Bridge work to be done by late November
By Jenn Watt
The following are brief reports of items discussed at county council committee meetings on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
The first phase of work on Haliburton’s Head Lake Bridge should be complete by late November, Craig Douglas, director of public works, told the roads committee.
Phase 2 will commence in the spring and be completed by the end of June, according to the construction report presented.
Paramedicine program underperforms
Results of last year’s paramedicine program, launched to assist those with medical needs who could be treated at home by paramedics, underwhelmed and frustrated councillors.
At the emergency services committee meeting, councillors said the $85,000 from the province for the program hadn’t provided the services they had hoped to see. Namely, very few patients benefitted.
“It was a bomb,” said Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin. If the county couldn’t get enough interest in the paramedicine program, he said he was skeptical about whether buying equipment for telemedicine was a good idea.
“It’s unfortunate that there wasn’t the – we’re using the polite words – but there wasn’t the uptake. ... Hopefully something useful came out of it otherwise it was a waste of $85,000 of taxpayers’ money,” said Algonquin Highlands Reeve Carol Moffatt.
Director of emergency services Craig Jones said he was speaking with other jurisdictions where paramedicine was having success for ideas on physician engagement.
Haliburton paramedics now have training in gerontology and emergency services has up-to-date technology, Jones said, which could be used in the future.
“It’s on the simmer. It’s not boiling right now,” he said, adding he was hopeful an opportunity would come along to rekindle the program.
Paramedic call volumes stable
The addition of the Tory Hill base has alleviated some of the pressure on paramedics, emergency services director Craig Jones said.
Between July and September, there were more calls than normal, but it was manageable.
“We have had a slight increase in emergency calls over previous years; however this has been mitigated by actively managing when our vehicles are available to do non-emergency calls through our deployment plan. We have seen a decrease in the number of non-emergency transfers. This frees up our ambulances to perform emergency calls within the community and only allows for the performance of non-emergency calls when all of our ambulances are available,” Jones wrote in his report to the committee.
Having the base in Tory Hill meant that it was easier for paramedics to serve Highlands East and in 2015, calls serviced by paramedics outside of the county has numbered 126 compared to 147 in 2014 and 170 in 2013.
Library’s e-book costs too high: councillors
County councillors were dismayed to hear the prices libraries have to pay to access e-books and the restrictions publishers put on those books after sale.
County librarian Bessie Sullivan told the finance and correspondence committee that the ability of the library to purchase current titles is hindered by the prices they have to pay.
For example, Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam series would cost about $16 for the typical consumer, but $85 for the library.
In addition, publishers put time limits or loan limits on e-books, Sullivan explained.
When the library buys a paper copy of a book, it has it until it physically falls apart. E-books, on the other hand, can be restricted to as few as 26 reads before the library must re-purchase.
The province has also recently cut the library’s access to databases. With all of these pressures, Sullivan said the library board would have some difficult decisions to make.
E-books are popular with Haliburton readers as they bridge geography to library branches and come in handy when weather doesn’t permit driving to get a book.
Councillors didn’t appreciate the increased costs and voted to back a motion from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport to find a way to make buying e-books less costly for libraries.
Tourism dept changes things up
The Destination Guide, the county’s primary tourism handout, will be changing substantially.
Tourism director Amanda Virtanen told the tourism committee that money could be saved if the booklet, which is more than 40 pages thick, was reduced or turned into a map instead.
Councillors said they liked the idea of converting to a map size with fewer advertisements. One side would feature useful information such as events or accommodations. The change would reduce the cost of the product by at least $15,000 (though the Destination Guide usually broke even or came close thanks to advertisements).
In addition, Virtanen asked if councillors would be interested in changing the name.
“Destination” is a tourism industry term, she said, and it would make more sense to use words like “explore” and “discover.”
She will bring those options to the next full county council meeting for a decision.
Virtanen also gave a brief overview of the county’s new website at the meeting, which has been simplified and geared to different types of visitors the Highlands attracts.
The former website received fewer than 1,000 visits a month and was managed off-site. The new website is managed in-house and is less expensive.