Cobourg Council – Mayor Misses Out on Reaction to County Council Vote

In City Hall, Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Absent because of the Northumberland County council meeting he attended earlier that day, Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty said at this week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting of Cobourg council – and because he was still busy with county council business – Mayor Lucas Cleveland was not present for some questioning from a rare committee-of-the-whole open forum participant.

It was actually two participants, a man and a woman, who took advantage of the time slot at the end of Monday’s meeting to address the mayor on the vote that had been passed earlier that day at county council – to proceed with clearing out the encampment of homeless individuals who had been on county property at 600 William St. in Cobourg for several weeks, after they relocated there from several weeks on the town’s west beach.

As Cobourg’s delegate on county council, Cleveland was the one the first speaker wanted to address on the decision to make this move with a 24-hr. time frame during a heat wave.

“I wanted to know who brought the motion forward to direct county staff with 24 hours notice and, as a representative from Cobourg, what does he believe is the answer,” he said.

“The beach was the wrong place, the county building is the wrong place. Where do we house the unhoused? That’s my questions for the mayor, who is not present.”

Presiding in Cleveland’s absence, Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty could offer few answers.

“My understanding is, that information will be coming out through Northumberland County council tomorrow,” Beatty guessed.

“Today’s meeting is available for viewing on-line. My understanding is that the motion arose from closed session.”

The female participant spoke at greater length, saying she would address council in the absence of the mayor.

“I’m really disappointed the mayor isn’t here today as well but, more important, I wanted to look at every one of you, look you in the eye, and ask what are you doing?”

She referred to an earlier report on the town’s finances that indicated its revenues and surpluses being up by $17-million and its expenses being up by $5-million – couldn’t that $12-million make some kind of dent in the problem, she wondered.

And what about the promise once offered by the vacated Brookside youth correctional facility?

The stock answer is that housing is the county’s responsibility, she continued, but “I am looking at each of you to say what more are you going to do moving forward?”

The town stands ready to assist the county with affordable housing, Councillor Brian Darling said.

“We put some Cobourg tax dollars aside to help when the county came up with a plan, so those dollars are sitting there waiting.”

As for Brookside, Councillor Adam Bureau said, it’s still in the hands of Infrastructure Ontario, and no progress can be made on any chance of making it available for the town’s use at this time.

He recalled the presentation made to county council by several concerned Cobourg councillors last year, but there’s only so much the town can do.

“From my understanding of the Municipal Act, we can assist the county, but we can’t shelter them,” he said.

He reiterated that the town is ready to help the county in any way asked, and does take the initiative on sheltering in such emergency situations as last year’s extreme-weather events.

“I strongly recommend that everybody who wants to advocate for the unsheltered should go to county council and make your delegation,” Bureau urged.

“They have the staff. They have the money. They have the professionalism.”

Beatty called for more participation by member municipalities (including Cobourg) on county planning and initiatives on this issue.

“This is not a Cobourg-specific issue – all of Northumberland is going to experience the struggle we are seeing in larger municipalities, and we heard that loud and clear at AMO,” she said, referring to the recent annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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