By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
The prominent role community input will play in the operation of the prospective shelter at 310 Division St., Cobourg, was the primary focus of the January meeting of Northumberland County council’s Social Services Committee.
This included the announcement (delayed over the Christmas holidays) of the locations of planned in-person meetings and information sessions on the matter:
Jan. 16 – There will be sessions from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and again from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the county building at 600 William St. – but capacity is limited to 25, Manager of Housing Services Rebecca Carman said, so preregistration is required.
Feb. 12 – An in-person drop-in open house that runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. will take place at the Cobourg Legion hall at 135B Orr St.
There will also be three virtual sessions: on Jan. 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and on Jan, 26 from 10 to 11:30 a.m., as well as a 20-minute virtual meeting plus question-and-answer session Feb. 6 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The meeting’s agenda included receiving seven letters in opposition to the project, one of which referred to a petition with 650 signatures. However, the petition could not be accepted, as it does not meet the requirements outlined by Manager of Legislative Services Maddison Mather.
Mather reiterated the county’s commitment to encouraging and accepting citizen engagement to enhance council’s decision-making process, but reiterated requirements for petitions set out in council’s procedural bylaw. Each petition must:
Include a minimum of two persons and their respective addresses
Include on each page a statement of the purpose of the petition
Pertain only to matters relevant to county services
Must contain clear signatures written directly on the document
Must state clearly on each page that it will be considered a public document
Must include the phone number and e-mail address of each signatory for purposes of confirmation and follow-up communications
Each petition received is evaluated on these criteria, Mather said, and this one did not adhere to the requirements.
These safeguards ensure the legitimacy of these petitions, she continued, as opposed to (for example) third-party websites whose standards of control and integrity are less than ideal (and the data collected can be disseminated in ways that signatories may not have intended).
Mather and Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore referred these signatories – and all concerned citizens – to the upcoming consultation sessions, as well as the opportunity to make their views known through such avenues as correspondence, signing up to make a public delegation at a future committee meeting, and the county’s public engagement site Join In Northumberland.
Councillor Olena Hankivsky asked for assurances that this input would be taken into account, and made a motion directing staff to report back with a thematic analysis of community consultations and correspondence received on this matter.
The motion was passed, and Hankivsky also received assurances from Moore, who noted that the services of a professional consultant had been engaged to facilitate the scheduled community sessions and provide a complete report at their conclusion.
“They did think, because of the nature of this project and the level of community involvement to date, that we wanted professional facilitation to co-ordinate that,” she said.
Moore pledged that the county would do its best to include this feedback in any decision-making process.
“We will do our best,” she said.
“We will incorporate as much of their feedback as we can. Obviously, from what we have seen to date, some expectations far exceed what our resources are, so we bring it back to council to decide what we resources we will put in.”
Ultimately, she added, “solutions will be brought forward with implications for staffing and budgeting.”