By Sue Tiffin
In what Mayor Brent Devolin said was the second recorded vote he has asked for in seven years, Minden Hills council, with the exception of Councillor Pam Sayne, voted against moving forward with a public boat launch on Bob Lake.
After council received a preliminary design of a proposed boat launch, the financial estimates of more than $200,000 for the proposed project to be installed at Claude Brown Road, and staff’s recommendation against the project at a council meeting held virtually March 10, Sayne said she thought “there needed to be one more conversation,” with the Bob Lake Association members that had requested the boat launch.
“It has been very frustrating, and none of us like to see where this boat launch has been going at this point,” said Sayne. “We dropped the ball in the beginning. We at least owe one more dialogue regarding the finances to see what will come forward in this situation and have a report at the next meeting. That’s my position on this.”
The boat launch originally at Bob Lake near Deep Bay Road had been mistakenly advertised by Minden Hills township as a public launch for decades. It was only when the property owner barricaded the launch property citing litigious concerns in the summer of 2016 – with boats still on the water – that it became evident to the community the launch had always been privately owned. Attempts by the township to find a long-term strategy were not successful.
The Bob Lake Association representing about 230 property owners formed in 2017 and requested that Minden Hills township construct a new public boat launch, which is south of Minden. They were concerned that the absence of a public boat launch would drive down property values, and also wanted boat access to the lake that was available to them previously. The proposed project would involve the installation of a concrete boat launch on a road allowance along Claude Brown Road which is a municipally maintained road. They estimated the project should cost $30,000, but a report from then-Minden Hills planner Ian Clendening in 2018 noted a number of concerns with the proposed project, which he estimated would actually cost more than $180,000.
In August 2020, the lake association after further conversation with councillors and township staff presented council with a request to cover approximately $10,000 for legal consultation costs for a new boat launch proposal, with council agreeing to split the costs, paying up to $5,000.
CAO Trisha McKibbin told council last week that since 2020, staff has been meeting with representatives of the BLA to issue a request for proposal regarding the boat launch design and the scope of work for the project, which was awarded to Tatham Engineering.
“The preliminary design report contained a preliminary construction estimate for the design proposed in the report,” read McKibbin’s report. “The total estimated cost is $150,000 with a contingency allowance (20 per cent) of $30,000 for a total estimated construction cost of $180,000. These costs align with earlier estimates developed by township staff. This estimated cost includes only construction costs and does not include additional work that would be required to complete the project.” After an amendment for further construction deemed necessary, the total estimated cost is $208,725.
While Sayne reiterated numerous times she felt a final conversation with the lake association would be appropriate, Councillor Jennifer Hughey said she felt council had fulfilled their responsibility.
Councillor Bob Carter said council was trying to “truly represent” all constituents, including those across the township, those on Bob Lake who want the boat launch and those who had written to council saying they don’t want the boat ramp.
“We would love to have lots of things in this municipality, it doesn’t mean we can afford all of these things,” said Carter. “We really need to be looking at it from a budgetary perspective.”
Councillor Jean Neville said it was her understanding the agreement to spend the $5,000 doing the evaluation “was our last dealing with this.”
“We were going to see what came of this report and what has come of this report is it’s way too expensive to offer a small group of people a boat launch that is going to cost everybody in this municipality several points on their taxes,” she said.
Devolin noted the township had been working on the situation for six years.
“We’ve exhausted every opportunity and it’s unfortunate,” he said. “We could twist ourselves up, myself included, in woulda-coulda-shoulda but the scale of it financially to me has made my decision.”
McKibbin’s report said the township has spent between $20,000 to $35,000 since 2016 on the review and consideration of the boat launch. It also notes the township owns 13 public boat launches elsewhere in the township, some that require extensive repair, and staff recommended “repair and maintenance occur to existing infrastructure before new infrastructure is constructed.”
Members of the Bob Lake Association expressed disappointment with the decision, telling the Times they thought the Tatham cost estimates were highly inflated and that they have presented cost recovery options to avoid any impact on the township budget or tax dollar base. They said they are “regrouping to strategize on our next steps.”