By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports from the Minden Hills council meeting held virtually on Thursday, Oct. 28.
The Take a Seat fundraising campaign that kicked off in May has raised approximately $40,000 of its projected goal of $300,000 to date, and the community centre fundraising advisory committee is looking to do more to raise more.
Through committee chair Councillor Jennifer Hughey, three recommendations were brought to council to help the committee increase membership, promote fundraising initiatives in the arena and advertise to website users as well.
With the departure of one committee member, just two public members remain on the committee alongside Hughey, and council agreed to make a call for new committee members.
The recommendation to use already-raised funds to buy planned signage for within the facility during events to promote fundraising initiatives was also approved without hesitation from council.
A greater presence to promote the campaign on the township website, however, was met with some hesitation and conversation. Hughey proposed a microsite, or popup, be added to the existing website so that people can more easily find information about the fundraising campaign.
“I know we are going through the process of a redesign, but on a regular basis when I explain the initiative to various people, they mention, how would we have known that? We don’t see it in the newspaper, we don’t see it on the website,” Hughey told council. “Basically at this point it’s somewhat word-of-mouth and partially on social [media].”
The township’s updated website is expected to be ready to launch in January. It’s expected to be more user-friendly for public users and also staff updating information.
“After spending 30 years or so as a CIO, I know how IT projects work, we’re talking about something going up in January, the whole idea of fundraising and the opening of the arena is happening now,” said Councillor Bob Carter, who noted he was in favour of the new site but didn’t think the committee should be delayed. “We’re going to lose all of our momentum. If we can do something quickly and simply to put something up, I think we should go ahead.”
Councillor Pam Sayne had reservations, noting it was a busy time for staff and that she was “getting questions outside of the arena issues that people want attention to.”
“My concern is that right now we’re in the middle of preparing this new site, staff are under a lot of pressure to get this new site going, I don’t know if it’s the best of our resources right now in terms of staffing that would be required to do all of this all at once,” she said.
Sayne stressed that it takes much time for information to be made public online, and the amount of staff time that requires is “tremendous.”
“That’s where I’m really having difficulty, all the other things we’re supposed to be doing, all the calls we’re getting about roads and things, and now we’re just putting more of our staff time into the arena again,” she said. “I really would like to see us get back to the main business and get some things caught up before we do that.”
Councillor Jean Neville supported the recommendations and suggested that Hughey help staff with the content.
“We have to get our fundraising going, I mean, it keeps falling flat,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell was also concerned about losing fundraising momentum and wanted to see the website recommendation moved forward.
“The people in the community are upset about what the arena is costing, so if we have the opportunity to give some of that back through the seat sales, etc., then I would like to see it happen sooner rather than later,” she said. “I know that I purchased a couple of the seats myself, one of them in memory of my father who passed away in July and I’d kind of like to see that seat up in this season if possible.”
Hughey said she appreciated the support offered, and said the committee was trying to work toward 50 per cent of the Take a Seat program being fulfilled prior to moving on with other fundraising initiatives.
“But because we’ve had zero calls in the past, almost three months, we need to go,” she said.
“I will reiterate some of the feelings that some of the council members had with regards to this facility,” she said. “It’s very important to continue in the line of already existing media saying that we’re going to raise a certain amount of funds to pay some of the mandated items that we’ve listed. As a committee we’ve basically stressed our goal to be only $300,000, and we feel it is very important to raise those funds for the facility. By no means am I trying to cause any fuss, I’m really just trying to act as chair of this committee.”
The initial fundraising goal for the original fundraising committee was $750,000, however that was prior to the pandemic. That initial fundraising committee was disbanded following public criticism that it contained too many members of township staff, and a new fundraising committee was struck through a motion of council last year in August. That committee has been meeting virtually amid the continuing pandemic. Final costs for the arena were $13.3 million. Devolin previously said he believed as much as $1 million could be raised.
Council approved the three recommendations, noting the microsite would not require much effort from staff if the committee could share the information necessary to be uploaded.
Communications tower planned for South Lake Road
Bell Mobility submitted a request for concurrence for a 75-metre self supported telecommunications tower located at 2354 South Lake Road in Minden, which council supported.
“This project will meet the telecommunications needs for high quality wireless voice and high-speed wireless internet services around the Canning Lake community and surrounding areas,” reads a letter from Canacre Ltd., which is representing Bell Mobility Inc. in consulting for the tower, to Darryl Tighe, senior planner for D.M. Wills on behalf of the township. Another letter from Canacre to Tighe notes, “the tower will benefit the residents and businesses in the community by providing them with vastly improved access to robust and reliable mobile wireless telecommunication services, as well as wireless high-speed home internet services.”
“In the next few years so that we all get more connected we’re going to see a lot more of these,” said Devolin.
A requisite consultation process in which residents living within a radius of 225 metres of the proposed tower were contacted and newspaper notices were placed was conducted earlier this year, with 19 responses prior to the Aug. 21 deadline. Tighe said 15 responses were positive and four were neutral, asking questions that were satisfied with responses.
Neville asked if there had been requests for the tower to appear to be more tree-like, to suit the natural aesthetics of the area, but Tighe said he did not recall that such requests were made.
“Just checking because I don’t want people to come forward after it’s been erected to say they don’t want to see the tower,” said Neville.
“I’m ecstatic to see that it’s generally a positive reception that people want more connectivity,” said Devolin.
Fire department calls up
From Sept. 2020 to Sept. 2021, the Minden Hills fire department saw a 185 per cent increase in calls, from 14 in September last year to 40 in September this year.
In the year-to-date response comparison, last year there were 213 calls, and this year there have been 286 for a 34 per cent increase.
“So, we’ve been busy,” said Nelson Johnson, fire chief .
He said 66 per cent of the calls are fire-related and 34 per cent are medical. Up to Sept. 30, 42 fire inspections were conducted and from April 1 to Oct. 31, 149 fire permits were issued.
New lot planned for Hwy 35
Unnamed proponents are requesting to create a new 2.8 hectare lot on Hwy 35 north of the Beer Store, with the severed portion being intended for a commercial plaza though that development has not yet been proposed. The property, currently vacant, has frontage on both Hwy 35 and Newcastle Street, as well as St. Germaine Street. An official plan amendment as well as a zoning bylaw amendment will be required together with some supporting studies.
Emma Drake, township planning consultant said that since the submission of the application there had been a pre-consultation with the proponents and their planner as well as county staff to discuss the proposed development and the requirements to gain necessary planning approvals.
“Exciting stuff happening on Highway 35 development,” said Devolin.
Sayne said she was aware the area is used by wildlife and asked about what the protocol is to protect that wildlife as land is commercialized.
“The final list of required studies is still being compiled to provide to the proponents – but environmental impact is expected to be one of those required studies,” said Drake. “They would need to demonstrate that there would be no impact and if there are any species that do need to be considered, there would need to be mitigation for that. Sometimes it’s as easy as controlling when the construction period happens so they’re not interfering with nesting or breeding periods or migration periods but that would be something that would have to be demonstrated through the environmental impact.”
According to the consent pre-consultation report, wetland mapping by Ducks Unlimited has identified a wetland on the lands, so a site assessment is required to accurately delineate the wetland boundaries as well and an environmental impact study might be required.