Councillors say yes to arena/library project
It appears the Bracebridge Public Library is headed for a new home on Salmon Avenue alongside the proposed new Bracebridge Arena.
On Tuesday morning Bracebridge general committee endorsed the co-location of the two facilities, after lengthy and often contentious discussions which have stretched over many years.
More than a decade ago the library board began reviewing their options after they determined their current space on Manitoba Street was simply too small.
Various solutions have been discussed over the years, including moving to another building or expanding the current location.
When the idea of co-locating the library with a proposed new arena on Salmon Avenue was floated, a group of concerned citizens brought forward a counter proposal to keep the library downtown.
On Tuesday, Mayor Graydon Smith said he was accountable to all taxpayers, not just the vocal group who would like to keep the facility on Manitoba Street. He said he would have a hard time justifying the potential extra cost of $3 or $4 million to rebuild the current location to the rest of the tax base. He also said that rather than being a liability, a vacant library building on the main street could pose a great opportunity to find something that will increase the vibrancy of the entire downtown.
Several councillors, most notably Don Smith and Archie Buie, said they had significant concerns regarding another vacant building in the downtown and the effect removing the library would have on the downtown as a whole.
The motion to co-locate was passed by a single vote, but it must still be ratified during next Wednesday’s town council meeting.
Knotweed causes concern
Invasive species have become a cause of some concern on municipal property – and in particular Japanese knotweed.
The matter of invasive species was brought up most recently during Tuesday morning’s Bracebridge general committee meeting.
Coun. Don Smith suggested the issue of invasive species was a “growing concern…no pun intended,” and there was need for a provincial strategy.
Coun. Rick Maloney, who sits on the Town’s Environmental Advisory Committee, said the most commonly cited cause of concern was Japanese Knotweed growing on municipal property.
Knotweed can grow up to 6.5 feet tall and 65 feet wide due to a vast system of unseen roots. The plant spreads underground and forces its way up through patios, concrete paths, and even in walls and floors.
Coun. Maloney said staff have identified several areas of concern with regard to Japanese knotweed, and have begun remediation of the problem areas. However, he said the issue was a challenging one, as in many cases the plant has spread to nearby areas located on private property.
Knotweed has not been named a hazardous or noxious plant, like many of its fellow invasive species, so there is no legislation on the book stating that it must be eradicated. As such, Coun. Maloney said the key to eradicating the plant is through education and communication.
Muskoka’s monarchs multiplying
The Monarch butterfly is apparently thriving in Muskoka.
The issue of Monarch butterfly conservation was brought up during Tuesday morning’s Bracebridge general committee meeting.
Coun. Mark Quemby questioned whether more should be done to promote the milkweed breeding grounds of the monarch. He added that he had left the milkweed plants on his own property alone and had seen many monarchs in there this year.
The question was prompted by discussions held by the environmental advisory committee, who had been considering the possibility of increased conservation of the milkweed breeding grounds.
Coun. Rick Maloney, who sits on the environmental advisory committee, said the information they had received was that the monarch population was experiencing a significant resurgence. He said the overall feeling was that the net effect of increasing the breeding grounds would be minimal as the existing grounds seemed to be doing the job.
Councillor McMurray on leave until 2018
Coun. Barb McMurray, who represents Oakley Ward (which includes the village of Vankoughnet) is now on leave of absence until 2018, due to medical reasons.
Bracebridge general committee agreed to the request during their Tuesday morning meeting.
Her roles on various committees will not be backfilled in her absence, and the remaining members of councillor have stated they will do their best to assist residents of that riding with their concerns while she is on leave.
Winter plow costs spike by 20 per cent
Having the roads, plowed, salted and sanded will cost considerably more this winter.
That was the news for Bracebridge general committee on Tuesday morning, where councillors signed off on a $130,800 cost for each of the next three years worth of contracted winter services. The contract was awarded to Robinson Haulage.
That price is roughly 20 per cent higher than last winter, and during the meeting Mayor Graydon Smith wanted to know why.
Walt Schmidt, the Town’s director of public works, said there wasn’t any specific reason provided by the contractor, who put in the sole bid for the work, but he speculated it could be due to increased operating costs.
Schmid was asked why the work couldn’t just be done in house, and he reposnded that it was simply too expensive to carry the extra staff through the slower summer months, and the contractors had greater flexibility and were better able to respond to the changing requirements dictated by the unpredictable winter weather.
Schmid was directed to do some research on how the contract stacks up against other municipalities and come back with more information before the contract is ratified by council next Wednesday.
James Street set for $3 million rehab
James Street in Bracebridge is getting ready for a $3 million overhaul.
During Tuesday morning’s Bracebridge general committee meeting, councillors agreed to an $126,000 engineering study of the project.
The road will be completely reconstructed from Ann Street to Manitoba Street, with $2.1 million of the work being undertaken by the Town of Bracebridge and $800,000 by the District of Muskoka.
Coun. Rick Maloney questioned why the Town was ready to pump $2.1 million into James Street, when council was unlikely to even consider investing that much in a similar secondary road.
Walt Schmid, the Town’s director of public works, said the project included many unique elements, including a complete reconstruction of the sidewalk and the installation of new storm sewers. Schmid said there are significant problems with drainage, specifically at the corner of Ann and James Street where the storm drains regularly overrun causing flooding and freezing in the winter months.
Coun. Mark Quemby noted the hydro poles are being taken out for the project and replaced when the work is done. He suggested that underground wires might be the way to go, as they were less intrusive and more aesthetically pleasing, which drew applause from some members of the public in the gallery.
Schmid said it would be very costly to run the wires underground to the faces of all the buildings, but he would bring the issue up with Lakeland Power, who own the hydro poles.