’re anticipating social distancing will still be around?)

The final and third recommendation was that the City consider using a food delivery app so election workers at satellite drop off centers can get food on time.

Moving on, Council voted to consider a draft Envision St. John’s Development Regulations Amendment Number 8, 2022 and advertise the amendment for public review and comment.

Cllr Burton said these changes will be sent out for public review and comment. At this meeting they were just voting on considering the amendment. Anyone interested in looking at it, it’ll be advertised in The Telegram and on the City’s website.

Zoning Map of the City of St. John’s. (Source: City Agenda, 21 February 2022. The full, zoomable map is featured on page 54.)

Cllr Jill Bruce’s Time to Shine

Council signed off on the Review of Permit Process Audit Report and the associated action plans put forth by management.

“The Office of the City Internal Auditor recently completed a review of the permit process involving the Regulatory Services Division of the Department of Planning, Engineering and Regulatory Services,” said Cllr Jill Bruce.

“The review identified numerous positive outcomes. However, the review also found various areas for improvement. Details of these opportunities and related recommendations can be found in the attached audit report. Management have responded to all recommendations and have also provided action plans and implementation dates for the recommendations.”

“The Office of the City Internal Auditor would like to thank the Supervisor, Inspections Services and Manager, Regulatory Services Division for their invaluable help and time during this review.”

Council voted to rescind the existing Internal Audit Charter Policy and replace it with the revised Internal Audit Charter Policy.

She said Council approved an Audit Charter Policy at its April 17, 2006 meeting and up to now, there had been no further updates.

“The Office of the City Internal Auditor has reviewed and revised the policy to be consistent with best practices of the IIA or Institute of Internal Auditors, an international professional association that represents the internal auditing profession. Their International Professional Practices Framework provides the conceptual framework that organizes authoritative guidance approved by the IIA, including a Model Internal Audit Activity Charter—that’s a mouthful—which was used to form the basis of the revised policy.”

Council then approved the 2022 Audit Plan.

“In accordance with audit standards prescribed by the Institute of Internal Auditors, each full program review conducted by the Office of the City Internal Auditor will have three main objectives: To ensure services are managed with due regard to significant risks that could possibly have a negative impact on the ability of the division or department to meet its objectives. To ensure services are delivered in accordance with prescribed policies, procedures and Council or Board directives. And to ensure that processes are implemented to inform, direct, manage and monitor activities that are intended to facilitate the achievement of the City’s strategic goals,” said Cllr Bruce.

Flower Power

Kelloway Construction Limited secured a $315,000 contract for a three year period (HST not included) to service City properties as part of general maintenance and/or repair of its buildings. 

The agenda states “The City currently does not have the resources or staff to accomplish these services in a timely manner.”

According to the agenda, there were two other bids; Urban Contracting (J. J. Walsh) Limited ($523,500) and Arc Ent Ltd ($662,100).

Hickey’s Greenhouses & Nurseries Ltd., with a bid of $67,161.59 (plus HST), got the contract for the supply and delivery of annuals to Bowring Park. The flowers will then be distributed and planted by staff at parks like Bannerman, Bowring, Victoria, as well as some monument sites and City buildings.

The other bid came from Pat’s Plants and Gardens for $69,222.50.

And we’re at the final item on Monday’s agenda: Council approved the appointment of Joey Warford and Brittany Benson as At Large members to fill vacancies on the Shea Heights Community Centre Board of Directors.

There can be a maximum of 20 people on the board, noted Cllr Carl Ridgeley.

Cllr Ron Ellsowrth threw his support behind the new members, saying Warford is an active member of the community and Benson is a young person who availed on the community centre, so it was good to see her volunteering with the centre.

The Go Round

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said it’s great to be back in chambers and working in-person. She said she had one big thing to talk about and it’s the St. John’s Applause Awards, “much like the Oscars, it’s award season.” Nominations are open and close on March 31.

The five categories are: Heritage Awards, Building Healthy Communities Volunteer Awards, Tourism Awards, Youth of the Year Awards, and Senior of the Year Award.

“So we have many citizens and organizations that make our City great and certainly we are looking for you, the public, to help us identify those individuals and to recognize them,” she said.

Cllr Burton said she gets a lot of questions about what’s eligible for a heritage award. You can get an award for “Preserving or restoring the original character of a heritage building or any building in a Heritage Area.”

There’s also rehabilitating an older building, like successfully integrating modern elements. There’s also respecting the character of a modern building in a Heritage Area, or an infill developments that blend into a neighborhood in a Heritage Area.

“You can also be nominated for stewardship and long-term preservation of a heritage building or any building in a Heritage Area,” she said.

Cllr Sandy Hickman said he’s heard from numerous developers about Redmond’s Road, which he said he knows will be difficult and pricey to develop. He added a study was done a few years back and he wondered if they could have a discussion on its potential for development.

Deputy City Manager of Planning and Engineering Jason Sinyard popped up, saying they could bring it up at the Committee on the Whole with a status update.

Moving on, Cllr Debbie Hanlon said Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking for mentors—which she also volunteers with.

She said the City’s adult programming has resumed and they will be looking at senior events as they come up and they’ll assess them individually and regularly.

On March 1 there will be a pancake, bingo and brunch event, she said. It’s happening at the Paul Reynolds Community Centre.

She also gave her support for the St. John’s Applause Awards, saying the Senior of the Year award is for seniors who’ve made a difference in their community.

Cllr Jamie Korab congratulated Team Gushue on their bronze at the Winter Olympics.

Cllr Ridgeley said he wanted to reassure the residents of Southlands and in higher elevated areas that he and staff are working on a solution to the problem of recycling being thrown around by high winds. For now, he advised people to either cover up their recycling when putting it out or keep it in when high winds are a problem.

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Elizabeth Whitten is a St. John's-based journalist and The Independent's St. John's municipal politics reporter. She's previously worked for allNewfoundlandLabrador and Downhome Magazine, and her work has been published by CBC, The Overcast, and the Toronto Star. She's currently writing a book about how Dr. Cluny Macpherson invented the gas mask in World War One.