Notes From the Rafters: 5 October 2020

Picking our contractors solely on meeting minimum standards and price points makes me nervous. I’d like assurance money is spent well, not just reluctantly.

Council is back in chambers (as of last week) but the livestream link still only appears after council has started. The delay is only by a few seconds but, no matter how fast I “refresh” and “refresh” that meeting calendar for the links, I have never yet come into the live feed without missing the first half of what the mayor is saying. It should be like C-SPAN: just … LIVE…. and we can watch them slowly file in and pour their water and settle. Then we can know we aren’t missing anything.

Because we are missing something. We are missing being at the meeting. I am missing being at the meetings. And I am missing my mom. The Province rejected her application to visit our precious bubble. So I have no idea when I will get to see her and I’m sad and irritated with RULES and THINGS (like plagues) that keep us all apart. Which, I know does not make me unique, or right, but: AAAAARRRRRGH! 

Alright, setting aside the pandemic-rage howling for the moment, Councillor Burton reminds Mayor Dan that she is attending remotely by phone. I think Lane and Froude are absent, but if that was specified, it was before the live stream cut in. There are plexiglass dividers between the councillors and the rest of the staff is spread out more than six feet from each other, but they are not wearing masks while in their seats for the meeting. Looks like restaurant rules apply.

It is fire prevention week so check your smoke alarms and make sure your kids and visiting grandmothers (you lucky bastards) know where your fire extinguishers are. The theme this year is “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen.” My boyfriend’s very old blind/deaf dog still barks really insistently every time I start to burn something on the stove, way before the detector goes off. Get you an irritatingly safety conscious pet. Also, put a big dumb rubber bracelet on every time you use the oven. That is my advice, not the city’s.  

Here, for your slightly dark-humoured edification, is a triple relevant-titled current event

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These are the Buildings in Your Neighbourhoods

172 Campbell Ave. was voted on for the final round of “make that heritage!” and is now—officially—heritage designated. Cllr Burton explains that though we may have all thought this happened already it is a bit of an iterative process. But it is done now. And forever. Unto eternity. Or until a developer buys the property in a couple decades and leaves it to rot before it mysteriously burns down.

133 Old Bay Bulls Rd. and 520 Main Rd, Goulds. Cllr Collins says “I think Ward 5 has gone to the dogs. Truly.” A home based dog training and dog wash service and a convenience store-turned-pet-salon both garner unanimous approval. The one at 133 Old Bay Bulls Rd, the home occupation, had failed at council previously with a larger doggie day care model. This iteration will have only 2 dogs at a time, max. So, maybe Ward 5 has gone to a moderate amount of dogs.

88 Clarke’s Hillview Rd, Paradise. Water knows no political boundaries, so Paradise and St John’s have a Watershed Agreement (presumably to make sure one doesn’t do anything nutso that causes flooding in the other). Which is why some resident of Paradise needs our city council to approve their request for a height increase to their accessory building (from 4 m to 4.4 m) which is, unfortunately for them, located within the outline of the watershed. 

They may need our approval, but they’re never gonna get it, no not this time. The referenced Agreement does not allow for height variances, full stop. Council rejects the request.

Now here is where I appreciate Mayor Dan. So often over the years watching council meetings, I have wanted so badly to shout out, “wait. why?” and Mayor Dan, more often than not—certainly more often than Doc ever did—also notices these weird non-intuitive moments and pipes up.

Today Breen wondered aloud (as no doubt you were just doing), “How does [a building’s] height affect the watershed?”

Staffer Sinyard suggests that the height of an outbuilding or garage affects what type of operation you can do in it. He points out that a high garage can accommodate industrial vehicles which could increase “intensity.” Which, though that is not a word I immediately associate with the town of Paradise, sort of argues in the end for the nice chillaxing effect of The Watershed Agreement.

Parking Interlude

A small amount of time is now wasted approving various parking exceptions. This top heavy process will hopefully be streamlined once all the draft regulations for parking and development are implemented, so that reasonable parking allowances/relief can be automatically approved by staff without each one having to pass through the councillors’ actual hands and mouths at an actual council meeting. 

Slippery Tenders

Two of the three tenders approved today were for snow and ice removal for the upcoming winter season (with the option for two one-year extensions). Sometimes the tenders all come in right around the same price and you wonder, “well, if they are all so close, shouldn’t we pick the one that got the best reviews on Angie’s List? Or at least do a search on the NL Buyer Beware FB Page to make sure they really are going to melt our ice and not just sell us fake puppies and trash our boyfriends in our DMs?”

Other times, the spread of bid prices is so wide you wonder, “whoa, is picking one that went SO much lower a good idea?” Like when you go to get a BBQ at Kent. You start at the cheap end of the aisle, and you go up at least one just to make sure you aren’t getting the very worst model.

The Downtown Sidewalk Snow Clearing and Ice Control tender makes me worry we picked the very first BBQ in the aisle. Alltask Excavating Inc came in at ~$130k. The next up was ~$246k, then up steadily to $445k. Now, I know we shouldn’t get the one that is half a million dollars when there is one for $129k (although… I don’t always know that. Just look at my fancy BBQ with the two extra burners for lobster boils). But, it really does make you nervous about picking our contractors solely on meeting minimum standards and price points. $130k is still a lot of our money, and I’d like some assurance it is spent well, not just reluctantly.

Go Round

The Councillors, the Deputy Mayor and the Mayor are all excited to announce both the new Kelly’s Brook trail from Kings Bridge to Columbus Drive as part of the Bike Master Plan—the City only has to pay 17%, the feds and the province pay the rest—and the new free wifi in Victoria and Bannerman parks. Wifi in the parks immediately makes me think, “can we project streamed movies onto snow banks?” Some fun to be had sledding right through a glowing Wyld Stallyns concert on the hill at Victoria Park this winter. 

Cllr Hickman says people in Gander came all the way to St. John’s this summer just to visit the Pedestrian Mall. 

And, finally, as is becoming a tradition of sorts, I will end with Cllr Collins. Today he is also talking about “bikes,” but definitely does not mean bicycles. Possibly dirt bikes, or ATVs? “There was an incident with bikes again.” One of the “bikes” (an ATV) hit and killed a hunter’s dog. Collins urges “young fellas, and young girls too” to be careful because he doesn’t “really wanna crack down on them again” as they “seem to be staying out of farmers’ fields.” But “just be careful when coming around curves.” All of which, except for the very sad dog part, makes it sound like The Goulds indeed Rules.

Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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