DENNIS WANTS THIRD ICE PAD AT CLEARWATER
Citing a lack of recreational facilities in Sarnia and too little ice time, Coun. Bill Dennis wants the city to budget for a third ice pad at Clearwater Arena next year.
“We all say youth are important to us…and we want to shake this idea that Sarnia is a retirement place,” said Dennis. “I think we’d all like to turn this perception around.”
He asked for a staff report on a new ice pad and received unanimous support from council.
Stacey Forfar, the city’s general manager of community services, said ice can be difficult to book after hours and on weekends. There was also an unusually high demand this past spring, she said.
SPEAKING OF ARENAS…
Building maintenance at Pat Stapleton Arena on Brock Street is skyrocketing and Coun. Terry Burrell has a lot of questions about it.
Originally, council allocated $120,000 in repairs this year but new leaks on the north side of the building have put the cost much higher.
“This is a beautiful, old facility that hasn’t seen significant investment,” Forfar explained. A large section of eavestroughing and downspouts have failed and the north wall of the arena needs to be sealed. That will eat up the $120,000, plus another $63,000 this year. An outside walkway on the northside also needs repair to help stem leaks into the building.
Next year, staff recommend spending another $500,000 to $700,000 to upgrade the Legionnaires Junior B change room.
“This will be a costly endeavor,” Forfar warned.
SEWER SEPARATION GOES OVERBUDGET
None of the bids to do major sewer separation work on Russell, Palmerston and Green streets came in at or below the $2.2 million that city council budgeted.
Van Bree Drainage and Bulldozing Ltd. submitted the lowest bid of $2.5 million and was awarded the contract Monday for work near the train station.
Since costs are higher than anticipated, work on Tecumseh and Rose streets will be postponed this year, said city engineer David Jackson.
Van Bree is expected to begin work on Russell, Palmerston and Green in August and should be finished this fall.
ANNIVERSARY OF FLOOD DISASTER APPROACHES
It’s been almost a year since 430 Sarnia homeowners, primarily in Coronation Park, experienced serious flooding and sewage backup.
Between 70 and 80 milimetres of rain fell within 90 minutes.
Former city councillor Margaret Bird spoke to council Monday as the Aug. 4 anniversary approaches.
An entire year has gone by and many homeowners still don’t have compensation from their insurance companies, Bird said.
She said those who were impacted are both financially and mentally stressed as they struggle to pay for repairs. Insurance companies argue they won’t pay because of “an old, unresolved problem,” with the city’s sewer separation.
“I hear from homeowners all the time about these problems,” Bird said.
She blamed the city for not moving fast enough to replace old sewer lines. What’s needed is an estimated $100 million to get the job done, said Bird.
It’s a lot of money, she conceded, but she thinks the city should pursue loan opportunities to ensure homeowners don’t have to worry when there is heavy rain.
Bird called it “a disastrous, unacceptable situation.”
COUNCIL REVISITING SHIPPING CONTAINER USE
A new council. Possibly a new set of rules.
At Maud’s Variety on Mitton Street, they’d like to use a shipping container for storage but can’t because of a 2016 city bylaw banning shipping containers anywhere but at industrial sites.
Maud’s co-owner Josh Walters appealed for council to ease up on its ban Monday. Council agreed to get a staff report on the possibilities.
A shed for storage purposes would cost 10 times as much and may not be as aesthetically pleasing, Walters argued. It may also be more susceptible to vandalism and theft.
Council agreed it could be time to lift the ban and allow commercial properties to use shipping containers, or sea cans as they are often called.
“We are living in economic times that require us to have bigger imaginations,” said Coun. Adam Kilner. “Just make sure we don’t endorse eyesores.”
Coun. Brian White wants to loosen the ban even more and consider allowing containers to be used for affordable housing.
That raised a few eyebrows, notably Coun. Terry Burrell’s who said housing the homeless in shipping containers may be exploiting people “who are desperate.”
But the majority of council wants to know what staff think of using shipping containers for many purposes, including commercial and residential.
SARNIA IS NOT GETTING AN ECOLOGIST ON STAFF
The majority of council agrees there’s a need to have a staff expert on ecology but no one wants to hire one.
Instead, council asked staff to prepare a report for September about providing existing parks and rec staff with ecological education and training.
“Let’s look in-house and use existing resources,” said Coun. Anne Marie Gillis.
Developers will appreciate staff with ecological knowledge that can help them cut through red tape and adhere to Ontario regulations at lower cost, said Coun. Brian White.
Two local residents, Steve Ferencsik and Shawn McKnight, kicked off Monday’s council delegations, each promoting the value of being sensitive to ecological concerns when making municipal decisions.
“All parks and recreation staff should be trained to protect and maintain our natural habitats,” said McKnight.