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April 26,2020

Rotary Notes – April 23, 2020

President Brent welcomed all to our virtual Rotary meeting in the Zoom format.   He noted that it is nice to see some members participating, who have been unable to attend our regular meetings, including Alex Smith and Ken Malvern.  Dan Kane noted that all 100 meeting slots were filled by the end of the meeting.
 
The meeting opened with a toast to Rotary and Fellowship, and also a special toast to the Queen, who celebrated her 94th birthday earlier this week.
 
President Brent received a thank you note regarding the recent purchase of PPE for front line workers in Stratford and Perth County that was spearheaded by the District 6330 Passport Rotary Club.  All of the goals have been met and exceeded, with 1000 items to Stratford and Perth County, 1000 to Huron County and another 2000 pieces of equipment on order.  Our club has been contacted by a local sorority to determine interest in partnering for future equipment purchases.  Charlene Gordon will touch base to see what next steps might be.
 

Board Meeting Highlights

 
The Board heard a delegation that is interested in creating some examples of the furniture pieces historically manufactured at Stratford furniture makers to install as points of interest throughout the city.  The request was for the club to take the lead in issuing tax receipts for donations received.  Discussions will continue.
 
Honour Student Banquet will be cancelled for this year.  It is hoped that once honour students are identified, a suitable recognition will be provided to them on behalf of the club.
 
International Committee inquired and will be suspending further disbursements for this year until the financial situation of the club becomes clearer.
 
New Board Structure – Katherine Hahn and Gerry Thuss have been working to re-vamp our current ‘ladder’ system in hopes of reducing the size of the board and shortening the time it takes to reach the president position, currently an 8-9 year commitment.  They presented their proposal to the Board, where it was accepted.  Charlene will distribute the proposal to club members for a future vote.  If accepted by the club members, the by-laws will need to be modified to correspond with the plan.
 
RL Read put forward some fundraising ideas for discussion.  The Board identified that it does not want to compete with small businesses that are struggling at this difficult time.  Any ideas for fundraising are welcome.
 
The Scholarship at the University of Waterloo will be re-named as “The Rotary Club of Stratford Scholarship”.
 
Rotary Booth -  As this facility is presently closed, Al Wakelin is trying to return as much product as possible to the suppliers.  He will be looking into the agreement with the City to see if financial expectations can be reduced.
 
Short Story Contest – As schools are closed, participation by younger students may be limited this year.
 
Request Committee –
A need for personal protective items at Spruce Lodge  – gowns and caps, in particular – has been identified.  Wendy Wilkinson and Doug Thompson requested $1000.00 for materials to manufacture these.  Sarah Hamza is working to organize any people from the wardrobe dept who might be interested in sewing these items.  The request was approved.
 
Sarah Hamza will be the new Chair of the Respite House Committee following the recent resignation of Nick Aroutzidis.
Dan Kane will be in charge of the Bulletin.
Thanks to both Sarah and Dan for stepping forward.
 
The Climate Emergency motion was passed.
 

Program:

 

Our speaker today was Mayor Dan Mathieson who brought us his regularly scheduled State of the City address combined with a Covid-19 update.
 
At the end of December, 2019, when the 2020 budget was passed, the City knew that it was having $1.7M in grants cut from the province.  That represented a 2.6% revenue shortfall from previous years.  Still, at that time, the City felt that it was in a relatively positive position.  Unemployment was at 2.7%.   Council was able to keep the tax increase to just under 4% for 2020.
When the budget was passed, there were 84 projects in the Capital Budget.  The largest project, the Queen Street Grand Trunk Sewer project, has since been cancelled as most of the work to be done by various contractors and firms was declared non-essential. 
 
The pandemic has changed the situation drastically.  The City has moved to cut part-time workers, cut student employment, reduce management salaries and council honoraria, saving $320,000.00 monthly.  The City is still losing about $1M monthly as many of its revenue sources have disappeared.  It has extended property tax deadlines and waived interest and penalties on water bills, closing the landfill for twelve days cost $70,000, free parking in the downtown means a loss of $205,000 monthly.  There is no revenue from any city facilities and closing the day care facilities amounts to a loss of $70,000 monthly.  Bag tag users will continue to pay for tags at grocery stores or they can be delivered though a United Way program.
 
Unemployment is at 5% and rising and the number of families using social assistance is steadily increasing.
If the Festival is unable to open this season, Mayor Dan expects that 30% of the businesses downtown could be vacant by October, 2020.  If a second wave of the coronavirus hits, the closure rate could well be 50%.  The city has received $1M in emergency funds for support of people experiencing mental health issues and homelessness.  One hundred rooms have been reserved at the Festival Inn, with about a third of them currently occupied.
The City delayed declaring a state of emergency until it could act collectively with other municipalities on March 26.  Doing so affords the City some flexibility in receiving funds from other levels of government.  It also improves the City’s position in negotiating with its collective bargaining units.
 
Citizens need to know that decisions are being made based on facts that are not necessarily public knowledge.  Council is working to offset the loss of revenue.  There was a $1.2 M surplus at the end of 2019.  The money that would have been spent on the Sewer work has been moved from capital projects to operating funds.  There is a Phase III of cuts being prepared if the current situation continues past July.
Lobbying on behalf of the Festival Theatre is ramping up.  For every person employed directly at the Theatre, another 4 jobs are supported within the community.  Currently there are 495 Theatre workers laid off, so that has serious consequences for the City.   Mayor Dan and Anita Gaffney are sending out hundreds of letters and requesting meetings with many officials and politicians to make them aware of the situation.
The automotive sector, that was short of workers before the pandemic, is developing plans to right size their work force.
 
There will be many businesses and organizations that will be looking at new normal when the pandemic is over.  The Stratford Lakeside Seniors group is delivering a lot of programming on-line.  Rotary is meeting on-line and many face to face meetings are now being held virtually.  There may be a lot of large office spaces that open up in the city when people realize that they don’t need those spaces to operate effectively.
The City is learning many lessons during this pandemic that can be applied in the future.  Resources that were stockpiled at the Red Cross, and at the Hospital might be better stored at City facilities so that they are available to the citizens of the city who, in many cases, funded them. 
 
Mayor Dan is very proud of the resiliency of the community.  The United Way is leading the way in providing for the needs of many citizens. A Chinese family in the city was able to facilitate delivery of large quantities of PPE to the Hospital.  All police officers have been assigned to patrol duties within the city as, unfortunately, the crime rate is up in the city and the surrounding county. Dan feels that the City and its employees are working well together.
Personally, he is coping well with the situation.  Having grown up in a family of 9 kids, he says he is up for pretty much anything. He has discovered that walking and biking are good de-stressors.  He has also discovered which clipper blades work best for his coiffure.
 
President Brent thanked Dan for his message today.
 
Our speakers next week will be Katherine Hahn and RL Read on their trip to Africa.
 
Scribe:  Wendy Anderson
 
Here is the link for next weeks' Zoom meeting.
 
Topic: April 30th Rotary Club Meeting
Time: Apr 30, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85988875764?pwd=Lzl0VW9FN0c4am5lanVxM1loR0RNQT09
 
Meeting ID: 859 8887 5764
Password: 770678
 
If you would prefer to join the meeting by phone you can call:
1 587 328 1099 Canada
1 647 374 4685 Canada

Meeting ID: 859 8887 5764
Password: 770678
 
If you're still having trouble connecting Dan has set up a test meeting.  Please join in on Tuesday night or give Dan a call at 519 301 8253 if you're still having trouble. 
 
Topic: Rotary Test Meeting
Time: Apr 28, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86584094777?pwd=bXZWZnJSS0diclVCdUl0MlJYcmVndz09
 
Meeting ID: 865 8409 4777
Password: 730134
 
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Russell Hampton
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