CitySSMThe subject of improving the budget timeline was talked about at Monday’s City Council meeting.  Ward 3 councillor Matt Shoemaker was impressed with a plan regarding a city surplus policy.  But he added that he prefers an equal one-third distribution of that surplus towards deficit reduction, savings and lower tax increases.  City Commissioner of Finance and Treasurer Shelley Schell responded that council would make any final decision on what to do with the surplus and recommended that the city stay the course.  This means that the surplus should go towards reducing the levy and one-time capital expenditures.  Councillor Steve Butland agreed, adding that any overbudget should always go back to the taxpayers.  Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano suggested that a working policy on what to do with any city surplus will come back to the agenda at a later time.

Council also approved a recommendation on Monday night to allow an immigration committee to be established. Among the members of that committee are the Executive Director of the Innovation Centre, the presidents of Algoma University and Sault College, along with representatives of the Essar Port of Algoma and the Sault Ste. Marie Career Centre. Ward 1 councillor Steve Butland spoke before council’s decision to approve the idea.  He suggested that if nothing was done, the city would experience another population decline.  Ward 4 councillor Ross Romano spoke about the importance of demographics to the community.  He emphasized that immigration is the only way to improve a situation where the death rate is higher than the birth rate, as well as ease a gap between more retiring workers and less available people to fill those same jobs.  Councillor Matthew Shoemaker added that the city should do what it can to alleviate the situation involving Middle East refugees — thousands of them have been migrating to Western Europe to improve their lives.

An agreement was reached by City Council to support having a new lock at the Michigan Soo Locks.  The support was for renewed efforts by various Michigan senators and house representatives, as well as the Michigan governor and the U-S Army Corps of Engineers to make this happen.  The idea was moved by councillor Matt Shoemaker, who talked about the cost of having the locks closed due to repairs to the Sault, Ontario as well as the Sault, Michigan economy.  He mentioned a prediction where a 30 day shutdown of the locks would result in a loss of 160 million dollars to the economy. The new lock would cost 600 million dollars to build.  The idea of a new lock has been approved, but not funded by the United States for nearly 30 years.  It was announced that there was a groundbreaking on the future lock in 2009.  Since then, there have been about 3 thousand hours of unscheduled closures at the Michigan Soo Locks.  The MacArthur Lock was shut down for emergency repairs this summer, which resulted in a 20 day shutdown — a delay of more than 450 hours — that in turn delayed more than 100 ships.   Repairs were only supposed to take ten days, but instead took twice that long.