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Virtual town hall attracts three presenters

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What had been billed as a two-hour town hall for members of the public to make presentations to members of North Bay council Monday took less than half an hour, and attracted only three presentations.

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The community safety zone on Jane Street, the progress of the city’s strategic plan and efforts to green the city were the only issues eight members of council, including Mayor Al McDonald, were presented with.

Council held its first two town halls in September and November 2020 after a series of changes were made to the city’s procedural bylaw in 2019.

The changes included an end to five-minute presentations, which could be scheduled on relatively short notice. Ten-minute presentations, of which up to three could be made per meeting, were continued.

“This is an opportunity to engage with the public,” McDonald said in kicking off the short session, providing a less stressful forum than making presentations at formal council meetings.

The city’s strategic plan, Rod Bilz said in his presentation, is falling short in two areas. While it is effective at setting out the city’s mission statement and strategic priorities, it is “not doing a great job” in communicating the aims of the plan and setting out accountability.

“One of the missing parts, the communications, is the biggest one I see really lacking,” Bilz noted.

There is little on the city’s website, he said, explaining how the plan is applied or what progress the city is making.

Other municipalities, he said, are doing a good job getting the message to members of the community, reporting on progress toward achieving their goals and providing quarterly reports on where they are.

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Bilz noted the city is five years into its strategic plan, and this would be a good time to ramp up its public profile.

The city also needs to “build more resiliency” in the fight against climate change, Peggy Walsh Craig, chair of Trees for Nipissing, said in her presentation.

Her suggestion is that the city get on board with local volunteer efforts to plant more trees and shrubs, a $15,000 ask that would be able to provide homeowners across the city with what they need to help the climate.

This past weekend, Walsh Craig said, about two-dozen volunteers planted 250 trees and shrubs at the former Marsh Drive landfill site.

Planting flora like this, she said, helps alleviate flooding and erosion.

The Marsh Drive site is uphill of Chippewa Creek, she pointed out, and the plantings will help absorb rainwater, especially after heavy storms.

She has approached members of council in the past on the issue, she said, although the idea “hasn’t come to fruition yet.”

Maggie Daniel, a resident in the Jane Street area, is concerned about the traffic along the street, noting the “majority of vehicular traffic is speeding … with a large number going over 80 km/h, which is considered stunt driving.”

She pointed specifically to the presence around École secondaire catholique Algonquin, and the safety concerns over the large number of students and other pedestrians in the area.

“Action needs to be taken,” she said, and although temporary speed-monitoring equipment has been set up in an attempt to get drivers to slow down, it isn’t enough.”

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She wants to see North Bay follow the example of other municipalities, which have installed speed-monitoring radar and automated speed enforcement systems.

The temporary equipment now aimed at eastbound drivers, she said, has helped reduce speeding a bit, but the permanent equipment in use elsewhere “has been shown to alter” driving habits where they are in use.

Daniel also recommended a four-way stop at the intersection of Harvey and Jane streets, which would provide a safe place for pedestrians to cross the road.

Presentations could only be made electronically.

On the web: www.youtube.com/user/thecityofnorthbay

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