Notes from the Rafters: 13 April 2020

They have added video. Each councillor now comes to the meeting framed by a hastily curated slice of their natural environment.

Was your Easter weird? I mean, even for Easter, which is the weirdest holiday. We dyed and hid eggs, I made my bi-annual lame attempt to answer my 7 year old’s holiday questions by launching into a lecture on secular cultural traditions vs religious holiday observance. She shared her chocolate bar with me anyway. She is basically Jesus. Then we all forgot to do anything about the eggs once they were collected. I found the whole cartonful this morning, abandoned on the window seat in the sun. At least we are all on the same half-read page together. 

I’m sad, are you guys sad? Christ I’m sad this week. I’m sad right into my stomach. right down to my pubis. My mons is sad. 

Luckily it was a council week, and, like they knew I needed it, they have added video. Each councillor now comes to the meeting framed by a hastily curated slice of their natural environment. Are any of us not voyeurs at heart? Is there such a thing as a person who walks along a dark street at night and doesn’t glance in to see what strangers are watching in their lit un-curtained living rooms? I may not know what’s on their Netflix, but I now know who at City Hall shops for art at Winners. Nothing wrong with it. But like a lonely creep-troll I feel richer knowing. We are as short on gossip these days as we are on jobs. I’m shaky for useless info about casual acquaintances. I miss parties. I won’t even watch the provincial updates, I wait for a friend to recap them for me because it feels more like hot goss. 

Heritage: your house; Ove Arup’s bridge

So…. do you know what I heard tonight? The City’s Built Heritage Experts Panel will now allow their Heritage Conservation Grants to include repair/replacement costs for wrought iron fences (up to 25% of materials and labour to maximum 5000$ per building/per year). But, only where the wrought iron fence is “existing” “historic” and “abutting a public street.” Wrought iron? Hot iron, amirite? also, maybe Rot Iron should be my new wrestling persona. Apply for sweet sweet city money for fixing up your heritage property until Sept 1 this year (extended from the usual May 1). 

The Cantilever Pedestrian bridge “by” Ove Arup (of Sydney opera house “fame”; I mean, I would rather be an architect than a Kardashian but is it really “fame?”) will finally be designated a Heritage Structure. And by “by” Ove Arup they mean “Montreal architecture firm, van Ginkel Associates, […] along with the United Kingdom firm of Ove Arup as the structural engineering consultant, designed and constructed the pedestrian and road bridges…” 

Close enough! And Blanche Lemco van Ginkel, the bridge’s architect, not only wins names but was the first female to “head a faculty of architecture in Canada” and helped plan Expo ’67, which I imagine as so swinging it hurts my mons more than sadness.

The practical side of the heritage designation is that it may help St John’s convince the Province to designate the bridge a provincial Registered Heritage Structure which would make the city eligible for a grant of up to 30k (and a plaque!) to help restore the bridge. 

Money: Tender and Tough

  • Fairview Investments Ltd was the lowest bidder (and therefore the automatic winner) to complete the “Bay Bulls Road Street Upgrading Phase 3” for ~$4.5 million.
  • The ever present Pyramid Construction Ltd won the race to the lowest bid for the “Hebron Way Extension and Majors Path Upgrading” at ~$4.1 million. 
  • Due to everyone having to work from home all at once, the city needed a whack of laptops. Their current supplier, apparently, could not supply them in a timely manner, and tendering—which I’m not sure is a real verb and also sounds like a super gross synonym for foreplay, but too late I used it—would also take too long. So a contract without tenderness was awarded to Brunnet Inc for ~120k for 53 laptops. 
  • Safety supplies (coveralls, ear protection, respirators and filters, etc.) were awarded to various contractors for ~$113k total.
  • Only one bid came in for renting excavators, from JAT Excavating for ~$147k. Cllr Froude says they are for “snow dumping” but not only for “snow dumping” (which sounds like something I’m too vanilla to have tried but not too vanilla to have searched online.)
  • The 2019 Fourth Quarter Travel Expenses Report was presented and then punched in the face for making everyone even more sad about their life now. 
  • The city will “write-off” $149k of debt that they could not collect from 2005 through 2018 from tenants who vacated the city’s Non Profit Housing units. The “Miscellaneous” debts range from unpaid rent to damage beyond “normal wear and tear.” Reasons they couldn’t collect include “no forwarding address,” “low- or fixed-income” and “change of phone number.” Not being able to collect blood from a stone makes good practical sense, but the other two reasons are weak sauce. Did they even try Facebook? My friend started dating someone and wouldn’t tell us anything about them. All we had to go on was their age (which they let slip by accident), their sexuality, and our assumption they were cute based on our friend’s face when they told us about the date. My other friend, who also dates locally, found the dude in less than 7 seconds. Anyway, SJ, if you put out enough tenderness maybe she would help you too. 

End Homelessness moves out of “mom’s house”

End Homelessness St. John’s (EHSJ), the “Community Entity” which signs funding agreements with the federal government and is entrusted to “determine the local community homelessness plan” is, as of April 1st, a stand alone registered nonprofit corporation. The city will provide in-kind office space at the Rec Centre at Buckmasters Circle. 

The city’s partnership w EHSJ going forward will be “defined by the city’s Affordable Housing Strategy.” Cllr Jamieson explained it was “like moving out of their mom’s house […] but they can still come home for dinner.” 

Is Cllr Lane too still to be paying attention?

He stays very still in his little video conference frame. So so still. Is he very respectful, or did he go to sleep but paint eyeballs on his eyelids? How is he so good at not touching his face?!? Oh good, he moved his eyes. He is alive. No. Wait…. he just did the same tiny movement again a minute later … I think he pulled a “Speed” and looped his video.

Other things

  • Cathedral Parish Hall Residence at 68 Queens street may replace two windows and a door. Settle down, this is completely separate from their big rezone/redevelopment request. 
  • Some overnight construction will be allowed for the Water Street Dig through June of this year. Advance notice will be given to hyper locals when the specific dates are known.
  • 118 Ennis Ave must be destroyed! (It already burnt up. The city is ordering a demolition order due to safety concerns.) 

Where Do We All Go When the Sun Comes Out?

The crocuses are poking up, the snow is curling up and dying like an angry giant has been pissing on it in the night, and someday it will be summer! Then what? The parks may still be closed, the humans may still be infected and potentially moist, but, because we are the most contrary creatures on the planet, now that we have been told to #stayhome all we care about is “going for a walk” and “walking”  and “getting outside” and “fresh air” and “staying healthy” and “not going full Private Pyle” before we are finally through this endless bootcamp for a war most of us can only fight by doing more nothing. 

Last week Cllr Burton asked staff to begin figuring out proposals for how to make “walking” (which I love now I guess) safe so we can all do it without getting hit by cars but while staying 6 feet away from each other. 

The city will begin by making all the walk/don’t walk lights at intersections automatic. They will cycle on whether anyone is there or not. This means we can get our safe crossing without all touching a mutual button.

They are also going to look into more complicated solutions including street configurations and lane re-assignments. So expect lots of discussion about this going forward. Cllr Jamieson requested we get some idea of the costs involved so the discussions with the public can be based on some understanding of cost to tax-payers for various measures. 

In conclusion I will end with a quote from Cllr Wally Collins:


Breen: “Cllr Collins, is your mute button on?”


Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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