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First Full Meeting

Monday marked the second time the newest city council cohort gathered at City Hall and it was also the first full meeting. They wasted no time getting started.

The council quickly approved an application for a 15.03 metre building line setback for a new single detached dwelling at 69-71 Doyle’s Road.

From there, the council also considered a Discretionary Use application to construct a building for heavy equipment storage—the likes of an excavator, backhoe, greasing machine, and snow removal equipment—at the back of 1372 Blackhead Road.

Council received one letter objecting to this application, who was concerned with noise and safety, said Cllr Maggie Burton. This area is zoned Rural Residential and Rural, so businesses operating within the city are required to follow the Noise By-Law, which limits noise from the operation from 7 am to 11 pm.

She asked they defer the application to give herself and the new ward councillor more time to discuss this issue with residents in the area, adding more concerns had been “trickling in” over the weekend and Monday morning. It was seconded by Cllr Carl Ridgeley and the motion was carried.

Power Line Push Back

After a lot of back and forth (and some technical troubles) the council approved a Crown Land Lease of 3.32 hectares and a Discretionary Use application by Newfoundland Power to construct two parallel transmission lines—which is considered public utility—in the area of 424 Airport Heights Drive.

Two transmission lines will connect the new substation at 424 Airport Heights Drive to the existing transmission line that currently runs from the Kenmount Substation to the Oxen Pond Substation.

The City received three letters raising their concerns over the application’s approval, citing issues around the routing of the transmission line over private property, recreational impact. and overall effect on the watershed. People also raised the issue around the loss of formal and informal trails.

The work will be carried out on Crown land and the path was also chosen to avoid Pippy Park, private landowners, and trail users, as well as minimize impacts on the watershed. In addition, the Watershed Zone requires that all developments have an Environmental Analysis Report.

Because of its proximity to the watershed, the Department of Public Works Water Treatment division reviewed the proposal and found Newfoundland Power’s proposed route provided a satisfactory buffer zone between Windsor Lake and did not create an easy access point to the lake.

The city also sent out written notices to the property owners in a minimum 150-metre radius of the application sites. In addition, the application was advertised in The Telegram and is posted on the city’s website.

Deputy City Manager of Planning and Engineering Jason Sinyard said this meeting was for the approval of the discretionary use but the application for development approval has to happen.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary raised concern around this proposal, adding she wanted to raise the voices of concerned residents. Moreover, she wanted extra heightened concern and due diligence around the environmental impacts and how existing uses for the area could be impacted.

At this point, Mayor Danny Breen called for a recess, citing an issue with the video streaming service (which I could still see) and then the video went on standby and then blank—which, I assure you, caused no small amount of panic in this reporter. The video resumed about 10 minutes later and the meeting picked up where O’Leary left off.

O’Leary wondered about the role of the sustainability experts panel and what type of power they can use to exert assurances that the work will be environmentally sensitive to the area and reduce negative impacts that could happen on potential recreational activities in the area. She then asked Sinyard how the experts panel could play a very proactive role.

Sinyard said there are no formal trails impacted by this route and Newfoundland Power plans to mitigate impact on informal trails with buffers. He added, “the City’s environmental sustainability panel can’t really exert any power because it’s a committee that just makes recommendations to council. It doesn’t have any authority. I can’t really expand on how they can enforce any conditions on Newfoundland Power; they don’t have the authority to do that.”

Both Cllrs Ian Froude and Jill Bruce said they’d looked at the maps and compared the proposed route and where the informal trails are and believe this is the best possible route chosen.

Ultimately, the motion was carried unanimously.

The council then aimed its focus on cleaning up water by awarding an open call for Inspection and Testing of Water and Wastewater Systems Emergency Generators to Sansom Equipment Ltd., for $88,333.95 plus HST. The work is to complete periodic inspections and testing of water and wastewater systems emergency back-up generators. The contract is for three years, with an option on the table for the City to extend the contract for up to another two years with the same conditions.

The council also tapped Modern Paving Limited to carry out the 2021 Sidewalk Infill Program for $409,952.00 (HST incl.) As for contract terms, a substantial bit of the work has to be wrapped up by August 31, 2022, said Cllr Sandy Hickman.

According to the City agenda (which is normally available online) there were a total of five bids, with Modern Paving Limited being the lowest bid. The others were Infinity Construction Ltd. ($448,712.52), Pyramid Construction Limited ($465,972.07), Dexter Construction Company Limited ($533,052.83), and Weirs Construction Limited ($732,380.95).

City Still Picking Up Pieces After Hurricane Larry

While Infinity Construction Ltd lost out in the previous bid, it was awarded the work to be the City’s supplier to provide all labour and equipment to process the stockpile of tree debris at the Robin Hood Bay Landfill site resulting from Hurricane Larry. 

Infinity Construction put in a bid for $192,000 and while Cllr Hickman said the company was the sole bidder, he wondered if this was a reasonable price for the work.

Deputy City Manager of Public Works Lynnann Winsor said the tender is to process all the tree debris collected since Hurricane Larry, adding there are more than 2,000 tandem truck loads of debris at Robin Hood Bay (something this reporter would like to see—it sounds like a lot of tree parts).

Winsor said the City also doesn’t have a commercial, industrial grade chipper, so putting the work to tender is the most efficient way to get the work done.

Cllr Hickman then asked why they can’t just let it rot and then use it for compost, to which Winsor replied the debris won’t compost on its own. 

Cllr Jamie Korab asked if this product be made available for residents to use in their gardens and she explained the mulch produced won’t be the right quality for gardens but that it will be used to cover Robin Hood Bay.

Cllr Burton commented, “An increase in the number of hurricanes during the seasons we’re going to see in the future and the impacts of climate change is one of the examples of the fiscal impacts of changing climate on the municipality and on the taxpayers.”

Brenntag Canada Inc. ($262,682.75 + HST) was also awarded a contract to supply and deliver anhydrous ammonia to the Bay Bulls Big Pond Water Treatment Plant. The contract is for a three year period, and the city has the option to extend the contract on the same terms and conditions for an additional term of up to two, one year periods.

The city then voted to move forward with formalizing the Municipal Diversion Initiative that would make use of alternative mechanisms of resolution outside of prosecution.

Cllr Froude explained the Municipal Diversion is an alternative to the courts, while still seeking those same goals of compliance and deterrence but without resorting to the traditional court process. It also focuses on education.

Cllr Burton said the process is voluntary and no one would be required to undertake it.

City solicitor Cheryl Mullett said each charge would be looked at to see if using this system was appropriate. The person would also have to voluntarily admit to guilt.

This motion was also carried unanimously.

Finally, council signed off on the (unspecified) travel and associated costs for Cllrs Hickman and Bruce to attend the 2021 MNL Annual Conference and AGM in Corner Brook, which is taking place November 4th to 6th. (Bon voyage!)

The Go-Round

To wrap it up, many of the councillors also had some good news to announce.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary noted the East Coast Trail Association is hosting its annual fundraiser this Saturday. As well, Trudy J. Morgan-Cole’s new play The Mirror, based on suffragette Armine Nutting Gosling, is set to premier at the LSPU Hall. It’s part of PerSIStence Theatre’s Votes for Women 100 project; a year-long celebration organized to mark a century of women in St. John’s voting in municipal elections. (Full disclosure, I volunteered with this project.)

Cllr Burton said an anonymous donor has made it possible for 29 cats at the St John’s Animal Care and Adoption Centre to be adopted, free of charge. (Despite her fondest wishes, she lamented she wasn’t able to take in any kitties.)

Cllr Ophelia Ravencrft also said local activist Lisa Marie Walters helped lead an initiative to buy 11 copies of the book Demystifying Disability to get them into the hands of councillors so they will have better knowledge when it comes to improving the City’s accessibility.

Mayor Breen also congratulated Labatt St. John’s for reaching 10 years without a workplace injury, “which, by the way, is a record for the longest time without a lost time injury across every Labatt and AB InBev brewery in North America.” (Cheers!)

And with that, the meeting was adjourned until next Monday!

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Elizabeth Whitten is a St. John's-based journalist and The Independent's St. John's municipal politics reporter. She's previously worked for allNewfoundlandLabrador and Downhome Magazine, and her work has been published by CBC, The Overcast, and the Toronto Star. She's currently writing a book about how Dr. Cluny Macpherson invented the gas mask in World War One.