By John Francis
LATE BREAKING NEWS: The Municipal Waste Disposal Sites will reopen to the public on Friday, May 15, 2020. Residents are encouraged to pay by debit/credit or account. Cash will not be accepted at this time. (See MNBP website for more information.)
The Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula’s April 27 Meeting was held online, with only Mayor Milt McIver and a couple of staff members actually present at Council Chambers.
The need for members of NBP’s community to get access to a landfill site was discussed at length. Public Works Manager Troy Cameron told Council that arrangements had been made to install VISA/debit machines at the landfill sites so that staff would not have to handle cash. Council voted to implement the system as soon as it is available, without further approvals.
The replacement of the pedestrian ramp at Tobermory Legion was briefly discussed. As has often been the case in recent years, the construction tender exceeded the proposed budget. In this case, the excess was $528. “Get ‘er done,” commented Councillor Jamie Mielhausen. No one argued.
Next on the Agenda was the Lion’s Head lighthouse reconstruction project. Council had agreed at its previous meeting to build the new lighthouse on the existing foundation but the project engineer met with the reconstruction volunteer committee and discovered that a much better location was available. Community Services Manager Ryan Deska said that “since this came out, even more things have changed,” but that he was hopeful that the location would not be affected. There is a lot of back-and-forth among the various engineers on the project. Councillor Megan Myles wondered about the budget and received good news. Deska estimated that a budget of $15,000 should finish the job and $10,000 is already raised. Labour and many materials are being donated. The Municipality has previously committed to donors that funds raised will go to rebuilding the lighthouse structure and surrounding area on the pier. The Municipality will be covering all the engineering expenses.
A discussion of harbours, airport and campground was “a little ahead of the curve” as Councillor Smokey Golden put it. The Province was expected to make an announcement on such services part way through Council’s Meeting. The timing of electrical repair at Lion’s Head Campground was discussed and deferred to the May 11 Meeting. At Tobermory airport, Blue Heron’s helicopter tour business will not operate in 2020. They have asked the defer their contract to 2021. “They’re a good tenant,” commented Councillor Golden. “Let them out of this year’s lease.” Ryan Deska wondered if the same deal should be offered to the commercial boat operators in Tobermory. “If they’re not going to run at all,” agreed Councillor Golden. It would be a different case if they were able to run for part of the season.
The information booth at Ferndale was discussed. Do we need any presence there at all in a year of diminished tourism? The problem is, Councillor Golden commented, that people are still coming up, even now. They arrive in Tobermory upset and unaware of closures. That would make a tourism information presence at Ferndale even more valuable because the visitors are so poorly informed — confused, unaware of the rules and in need of direction — when they arrive. Councillor Myles commented that the proposed budget of $30,000 was a lot of money to spend on such a small number of visitors. She suggested having a comprehensive recovery strategy in place before spending a lot of money.
Mayor McIver drove up the middle, suggesting flexibility; it’s too soon to call off the season. Look at the broader scope of things, work with Tobermory Chamber of Commerce when they can get open.
Under Other Business, Councillor Golden asked about opening the boat launches. She has heard a lot of complaints from local fishermen. Is there some way, she wondered, to allow local residents to launch their boats, perhaps by appointment? Councillor Mielhausen suggested the boat launches had been closed by the Province. Community Services Manager Deska explained that the provincial regulations are not very clear on this subject. You could, he continued, argue that boating and fishing are an excellent form of recreation that respects physical distancing. Parking regulations near the boat launch could discourage non-residents from using the facilities.
Councillor Myles noted that the same principles apply to the Bruce Trail. “People would love to get out…”
Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles asked about the availability of Bylaw Enforcement evenings and weekends. Bylaw Enforcement Officer Carol Hopkins explained that the posted number (866-750-8219) is answered by a live operator who relays the information to MNBP personnel. Calls received after 9:00PM are not dealt with until the next morning.