by Cecilia Naismith
Cobourg has moment of silence for the Humboldt Broncos
Cobourg council meetings typically open with a moment of reflection, a practice that replaced opening coucil with the Lord's Prayer several years back.
On April 9, Mayor Gil Brocanier had a different idea – instead of a moment of reflection, the mayor suggested a moment of silence in honour of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team and supporters who were injured and killed in Saskatechewan when the team bus was hit by a semi truck.
Of 29 on board, 15 were killed and the remainder all suffered injury.
When the moment concluded, Brocanier added that the flags at the Cobourg Community Centre (home ice to the Cougars) were at half-mast in their honour.
Cobourg council supports floating playground, but barely
Cobourg council passed a motion April 9 that would authorize a contract with Peterborough-based ATL Distributing to set up and operate a floating water playground at Victoria Park beach this summer – but the vote was a very close four-to-three.
The gallery was full of opponents of the project, which would operate for the summer starting June 23 and which would pay the town 10% of gross revenue. Mayor Gil Brocanier said a lot of misconceptions are circulating, largely because of a malfunction that resulted in last week's discussion at the committee-of-the-whole not being televised.
Director of recreation and culture Dean Hustwick attempted to address the concerns being expressed, reiterating that all responsibility and cost rests with ATL. He outlined the safety measures (the number of extra lifeguards they will hire locally, the requirement for life jackets on all users) and the partnerships they are forming with the community (including special evenings open to local residents only).
Hustwick added that the consideration of this project is not a comment on the concept of more tourists coming to town, which some residents find a disagreeable prospect. In fact, he said, the town has welcomed tourists for more than 150 years, with high-quality hotels, summer homes for wealthy Americans and waterfront businesses.
When they come to town to enjoy all Cobourg has to offer, Hustwick said, it's no different from a Cobourg resident fleeing the winter to enjoy sunny weather in a Florida community.
“Tourism is increasingly important, and a growing economic sector in this country and around the world,” he stated.
Hustwick added his opinion that such a development is consistent with the waterfront master plan being developed through a prolonged series of public consultations. He also shared some of the figures from these exercises, such as the 80% of survey respondents who say tourism is or will be important to the town's citizens and the 45% of businesses that say they either depend on trade from visitors or at least benefit from it.
And the revenue realized from the water playground (estimated conservatively at $28,000 the first year) can be reinvested in the town.
ATL has produced proof of $10-million in liability insurance, Hustwick said, and they are the ones on the hook if there is a problem.
Some people say the lake is too cold for a water playground, but Hustwick pointed out that tens of thousands of visitors swim in it each summer – and ATL will be renting wetsuits.
The project has been before council at earlier meetings, he added. Thorough discussions in January resulted in the call for RFPs.
The town can't address every individual with a concern, Hustwick said.
“But we can endeavour to do what we believe is right for the majority.”
Mayor Gil Brocanier addressed complaints about a lack of community engagement in this matter. His reasoning is that the waterfront master plan had unprecedented levels of community engagement – the water playground is in the nature of an implementation of the plan that is resulting.
Councillor Forrest Rowden recalled the uproar some 10 years ago when council wanted to build what was dismissed as a frink in the Rotary Waterfront Park – an ice-skating rink that would become a fountain in the summer. Now it is a beloved waterfront feature that sees copious usage year-round.
“There is no cost to the town – if anything, we are going to make money,” Rowden said.
Councillor Brian Darling pointed out that, over the two-year life of the contract (which has an option to renew thereafter), the water playground will only be in operation about 120 days.
“I think it's a great idea to keep our youth active, to give people a lot more to do,” Darling said.
“We just can't keep saying no to everything just to appease the few.”
The councillor wondered how many people present were there because they had the time to attend, versus how many were too tired from working eight to 10 hours and had young families to care for.
Councillor Aaron Burchat said that this latter group was basically the demographic he geared his campaign to when he ran for office, and he would be supporting the project.
Deputy Mayor John Henderson had to differ, based on the fact that council had not yet even seen a draft of the waterfront master plan to base the decision on. He won applause for his stand, calling for the project to be considered at a more appropriate time.
Councillor Suzanne Seguin expressed agreement with the deputy mayor, for the same reasons. She also won a round of applause.
Councillor Debra McCarthy was applauded as well when she expressed opposition, citing concerns for the infrastructure (parking, washrooms and so on) to accommodate the increased number of visitors the structure would draw. And if tourists stay longer because of this attraction, she added, is there the accommodation infrastructure to take care of them?
Questioned about the waterfront master plan, Hustwick said the consultants had been working hard to produce a draft. But the town had not rushed them, given that the 2018 budget contains no funding for any implementation.
Reiterating his support and his belief in the consultation process that had produced the data now being reviewed by the consultants, Brocanier called for a recorded vote that produced the four-to-three support for the project.
Cobourg sticks with its Feel Good Town slogan
The new Ministry of Transportation signs on Highway 401 marking Cobourg's boundaries will have a strip added underneath the town name and population – it will say Ontario's Feel Good Town.
It's not a choice Keith Oliver particularly likes, and he urged council instead to go for Honouring Our Past, Embracing Our Future at the April 9 meeting.
Oliver came to town some 20 years ago from a string of big cities (he mentioned London and Washington DC), and promptly became involved in growth and development issues. He also is coming up on 18 years of involvement with the Cobourg Museum Foundation.
“The history of Cobourg, I think you can say without exception, is unique,” Oliver declared – from the sinking of the Speedy that caused court services for the region to be centred in Cobourg to the stories surrounding its amazing industries.
Oliver has become something of an ambassador for the town by sharing these stories with visitors. As a side benefit, he will often see these same people turn up at the Sifton Cook Centre to dig into things more deeply.
“That in a sense takes care of honouring our past. But the tagline is Embracing The Future, and that's what the town is doing,” he added, citing such innovations as the Venture 13 project and the waterfront planning exercise.
Councillors commended Oliver for his initiative in acting as an ambassador for the town's heritage, but could not support his request.
Deputy Mayor John Henderson explained that the town has had its Feel Good Town slogan for some time, and pointed out that the MTO needs confirmation for the sign's wording within a relatively short time frame.
At some other time, Henderson allowed, there may be occasion to ask if this slogan is the one that people feel is truly representative of this community.
“We all know it is a long process to go through what we need, more of a marketing-and-planning process,” he said.
“We can certainly look at this again, with this council or a new council.”
“There may be an opportunity for wider public input to have a different tag-line slogan for the town,” Councillor Debra McCarthy agreed.
McCarthy noted a headline from a Northumberland News column by Reva Nelson, Cobourg Really Is Ontario's Feel Good Town.
“We are proud of our history and our stories. We love our lake and we are excited about our future. But the spirit of her article is, we are such a welcoming town.
“(The slogan) is used so widely and I think, for now, it will do.”
Coucillor Suzanne Seguin, who has 40 years' experience in marketing and communications, said that something as critical as the slogan for a town should be a public process with an opportunity for input from everyone.
“I did some research on-line, and there were pages and pages and pages come up for Feel Good Town – and everything was positive and happy,” she said.
“It seems like a good slogan to show people what we are about,” Mayor Gil Brocanier stated.
“I am not experienced in printing and marketing, and I have to bow to the people who are.”
Farmers' Market will move to a new location
The Cobourg Farmers Market opens for a new season May 5, and – for the first time in decades – it will not be in the parking lot of the Market Building at 201 Second St.
Councillor Suzanne Seguin announced at the April 9 council meeting that it will be set up for the season across the street at the Rotary Waterfront Park.
They will make an exception the Saturday of the Waterfront Festival and return to the old Market Building location, Seguin said. Otherwise, the whole Farmers Market season will find the vendors surrounding the oval where the fountain will be installed in July.
The move was instituted in response to issues raised by the fire department, Seguin said.
The parking lot where they have been set up for so many years had its limitations, and there were also concerns for the two heritage buildings to the north and west of that parking lot (the Firehall Theatre and the Market Building respectively).
“They will be able to accommodate a lot more vendors,” the councillor said.
“And hopefully it will be a better experience for the people visiting.”
Cobourg Police announce gun amnesty
Councillor Debra McCarthy reminds everyone that the Cobourg Police Service is having a gun amnesty this month.
“It's a safe way, for someone who doesn't want one any more or owns one illegally, to surrender the weapons to the police service,” McCarthy said.
She also shared news with councillors at the April 9 meeting of the new Cops And Partners Engaging Students program (CAPES) the Cobourg Police Service is running at C.R. Gummow Public School. Uniformed officers develop relationships with the students as they work on such issues as behaviour, healthy habits, stranger danger and safety.
Though it's at C.R. Gummow now, McCarthy said, they would like to bring it to other schools.
Mayor Gil Brocanier also offered his congratulations to Chief Kai Liu. Having had back surgery, the chief has just had his first day back at work.
Country Wild music festival returns for a second year
June 2 is the date of the second annual Country Wild Music Festival, returning to Cobourg's Victoria Park.
The report council received on April 9 from community-events co-ordinator Jackie Chapman Davis said it is the only one if its kind in Cobourg, “an onstage music event that highlights and celebrates some of Canada's top country musicians.” It is organized by local musician Matt Williams and, this year, features 2017 Juno Award winner Jess Moskaluke (country album of the year).
Chapman Davis's report estimates that 1,500 to 2,000 will be in attendance.
Organizers will provide their own set-up and infrastructure, port-a-potties, food vendors, private security, garbage and recycling service, staging and clean-up crew, she listed.
“No extra equipment (picnic tables, etc.) has been requested from the town, and there are no road closures.”
Cobourg council catches up on business
The Town of Cobourg welcomed Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal last week, Mayor Gil Brocanier told council on April 9, with much of the visit centring around Northam Industrial Park.
The big news was the opening of Canada Candy, now employing 30 people and looking to establish a second shift.
“They have done an excellent job in retrofitting an empty building,” the mayor said.
“They have invested in extremely high-tech equipment, which is going to assure them of being competitive not just in the Canadian market, but in the global market.”
Because the premises the company rents offer more space than required, Brocanier said, they are looking at starting a second business there.
The visit included a tour of the Venture 13 building, which is slated to have the sign mounted on its side on Thursday. Its first staffer has been hired, and an official opening is being planned.
“They say Cobourg has done it right, and they want to support the initiative,” Brocanier reported.
The mayor also offered an update on the marijuana operation on the premises of the former Kraft-General Foods plant. The company is inundated with resumes, he said, but still on track with plans to hire 200 workers.
Brocanier pointed out that the new business is geared to producing therapeutic extracts like cannabis oil, not the recreational substance to be smoked.
Councillor Forrest Rowden offered his own congratulations to Canada Candy, which occupies the building where he worked for 22 years before his retirement.
“I was so proud to see what they have done to that building,” Rowden said.
“You could eat off the floor now. We used to try to keep it clean, but it was nowhere near that condition.”
Cobourg prepares for fall election
Cobourg is preparing for the fall election, council heard at its April 9 meeting.
A website called www.voterlookup.ca has been set up where citizens can confirm their eligibility to vote in the Oct. 22 municipal election, which they will be able to do by telephone, on-line or at a voter help centre location.
Eligible voters will be those who are Canadian citizens at least 18 years of age who reside in Cobourg (or own or rent land there, or are married to an owner or renter and are not otherwise ineligible).
Those who wish to run for mayor, deputy mayor or councillor can begin submitting their names May 1. There is a fee and, new this year, a requirement for the written support of at least 25 eligible voters. These forms will be available this month.
The deadline to submit nominations is 2 p.m. July 27.
Voting will take place between 9 a.m, and 8 p.m. Oct. 22, and the winners will form a new council on Dec. 1.