Cobourg Council News

Cobourg Council Chambers.jpg

by Cecilia Naismith

Cobourg Marina celebrates Clean Marine status

Cobourg Marina manager of waterfront operations Paul Gauthier and waterfront operations supervisor Julie Behan-Jones came to Cobourg council Monday to share the good news – Clean Marine status.

The Clean Marine certification was awarded following evaluation of the marina by Greenleaf Environmental Communications Inc. that resulted in a rating of five Green Leaf Anchors (based on an overall eco-rating checklist score of 93.2%). Only three marinas got that rating, Gauthier said, and Cobourg was only the second community in the history of the program to get the five anchors on its first audit.

“They evaluate more than 220 environmental practices,” Gauthier said.

These practices fall under six parameters – environmental management and policies, water quality and habitat preservation, hazardous-materials handling, water conservation, energy efficiency and waste reduction. The report Gauthier distributed describes highlights in each category for which the marina was recognized, as well as specific recommendations from which the marina would benefit.

Behan-Jones said they undertook this initiative after working hard to make environmental improvements to the waterfront. The Clean Marine program is one of the longest-running programs of its kind, she said, and the largest one for marinas in the world.

“Thank you for your work, not just maintaining our reputation as one of the best marinas on Lake Ontario, but improving it,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.


Address Monk's Cove now, resident urges

Eva Hall represented a number of Monk's Cove residents Monday at Cobourg council to urge action on the damaged waterfront area as soon as possible.

The significant damage from the 2017 flooding hit that community hard, Hall said, and not much has been done in the ensuing year.

“A temporary fix of sand and stone very quickly went back into Lake Ontario,” she said.

“Our taxes just went up $50 a month and, quite frankly, this does feel like a little bit of an insult when we are worried about our property values decreasing. We are very worried.”

Hall said she'd heard a $2-million estimate to fix this situation, which in itself shows the extent of the damage to the seawall.

“We understand that funding is an issue. However, the collapse of the shoreline is inevitable unless quick and permanent measures are taken. Are we really going to postpone restoration until it's $5-million instead of the $2-million that has been quoted?” she asked.

“Many people enjoy this park and have spoken to me of the sadness and frustration they feel as they look at this so-called temporary fix that is becoming more of a permanent fixture.”

“It's a great concern to all of us, believe me,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.

“Do you realize the big guy in the picture is the Federal government, because of the Great Lakes?” Councillor Forrest Rowden asked Hall.

“That's where we have to go for funding to do this, and that's a fairly long process. Just how long it's going to be before we get the money, I have no idea, but I'd like to say we can fix it tomorrow.

“We can only hope God doesn't give us any more weather like we got last year.”

Deputy Mayor John Henderson related an attempt to get a $171,000 grant that failed.

Council did pass a motion to reallocate funds of up to $50,000 from the Parks Reserve fund for a temporary repair to the retaining wall this year. Director of Public Works Laurie Wills said they had been fortunate enough to have a contractor lined up who can do the work within 48 hours of being given notice.

The $2-million that has been quoted would be for a replacement of the sea wall, which is probably inevitable given the higher water levels these days, Wills added.

Until such time as that funding can be arranged, she said, repairs must be done to buy the time to get a replacement arranged.


Cultural Master Plan gets into gear

Cobourg council got the Cultural Master Plan process into gear this week, with the awarding of a consultancy contract and the finalization of the Cultural Master Plan Steering Committee.

With funding from the 2018 operating budget, the $64,890 (plus HST) contract was awarded to MDB Insight as the firm that was evaluated with the highest-scoring submission.

Councillor Suzanne Seguin also read out the motion to approve the 12 committee members, each representing a specific community sector.

In addition to members-at-large Astrid Hudson, Duane Schermerhorn, Gail Rayment and Nicole Beatty, the committee consists of Catherine Richards (Heritage Advisory Committee), Olinda Casimiro (Art Gallery of Northumberland), Jack Boyagian (Northumberland Players Community Theatre), Rick Miller (Marie Dressler Foundation and Vintage Film Festival), Starr Olsen (Oriana Singers), Carol Anne Bell-Smith (Northumberland Orchestra and Choir), Carol McCann (Downtown Coalition Advisory Committee) and Sheila McCoy (Cobourg Art Club).


Council hopes to help VHV project

Cobourg council heard a request at Monday's meeting to absorb Victoria Hall facility costs in order to allow the Victoria Hall Volunteers offer a free special event Sept. 18.

Vice-president Leona Woods submitted a letter making the request regarding rental fees for the Concert Hall, Citizens Forum and Ryerson Guillet Room (as well as security fees) in order that they can offer a free public viewing of John Taylor's 11-minute film The History of Victoria Hall.

“We consider this to be a public service to the citizens of Cobourg, providing them with information about the historical importance of this building and the role that the people in the town played in the restoration.”

Now a British Columbia resident, Taylor came to Cobourg as director for the Cobourg Art Gallery (now the Art Gallery of Northumberland) when it was located on Chapel Street at the old Cobourg Library. When Victoria Hall was showing its age to the point of having to be closed for public safety, whether it would be restored was very much an open question. Taylor's eloquent advocacy for the project earned him a place as executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Victoria Hall.

In Ontario for a funeral in April, Taylor made a presentation on his project at the Cobourg Public Library. He said at the time that it was a story worth telling and, since it's been almost 50 years, it's now or never.

Having had a modest acting career in BC, he enlisted a number of professional actors for the film. He was able to show a couple of brief clips as a teaser.

“We hope that we will entice people into Victoria Hall who have never been inside the building, and the people who were involved in the restoration of the hall in the 1970s and early 1980s will return to see the film and hear the talk that John Taylor presents,” Woods's letter said.

Deputy Mayor John Henderson made a motion to refer the request to legislative services for a report.

“Leona has approached me about this particular event, and they feel it will be a very worthwhile venture,” Mayor Gil Brocanier said.

“Because they aren't charging any admission, they would like to waive those fees. Hopefully it will fit into some exception to our grant policy.”


Cobourg communications capture the spotlight

With the This Is Cobourg campaign spotlighting a different department each month, communications manager Ashley Purdy told council Monday, it was inevitable that her own department would get a turn.

“We highlight a department each month to let the public know all the wins, successes and accomplishments we have had,” Purdy said - “a nice little reward to get departments front and centre, and let citizens know what they have been working on.”

Each month, a pictograph is created and issued to share the news. For the sixth in the series, the communications department shared six highlights.

The department recently received the Gold Award of the prestigious Hermes Creative Award competition for websites. Only eight Ontario municipalities got such an award, Purdy said.

Her department manages the town's social-media accounts, in which capacity they recently attracted international attention with their You Tube video of a fox and owl in wary interaction in front of the marina office.

“You never quite know what's going to be popular or trending,” she said.

In the end, the video clip went international, and Purdy even did an interview about it with a press outlet from London, England.

“It was awesome to see how far it would go,” she said.

The department recently implemented ICE – Intranet for Cobourg Employees.

“It's just for staff, like a website they can log into,” she explained.

“It's a really useful tool with guidelines, policies, departmental news – before, we just used to e-mail each other. Now it's all in one place, a nice little document library for us.”

The recent Venture 13 opening not only spotlighted all the innovations under its roof, but celebrated the partnerships that made it possible (and drew more than 500 guests for the launch).

The This Is Cobourg campaign is only one component of the department's marketing campaigns that are carried on in multiple fronts and formats.

Finally, there are the partnerships, where the department extends its support to other areas (like most recently assisting the Cobourg Police Services in creating their ad block that appears in Northumberland News).

And all of this comes from a department that has minimal personnel – Purdy alone, “and whoever else I can get to help me.”

Mayor Gil Brocanier offered Purdy congratulations on the You Tube video, “putting us on the social-media map.”


Council supports Second Street Firehall restoration

Cobourg council has passed a motion to proceed with Phase 2 of the Second Street Firehall restoration project.

The contract has been awarded to Snyder Construction in the amount of $257,849 plus non-refundable HST of $4,538. Additional funding of $95,000 will be made available from the Town of Cobourg Holdings Dividend Reserve to allow for the completion of the project this year.

The property was originally the town's firehall, and its two big doors facing Second Street were the garage entrance before the Elgin Street firehall was built. Now a small theatre, the building requires roof repairs, window replacements on the first and second storeys, and replacement of woodwork and masonry.

Deputy Mayor John Henderson recalled that the town did extensive work on the building some years ago.

“At the conclusion, this will bring the Second Street Firehall back to where it was many, many years ago,” Henderson said.

“I know it has been 30 years since the full restoration, and it really made the Canadian Standard of Heritage at the national level.

“This has been an on-going continuous process.”


Waterfront Festival review includes a tribute

Last weekend's annual Waterfront Festival is an appropriate time to remember Keith Richan, Councillor Forrest Rowden declared at council this week.

Rowden said his old friend, who had been on the Waterfront Festival committee for a full quarter-century, had passed away about a week ago at the age of 105 – he would have been 106 in February.

“He was a great asset to the town for all the things he did. He worked with Petra Hartwig on the Waterfront Trail and got a lot accomplished,” Rowden said.

Several of the councillors who had attended offered comments on what may have been one of the hottest Waterfront Festivals ever – and the first one where the midway was not sited on the east pier (now closed due to safety concerns). It was set up in Victoria Park instead, but no one reported having received noise complaints.

Councillor Suzanne Seguin believes attendance was down, and attributes it to the long hot days - though she said water was kept handy for anyone who looked as if they needed rehydration.

Councillor Debra McCarthy said she may have had the best seat in the house for the Canada Day parade, as she rode high in a fire departent bucket truck. The temperature may have been about 45 degrees up there, she said, but the sea of visitors was awe-inspiring.

“You just know they came to Cobourg for Canada Day,” McCarthy said.

“They're standing and waving their flags – it just sent tingles up my spine.”


Get ready for green- and gray-box recycling

Northumberland County residents will be going to a multiple-stream recycling program in 2019, Mayor Gil Brocanier told Cobourg council on Monday.

Sharing news from county council, Brocanier said the county will provide everyone with the blue, gray and green boxes that will take on three streams of recycling, with paper and organics separated out and put into their own boxes.

The mayor shared the reasoning behind the move, which has largely to do with revenues realized from recycled and recovered materials The hope is to lower contamination rates through the extra step of separating papers from containers, he said.

“With China the world's largest importer of blue-box recycling, they have pretty rigid guidelines on what they will accept,” Brocanier said.

“So much so that a bale of paper that was $100 per metric ton is $5 now.”


Council unmoved by parking-lot protest

John Lee of Phoenix Genesis Group appeared before Cobourg council Monday to offer what he called a public-service announcement about the proposed development at 22-28-36 Queen Street.

Lee questioned figures presented by the developer last week that will affect the tax revenue the town can expect from the project. For example, their estimate of $500 in residential-condominium value per square foot is “extremely optimistic,” and $300 to $400 would be more likely. The result would be perhaps $215,000 in property taxes vs. the $300,000 estimated last week.

Lee was also concerned with the proposal to sell the municipal parking lot at the corner of Queen and McGill streets that the developer will replace with a three-storey building and public-access parking on their development. This will be heated undergound parking that Lee fears will attract “vagrants and other unsavoury people. Frankly, it could be a crime issue,” he predicted.

He also expressed his opinion that the parking amenities (electronic gates, security personnel, closed-circuit-TV monitoring, elevator, lighting, heating, administration) will not be provided by the developer if the project proves to be a bust.

Lee is also concerned about the possibility of losing the eight surface-level 15-minute parking spots people rely upon to use the post office that is located across the street from the parking lot. While post-office patrons can certainly use the public-access underground parking, he said, it is a far more cumbersome process for seniors than simply stopping a car in a convenient spot and stepping out.

“Perhaps there could be a public meeting where everyone can have their say,” he suggestesd.

Pointing out that Phoenix Genesis has large-scale condominium developments of its own, Mayor Gil Brocanier suggestsed that some might perceive a conflict of interest in Lee's presentation.

“We don't consider this to be competition whatsoever,” Lee countered.

Quite the opposite, he stated. As owners of nine commercial stores in the heritage district, he said, they see it another way – the more people who take up residence near the downtown, the better.

Council accepted the presentation for information purposes, and passed the motion that later came up to declare the parking-lot property as surplus and offer it for private sale.


DBIA chair has three requests

Cobourg council reviewed three letters from Downtown Business Improvement Area board-of-management chair Adam Bureau at Monday's meeting.

Each had a request for a change to the downtown pedestrian-and-vehicle traffic flow.

One request was for a pedestrian crosswalk at the Henley Arcade, Jaywalking is already very high at this intersection, the letter said, due to its midway position along King Street with Victoria Hall and the CIBC bank located right across the street from this spot.

“As both the chair of the board of management and a business owner located near the Henley Arcade, I have watched all ages cross at this location, and it is a growing concern in downtown,” the letter said, Its reqeuest is a pedestrian crosswalk similar to the one on King Street at the entrance of Victoria Park.

A second letter requested the implementation of lay-by outside shop frontages in parking spaces downtown.

What this means is a paved area, designated by pavement markings or signage, beside a roadway where vehicles can park or stop temporarily to facilitate pick-up or drop-off of passengers or goods. The zones would be restricted to that purpose between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. for a maximum of 20 minutes.

“The parking restriction will assist in ensuring increase in turnover of parking spaces in the lay-by and prevent all-day parking,” the letter said.

The third request was to sacrifice some of the parking spaces in the Covert Street lot to establish loading zones to lessen tie-ups occasioned by big trucks stopping to load and unload downtown. Specifics would have to be established, such as location and size of the zone and the hours of use.

“If parking is in high demand, we may limit the hours when the zone is active,” the letter said.

“Covert Street is designated for one-way traffic and suitable to accommodate a loading and unloading zone.”

Councillor Forrest Rowden made the motions necessary to refer all three requests to public-works staff for a report.