After years of discussion and planning it appears Bracebridge’s public transportation system is officially set to hit the road.
During Tuesday morning’s general committee meeting, councillors agreed to put Hammond Transportation in charge of the operation of the new public transportation system. The contract is for a six year term and service is expected to begin on Aug. 28.
Coun. Rick Maloney said the process is the culmination of years of hard work.
“I’m confident that we have a proposed system that will provide greater opportunity for the people of Bracebridge,” he said.
Earlier this year the town spent $160,000 on a new bus, and the cost of operating the systems is expected to trigger a 1.23 per cent increase on the general tax levy.
Coun. Don Smith said he didn’t want to be a “naysayer” but he questioned whether there was any way out of the contract if there were big problems with the system.
Walt Schmid, the town’s director of public works, said he was only aware of one municipality – Parry Sound – where a public transportation system like the one proposed had failed. None the less, he said there was a provision in the contract to provide three months’ notice if termination is required.
Councillors focus on new library
With a new arena, public transit system and fire hall all in the works, council took time out this week to push forward with a proposal for a new library.
On Tuesday morning at Bracebridge general committee, councillors took a step towards plans that would see the new library co-located in a building with a new arena – which is tentatively set to be constructed on Salmon Drive.
A number of alternative options were considered, including expanding the existing library, building an entirely new stand-alone library somewhere downtown, or leasing a building somewhere outside of the downtown area.
CAO John Sisson said approving the motion didn’t necessarily mean they had to go with co-locating with the arena, but he said it is the preferred option right now and could provide opportunities for funding from upper levels of government.
Mayor Graydon Smith said arena planning was getting ahead of library planning, and the motion was a chance to make sure the two were moving at roughly the same pace. He said co-location of libraries and arenas has been highly successful in other communities.
Work to begin on new fire station
The final deal was struck Tuesday morning to get work started on a new fire hall on Taylor Road in Bracebridge.
The new facility will be shared with the District of Muskoka’s Bracebridge Ambulance Station, and is expected to cost the Town $3.6 million for their portion of the building.
There was some discussion about using Joseph Street as an entrance for non-emergency vehicles, to cut down on the potential for an accident. However, council was told that as it stands the Town’s official plan prevents using the street as an entrance.
There was also some concern from councillors over how the shared space would work. CAO John Sisson said there was still some fine tuning to be done in that department and council will be kept up to date on the specifics as they’re ironed out.
Group eyes shift in Muskoka health care
Bracebridge’s general committee heard Tuesday from a group that is aiming to change the face of healthcare in Muskoka.
On Monday, the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) officially gave their approval to the Muskoka and Area Health System Transformation, or MAHST, council.
The aim of the new council is come up with a comprehensive strategic model to deal with hospital services in Muskoka along, while integrating other service like mental health, addiction services, community services and home care.
Mayor Graydon Smith said the MAHST council is the product of months of hard work. He admitted that when talks began in September, the situation was “grim,” as Huntsville and Bracebridge were both grappling with the prospect of losing their acute care facilities.
Smith said the goal of ensuring an acute care facility for Bracebridge is achievable within the broader scope of the council’s objectives.
There was some concern from councillors that the MAHST council needed to have equal representation from across Muskoka.
Members of the MAHST Council will be selected shortly and meetings are expected to begin in August.
Camp Muskoka land request hits roadblocks
A request for municipal land from Camp Muskoka hit a major snag at Bracebridge general committee on Tuesday.
The request for a shoreline allowance, which are typically approved with minimal discussion, became hung up on a major discrepancy between the amount of money the Town requested and the amount the camp was willing to pay.
Based on the Town’s exiting policy, the asking price for the 2,900 feet of shoreline on Cougar Lake would cost $200,970. The Camp countered with an offer of $2,500 and Town staff recommended council accept the offer, as there is no public access to Cougar Lake and there is no public need to retain the shore road allowance.
However, there were some concerns with breaking policy, and Mayor Graydon Smith said he had problems with the massive discrepancy between the original price and the counter-offer.
The committee agreed and sent it back to staff to look for another solution.