Council acknowledged the retirement of long-time Northeast Town employee Randy Burnett who retired after 24 years of service.
“We’re going to miss him a lot,” Mayor Al MacNevin said. “Our sincere thanks and gratitude.”
“It’s been a pleasure, an honour and a privilege to work for the town these past 24 years,” Mr. Burnett said in an address to mayor and council.
Over the years Mr. Burnett worked as the manager of the marina and landfill, public works foreman and for the town crew.
“Three am and myself just don’t jive no more,” Mr. Burnett laughed following the presentation of a certificate.
Water rates approved
The four percent increase to water and water and sewer rates, respectively, was approved for both Sheguiandah and Little Current residents.
The motion to approve was made by Councillor Bill Koehler and seconded by Councillor Al Boyd.
“We know it’s necessary, but we’re really worried about the residents of Sheguiandah,” Councillor Dawn Orr said, speaking on behalf of herself and Councillor Jim Ferguson. “I’m doing this (voting) unhappily.”
CAO Dave Williamson gave council an update on the Park Street property gifted to the municipality by the Lily Fielding Foundation three years ago.
He reminded council that while the property (located on the hill behind Channel View Apartments and overlooking Low Island Park) was given without condition, it was encouraged that it be used for senior housing or long-term care.
At the time, council entered into an agreement with Dr. Jeffery and the group he led looking into senior housing development to hold the property while they searched for funding.
The municipality has gone to a request for proposals, has a sign on the property and has approached several builders, Mr. Williamson explained.
“I have met with three or four developers and each and every one haven’t been able to proceed,” he added. “We’re still looking and still putting the word out.”
The value of the property is $615,000, which might be a deterrence, Mr. Williamson said. “It’s not something you can go out and wave a magic wand on.”
Councillor Ferguson asked who did the assessment. Mr. Williamson responded that it was done by an appraiser.
“I’ve watched a lot of developments through the years that certainly takes some time,” said Councillor Michael Erskine, pointing to the Boozeneck Road subdivision. “I think it’s a valuable asset as it is.”
Councillor Ferguson asked if it cost the town anything. The answer was “no.” Councillor Ferguson then suggested getting another valuation on the property.
Mr. Williamson said they could, but it would serve no purpose.
New CSAC member
Council passed a motion to accept a new youth member to the Community Services Advisory Committee, Quentis Wood.
“I’ve known this young man for years and we’re lucky to get him,” said Councillor Bill Koehler.
Pride Manitoulin donation request
Council received a letter from Pride Manitoulin organizer Sarah Seabrook asking for municipal permission for a number of things surrounding the event, including the use of the flag pole located near Wally’s Dock Service, use of a pavilion, the raising of banners, decorating Water Street with two rainbow crosswalks, the closure of the front street as well as a financial donation.
When asked about the crosswalk, Mr. Williamson reported that it is estimated to cost $1,500 to paint each crosswalk.
On the topic of street closure, Councillor Koehler asked what the BIA would think of it and suggested consulting them first.
Mayor MacNevin said there were a number of issues with street closures, including staffing them.
“The idea of closing off the street comes with a number of hurdles and we’d need staff for the entire period,” Mr. Williamson said.
Councillor Boyd said he “certainly supported” the LGBTQ2S community but said he agrees with the other councillors’ concerns.
Councillor Erskine said he agreed with the requests except closing the street, noting Soldier Park and its potential as a venue for music.
Council reviewed a request from a Tobermory-based company hoping to provide helicopter rides during the morning when cruise ships are visiting Little Current. The company was seeking permission to use the far point at Low Island Park for take-offs and landings.
Mr. Williamson told council that cruise ships are expected to visit 29 times this year.
“Are we going to get compensated for this?” Councillor Barb Baker asked.
“There’s been no discussion on this, but council may want to waive fees as a new tourism option,” Mr. Williamson said.
“What about our insurance?” Councillor Boyd asked.
Mr. Williamson noted that, as with anybody operating on municipal property, the Northeast Town must be a named insured.
Councillor Orr said she liked the idea, but not the location.
“This wouldn’t be the first time helicopter tours have been offered at Low Island,” noted Councillor Erskine. “Is there a better, more accessible spot?”
Mr. Williamson suggested the airport.
“We have an airport, and they have a bus,” said Councillor Ferguson, sharing his concerns with the noise and shutting down a key Little Current walking trail 29 times. “It’s a fantastic idea, but how many tourism operators are getting free use of our properties?”
Councillor Laurie Cook said she thought it was a great idea, but also had concerns with the noise levels and reminded council that Low Island was indeed a park.
Councillor Boyd spoke of the dangers involved in helicopters landing in unconventional places.
Mayor MacNevin said he worried about families being bothered at the beach.
Councillor Cook suggested the rec centre.
Staff was directed to return to the company with council’s concerns and suggestions for alternative landing areas.
During the planning authority portion of the March 5 meeting of council, council reviewed two applications for consent.
The first application was from John Snider III, James William Snider and JoAnn Snider, who sought to sever their Sheguiandah property, Concession 13 Lot 19, and create a new lot.
Council approved the consent.
The second application came from Iain M. Hayden and Serge Solomon who were requesting to separate their Whitefish Bay island property into two parcels with the intention that both current owners would ultimately own one parcel each.
Council had no concern with the application and approved the consent.
AOK landfill use agreement extension
Council received a letter from Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK) Chief Patsy Corbiere, requesting an extension until September for the continued use of the Northeast Town landfill.
CAO Dave Williamson explained that AOK has been using the landfill for the past five years and pays the municipality $772 per week for access. Mr. Williamson explained to council that AOK has been a good customer and that one year of AOK waste amounts to approximately one month off the lifespan of the landfill—effectively not having an impact.
AOK is in the process of closing its dump and creating a transfer station. The project was delayed by the early onset of winter.
Council granted the request.
Drinking water inspection report
Council reviewed its annual Little Current drinking water inspection report from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
For councils’ benefit, Mr. Williamson reviewed some of the ministry’s concerns, starting with an exceedance of the municipality’s permit to take water, which allows for a maximum instantaneous flow rate of 4,086 litres per minute and a maximum daily water taking rate of 3,400,000 litres per day. Some of the exceedances reported were because of two malfunctioning flow meters taking inaccurate readings while others were due to the extended period of hot, dry weather in July and August. The ministry suggested the purchase of a third flow meter, but it was explained to council that this is not feasible as there is no room in the plant to house it.
Another issue cited by the ministry was that spill containment was not provided for process chemicals and/or standby power generator fuel.
It was also noted that the membrane filtration units (filters) were last changed in 2010 and that manufacturers generally assign a lifespan of 10 years to the filters. “Therefore, it is possible that there are less than two years left before the replacement is again required. It is suggested that the owner and their operating authority explore the concept of testing the membranes to get a better idea of the remaining functional life of the membranes. It is further suggested that the municipality begin financial planning for the eventual replacement of the membrane filtration units.”
Mr. Williamson said council needs to explore increasing the municipality’s water intake.
Councillor Erskine asked if they were currently putting enough into reserves to cover the costs of a new plant.
“We’re definitely not putting enough into reserves to do this,” Mr. Williamson admitted. “We’re coming to the end of life of those filters.”
Councillor Ferguson asked about the cost of new filters. Mr. Williamson replied that in 2019, it was $550,000. There were audible gasps from the council table.
“The report overall is very good,” the CAO said. “There is nothing wrong with the quality of the water.”
Councillor Al Boyd suggested council take a tour of the water treatment plants in Little Current and Sheguiandah to learn firsthand how the water treatment system works. It was agreed that this would be arranged through the plant operators, Ontario Clean Water Agency.