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Clr. Kungl successfully debates against solar panel budget cuts at Barrie City Council’s budget meeting

During last week’s general committee meeting at the Barrie City Hall, various operational and capital budget items were discussed. 

In the operational budget discussions, funding for various temporary staff positions was addressed. During the discussion on tree and grass maintenance, Mayor Alex Nuttall suggested postponing part of the agenda to a future meeting while expressing concerns about the inefficiencies in grass cutting in Barrie. 

“We haven’t increased the grass cut, but we’ve increased the length the time it takes to cut, we haven’t decreased the staff So something doesn’t make sense. Is it students? Is it contractors? Is it like just something doesn’t add up?,“ he said. “In an end, it may just be that we’re less productive than we were when it comes to our summer.” 

Gary Harvey, Ward 7 councillor, withdrew his amendment for a later date. 

During the capital budget discussion, Ward 10 Councillor Bryn Hamilton proposed several amendments to increase and decrease funding for various projects. Intense discussion among councillors focused on the elimination of funding for solar panel installation, a new splash pad, and city hall development.

Hamilton argued for eliminating the $1.27 million funding for solar panel installation. Ward 3 Councillor Ann-Marie Kungl opposed the cut, citing the project’s electrical savings of $3.3 million over 25 years, a breakeven or positive cash flow by year 13, and a return on investment of 121%. 

Rick Pews, Director of Corporate Facilities, supported Kungl’s position. He clarified that the break-even point for the investment is approximately 13 years, with the panels likely to last beyond their 25-year estimated lifespan. Pews also addressed Hamilton’s concerns about the building’s ownership, confirming that any utility savings would benefit the city.

Ultimately, the council did not support Hamilton’s amendment to cut the funding. The decision was made to postpone the item until the next budget session, as staff are still finalizing the project details.

In another development, Hamilton advocated for the prompt repair of the splash pad at Heritage Park at cost of $2.6 million, while suggesting a delay in other proposed modifications. 

Mayor Alex Nuttall shared a personal account, highlighting his experiences growing up.

“I grew up with a mother who was disabled, who struggled through taking me places. And I really do sit back and go what would the effect be in on me and my mother because we were in that situation, getting to that park walking because we didn’t have a car,“ he said. “I really struggled through this because I didn’t want to I didn’t want to support this. I actually fought at a committee I think three weeks ago. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it just makes sense.“

Following the discussion, the council unanimously approved the amendment.

The council also moved ahead with the renovation of Barrie City Hall. The $6.9-million redevelopment project at 70 Collier St. aims to increase occupancy and make more efficient use of each floor to accommodate the city’s anticipated growth in staff and residents.

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