| Aug 13, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - August 13, 2009 Central Frontenac Council – Aug. 10/09By Jeff Green

Businessman asks for help in dealing with MTO

Engineering consultant Steve Archibald from McIntosh Perry made a presentation to Central Frontenac Council this week (Monday August 10) on behalf of Bob Basra of Sharbot Lake Petro-Canada and General Store.

“Back in the early part of 2000, MTO [Ministry of Transportation of Ontario] approached the Basras and advised them that they were planning a reconstruction project, and they were going to reconstruct his entrances,” Archibald began. “Basra has now been waiting for almost 10 years to resolve entrance and drainage issues off Highway 7 with the MTO so that he can go ahead with planned upgrades to the fuel pumps at his station.”

Basra has been coordinating his plans with the MTO over the past 10 years but the problem has been that the MTO has made several changes, according to Archibald, leaving Basra unsure of how to proceed.

Finally, the MTO settled on a reconstruction plan, which included the construction of catch basins and storm drains for an unresolved water drainage problem at the site.

“Everything changed this year when the MTO decided they could not afford the project and will not be upgrading the highway after all. We made a request to the MTO to consider financial assistance on the same basis that they had until they changed their plans, but they said no,” Archibald said.

The MTO is insisting that the three entrances to the station be reduced to two, which Archibald said would be complied with, “but we are talking $50,000 to $100,000 to do all this, and then the expansion plans will have to be paid for as well.”

“Those guys are getting more and more difficult to deal with,” Bob Basra told council.

Steve Archibald asked that council consider going “the political route on this,” and write a letter to MPP Randy Hillier, asking him to “request that the ministry review this.”

“Does Bob Basra need to replace the storm drains in order to complete his business plan?” asked Councilor John Purdon.

Archibald said yes.

“I don't think this is very fair to the small businessman,” said Councilor Bob Harvey.

Council agreed to write a letter to Randy Hillier.

The morning after the meeting, Bob Basra was at his store as usual. Between making a pot of coffee and taking delivery of some merchandise, he pointed out that he is in a difficult position because of this latest MTO decision, which comes after years of constant shifting from them on what they would accept from him and what they are planning to do about the intersection.

“Petro-Canada has been willing to help me put in new pumps and new tanks and a canopy to the west of the store. They have wanted to remove those fuel tanks for ten years. But now they are wondering if I am really committed to all this. I don't know where to go with this,” he said. “To spend another $100,000 on top of all the money I’ve already spent is not easy for me to do.”

Illio Rulli, from Rock Lake Excavation, has been doing work for Bob Basra over the past few years, preparing a location for the proposed expansion and dealing with the MTO over drainage.

He understands Basra's frustration.

“They have acted in an unprofessional manner all along, and have kept changing what they want us to do. He has a good engineering firm working for him, and everything he has done has been legitimate, but the MTO keeps asking for more and more. They don't care about the impact of their inconsistency on a small business. Even if Bob goes and pays $100,000 for this, who’s to say they won't decide that's not what's needed and ask for something else? I don't think they care if we all go out of business.” 

Seniors’ housing zoning approval delayed

Advocates and opponents of a planned five-unit, not-for profit seniors’ townhouse on Clement Road in Central Frontenac Township were prepared for a final decision at the Central Frontenac Council meeting on August 10.

And the first few minutes of Glenn Tunnock's presentation could only have led them to believe he was about to recommend speedy passage of the zoning and official plan amendments that are necessary for the project to go forward.

Noting that 37% of Central Frontenac's population is over 55, Tunnock said, “This is a project that we want to embrace enthusiastically provided we can support the planning requirements.”

He then referred to a 10-page document he had prepared, which provides responses to 34 questions that were raised at a public meeting on the zoning applications back in July.

“It is our submission that the site is adequate. It is large enough to be serviced by sewage and water services, and the technology has all been approved,” Tunnock concluded.

All systems seemed to be a go, until Tunnock's next statement.

“We are not satisfied in terms of water services. It would be imprudent for this council to make a decision until they are satisfied that an adequate supply of potable water is available for seniors at that location.”

He explained later that he had received a notice from Mississippi Valley Conservation earlier in the day, which said they required further information before they could confirm that the water at the location is potable.

Tunnock added that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has advised him that there might be a natural heritage issue, because of the potential black rat snake habitat at the location, but that “even if this is the case it is not seen as a show stopper.”

After Tunnock's presentation, a motion to defer consideration of the application was approved by council.

Most members of council expressed support for the project before the vote, however, so passage at the next meeting of council, scheduled for August 26, is likely, provided the water question has been satisfactorily resolved.

Councilor Bob Harvey was perhaps the least enthusiastic member of council towards the project, citing his concerns about it being located too far from the services that are available in Sharbot Lake.

“I'm torn over this project,” he said, “five units won’t begin to satisfy our need for seniors’ housing, but it's a start I guess.”

North Frontenac Not-For Profit Housing is hoping to start construction on the project this year, and those plans would be jeopardized by any further delays, according to the project manager, Cam Allen. 

Central Frontenac finally moving on train museum 

The Central Frontenac Railway Museum organisation is nothing if not stubborn.

After years of setbacks over the ownership of the land where the Sharbot Lake train station once stood, and lukewarm endorsements from a succession of Central Frontenac councils, the question was finally put to council this week by Councilor Frances Smith.

“Stop thinking about a railroad museum,” she said, “and start thinking about a building that looks like the original station, but will house whatever we need it to be. This proposal is for a multi-purpose centre. What I would like council to do is to sit or forever get off the pot. I want council to either support looking further at this and developing this as our project and working with the committee, or to say forget it.”

The other piece of the puzzle that Smith referred to is the ownership of the land, which she said is on the point of being settled, so all of the land in question, which is located across from the township office in Sharbot Lake, will be in the hands of the township.

Councilor Bob Harvey said, “Every time I think about this I think about that piece of junk in Smiths Falls that nobody ever visits. [There is a train museum in Smiths Falls]. A cultural centre, sure, but that property could also be used for seniors’ housing.”

Other councilors were more supportive, however, and the question came down to determining how to move the project forward.

A resolution that had been proposed by Frances Smith asked that the council “designate a staff person as a project manager to oversee the initiative and hire an employee to carry out those duties”, which include investigating funding, determining options for use, and a feasibility study/business plan.

Mayor Gutowski said that township staff is already strained and suggested that efforts be made to seek funding for a person to take on the project.

As if to illustrate how funding could fall into place, the township’s planning consultant, Glenn Tunnock, who was attending the meeting on another matter, jumped to his feet and offered $1,000 “from Tunnock Consulting to kick you off on a feasibility study”.

Tunnock's enthusiasm must have been catching, because Frances Smith's resolution received unanimous support, even if Bob Harvey put his hand up a bit grudgingly.

“I am elated with this result,” said Gary Giller, chair of the museum committee. “We were prepared for them to say no, but are thrilled they said yes. We are totally open to this building being used for a variety of purposes. We are not tied to anything but a desire for it to be built as a replica of the original station.” 

Proposed environmental advisory committee - Art Dunham, president of the Big Clear Lake Association in Arden, brought a proposal that Central Frontenac Council establish an environmental advisory committee to help the township work on a variety of issues, including a septic re-inspection program and water quality issues.

He pointed out that as of 2007, 24 municipalities in the province have established this kind of committee. “It is an opportunity for the council to take advantage of the expertise of people who live in our midst,” he said.

Council remained sceptical.

“Maybe this could wait a while until we get our other committees set up,” said Councilor John Purdon.

“I think where we are weak is in communicating with lake associations and others, but I don’t know about a committee,” said Councilor Frances Smith.

“I’m not opposed, but volunteers are a precious commodity,” said Mayor Janet Gutowski.

A motion to set up an advisory committee was defeated.

New works manager – Mike Richardson, on his fifth day on the job as public works manager for the township, made his first appearance before council.

He said he has been meeting people and looking over the equipment in his department, and has come to a couple of preliminary conclusions. “There are two items in particular that need to be addressed to balance off the winter and also the general road maintenance component,” he said.

Richardson said the township will require a new tandem truck, which will have to be ordered after next year’s budget is passed, but he would like to begin the process of tendering the project now, so if the decision is made to buy one he can act immediately.

The second requirement is for a used ½ ton pickup so all three supervisors would be able to get around the township. The budget for this is $20,000 and there is money available from this year’s budget.

After some debate, the purchase was approved.

“You're doing well,” the mayor said to Richardson, “you've won your first vote.”

FIRE MASTER PLAN – Fire Chief Mark MacDonald appeared before council with a short outline of the fire master plan that is now scheduled for completion in December. The plan will look at best practices, equipment, etc. and “will provide a road map for the municipality for the next 5 to 20 years” according to the outline.

In the short term, the internal hiring of two deputy fire chiefs, one for operation and one for administration, was discussed. “The job posting, including job descriptions, will be available within two weeks, and we are hoping to do the hiring by mid-September. The deputy chiefs will be new positions, in addition to the district chiefs who are already in place.”

MacDonald said the deputy chiefs would help him to finalise the fire master plan as well.

Deputy Mayor Gary Smith asked if the “December date for the master plan is a firm deadline. Do you need some outside help to get this done?”

MacDonald said he has the resources of the fire marshal’s office at his disposal and “if we need any more outside expertise, I'd be happy to seek it.”

High speed at township halls – not

Councilors rejected a proposal to increase the rental cost of the township halls to pay for high-speed internet service as a feature of the halls.

“Most of the seniors’ groups that I know that use the halls are not interested in surfing. They are more interested in eating,” said Councilor John Purdon.

“Where did this come from?” asked Councilor Norm Guntensperger, “I don't know anyone who favours this.”

“I have received requests from several groups and lake associations who expressed interest in this, so I will be supporting it,” said Mayor Gutowski.

And she did, along with Councilor Frances Smith. The motion was defeated, 7 votes to 2.

ICSP – In anticipation of a discussion at the Frontenac County Council table later this week, a consideration for the 10 proposals in the as yet unapproved Frontenac County Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) was initiated by the mayor.

The projects, in total, will cost about $564,000 this year if approved, and the money would come from federal gas tax rebate dollars allocated to the county.

“I think some of these projects are difficult for us to take on as townships, and there are some that are probably premature. I would like your thoughts,” said Gutowski.

“Most of this looks like hiring consultants to look deeper into whether or not you should be in this or that business,” said Councilor Frances Smith.

Of the $540,000 in proposed spending, $325,000 is devoted to four different planning documents: social services development, a common energy management plan for all five municipalities, salt management, and solid waste management. Another $140,000 is devoted to Global Information Systems (GIS) mapping, and $50,000 to an inventory of community assets (natural and built).

“My assessment is that the county will be receiving $5 million from this fund over the next few years, and you are clearly struggling to spend it,” said Gary Smith. “It would make a lot of political sense if some of that $5 million were moved down to the townships as it was originally intended.”

“We need more information at the county level on social services. We do not have adequate mapping; assessment of renewable energy potential is something we don't need to do five times. These I support. Solid waste management, no; salt management, no,” said Mayor Gutowski about her intentions when the matter is discussed at the county table. “But I also think we need to adopt the ICSP before we adopt these projects.”

A motion was approved asking for further discussion between the township and the county on ICSP-related projects. 

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