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COVID-19 response causing $380,000 in operations losses per week for the city

Transit service changes expected by April 18

The city's response to COVID-19 on the operations side of business has resulted in a net loss of approximately $380,000 per week.

The estimated figure was included in a report presented to city council Tuesday night and includes lower revenues compared to budgeted levels that would have offset ongoing direct service costs, as well as some incremental costs associate with require adjustments to municipal services.

Meeting virtually for the second time Tuesday evening, council heard a report from CAO Ed Archer that provided an update at where the city is in terms of their response to COVID-19 and where things could be headed in the coming weeks and months.

The city has suspended numerous services including libraries, citizen service centres, arenas, museums, parks and recreation programming including pools and ski hills.

In addition to the suspended programs, the city has been operating a number of its services on a modified basis. Many services have been modified in order to accommodate the more than 600 municipal employees who are now working from home.

Some examples of the modified services are economic development, most social services (Ontario Works, housing operations), building permits and approvals, building inspections, animal shelter services and transit.

The latter will be seeing some more changes in the near future, as GOVA operations will be modified further to the changes that were implemented on March 20.

Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer brought up the question of the city's transit service, citing questions he had received from citizens.

"With regards to transit, I have been getting inquiries and some complaints about empty buses running up and down some of our streets," said Sizer. "I wonder if we're looking to collect more data to ascertain whether there would be adjustments to our GOVA service."

Mayor Brian Bigger spoke with the city's director of transit services Michelle Ferrigan on Tuesday, as well as general manager of community development Steve Jacques, who was joining council at Tuesday's meeting and provided an update on the next steps that will be taken with GOVA.

"We had a meeting today, Michelle (Ferrigan) has put together a revised transit schedule which we discussed with the mayor and Mr. Archer this afternoon," said Jacques. "We will be moving forward with revised schedule. We anticipate full implementation by about April 18."

Jacques clarified that there will be no abandonment of routes, but the frequency of service on some routes will be impacted.

Discussed at length Tuesday was enforcement against individuals who are not adhering to proper social distancing protocols (ie gathering in large groups), as well as businesses that have been deemed as non-essential that have not closed.

One New Sudbury business has already been charged for remaining open when not deemed essential.

The city has seen a spike in 311 calls of late, and had nearly 1,200 calls on Tuesday as of 4:30 p.m. Of those calls, 20 were bylaw complaints about businesses and another 15 were about groups or gatherings.

Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann raised the question of what is the procedure followed in regards to these calls and whether fines were being issued. 

Kevin Fowke, Greater Sudubry general manager of corporate services said that the city's bylaw enforcement has been taking a progressive approach when it comes to enforcement and that repeat offenders would certainly be dealt with swiftly.

"There absolutely are fines attached to the orders that municipal enforcement officers are charged with and have the authority to enforce," said Fowke. "My understanding is under the Health Protection Act, gatherings of more than five people can attract fines of up to $1,000 for individuals and $7,500 for business owners."

On the large projects front, while construction has been deemed essential by the provincial government, a few Sudbury construction projects have been put on the back burner for the time being.

The Junction West project, including the proposed World Trade Centre that was slated for a market assessment and consultation has been postponed.

Appeal proceedings for the Kingsway Entertainment District at LPAT and Superior Court are on hold, potentially beyond June 30. Minor engineering work will be wrapped up and parties have agreed to postpone further discussions until the overall community situation becomes clearer.

"It is not clear what the duration of the COVID-19 response will be, but staff anticipate current conditions will persist at least throughout the second quarter," said Archer's report to council.

"Staff will continue monitoring service performance and the status of 2020 change projects. Subject to council feedback, a report will be provided to describe the status of services and change projects as at June 30."

Full report can be viewed here.


Matt Durnan

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