I am often asked the same questions about city policies and how to navigate City Hall. Here are a few of these Frequently Asked Questions. If you have a question no listed here, please contact me for a personal response.
Q. Why are the city’s financial reports a secret? As a taxpayer, why can I not look at them?
A. In fact, you can review them. The Ontario Municipal Act requires that the standard financial reports of any municipality be made available to the public and without charge. Citizens may view many of the current and/or past financial reports at the Public Library and from the city’s website.
Q. Why are city council meetings a big secret that are held behind closed doors?
A. City Council meetings are required by the Ontario Municipal Act to be announced and open to the public. It also states that municipal governments may not hold secret meetings that are meant to be public. If any constituent became aware of a secret meeting of City Council, they would have the right to file a complaint with the Ontario Ombudsman.
There are some cases where parts of Council meetings may not be made public. They are few and far between and are strictly governed by the Ontario Municipal and Privacy Acts. As an example, any discussion about specific city staff members may not be made public. Further, certain information that the city is privy to with regards to various contract negotiations are also confidential.
These closed door (aka in-camera) sessions are always held during scheduled City Council meetings and are not open to the public or media.
Q. I just found out that my property taxes will increase 20% because of the city’s aging water and sewer system. Really?
A. No. What you heard were rumours. See my Oct.22/14 blog post.
Q. What is the East Waterfront CIP? How do I benefit from it?
A. The East Waterfront Community Improvement Plan was developed in 2006 to help revitalize the East Waterfront community within Ward 2. There are financial incentives available to home owners and businesses that want to improve their properties. Some residents and business owners have already been awarded grants. There is a limited amount of grant money set aside each year.
Q. I have an issue related to my property and have no idea who to talk to at City Hall? What do I do?
A. Contact me and I will help you to navigate City Hall.
Q. I have already talked to City Hall and it was a waste of time. I want to present my case to the Mayor or City Council. Can I do this?
A. Possibly. It depends entirely on what the issue is and if all other options have been explored. Please contact me so that I can discuss your issue with you. If necessary, I can help you escalate your concerns to the Mayor and/or City Council.
Q. I have dead Ash trees on my property that were killed by the Emerald Ash Borer. I heard that the city will remove them if I ask?
Like other municipalities, the city will not remove trees from private property. Tree maintenance and/or removal from private property is the responsibility of the property owner. Trees on private property that pose a danger to public property and/or the public while on public property can be ordered removed by the city. What you have probably heard about is a program to provide rebates that will pay for part of the cost of purchasing trees for private property. See Tree Planting Rebate Program.
Q. Does the city have any other rebates or grants?
Yes! The Environment Advisory Committee also sponsors a limited number of grants for home owners to save water and lower their water bills with low flow toilets. See Low Flow Toilet Rebate Program.
Q. I can no longer drive and will need to use public transportation. I heard that Port Colborne has its own bus service. Does it come anywhere near my house?
A. The City of Port Colborne began offering a community bus service in 2008. See Port Colborne Transit for bus routes, fares and schedules including the Niagara Regional Transit links that can help citizens travel to and from nearly anywhere in Niagara. Citizens of Port Colborne are entitled to FREE BUS SERVICE from/to Ward 2 on days that the St.Lawrence Seaway closes the Clarence Street Bridge (#21) over the Welland Canal for maintenance. See Bridge Closure Notifications.
Q. I’ve been thinking about installing solar panels on the roof of my home but I heard that I need to call City Hall. Is that true?
A. Not necessarily. Each municipality has its own rules about installing renewable energy equipment on their property. In Port Colborne, you can install up to three solar panels on your roof without a building permit. If it’s more than this, then you need to talk to the Planning and Development Department – Building Division before construction begins. There are also some rules about installing solar panels and wind turbines on ground mounts. It’s best to talk to the Building and Planning Department and a qualified renewable energy consultant before you begin any project.