By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed during an April 7 meeting of Algonquin Highlands.
Rogers Communications Inc. is proposing to construct a 90-metre telecommunications tower on the northern portion of the property at 1089 MacBrien Road in Algonquin Highlands. The tower’s location will provide reliable communication services in the area for emergency responders, and also improve wireless signal quality for residents, according to the company.
A virtual public meeting for discussion regarding the tower was held Feb. 23, and comments were accepted until March 2. Algonquin Highlands has had a telecommunication facility installation policy in place since 2013, and township planner Sean O’Callaghan said that protocol was being followed. He said four letters of support had been received, and comments were in approval of the tower.
“If you’re on the far side of Maple Lake you’re going to be looking across the lake at a tower, but I know that it’s much needed,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt, who noted she’d had discussions with residents who were “begging and pleading for some sort of solution,” to their lagging service.
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen said she’d had similar conversations with residents and said “hopefully this is going to resolve it for them.”
In-person meeting takes place
Councillors met in council chambers together for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first local council to do so. Previously, meetings had occurred in an online setting, with councillors and staff individually calling in to the meeting from their homes and offices. While councillors, the CAO and clerk met in council chambers, staff and public continue to access the meeting via Zoom and YouTube. Councillors opted to be unmasked during the meeting.
“Welcome back, it’s nice to see your faces in person,” said Moffatt.
Mulching head purchase approved
A request for a new mulching head that will cause less damage to roadside vegetation from the Public Works Department was approved, at a cost of $30,000 plus tax, from a single supplier as only one dealer in Ontario offers the equipment.
“This mulcher would shear the limbs and not tear them resulting in a cleaner cut,” said Adam Thorn, public works supervisor, in his report to council.
“All members of council have, I think at some time, received some pretty high anxiety calls, the current head that we use really does a lot of damage and it’s really unsightly,” said Moffatt, noting also potential safety concerns from the current equipment. “This should be a kinder, gentler, mulching head, if there can be such a thing, when you’re undertaking this work.”
Lower Fletcher (Skin) Lake contract signed
A lone bid for the Lower Fletcher (Skin) Lake landing consulting and project management services RFP, has been reduced to $51,000 from $68,000 after the call for proposals was cancelled and negotiations took place.
“Provisional items that are in addition to the required project scope will be charged on a time and materials basis only if they are warranted to a maximum upset limit of $17, 000,” said Chris Card, parks, recreation and trails manager.
The entire project budget including construction is $100,520.
Lake name signage discussed
Card said a survey sent to property owners on the lake had 19 of the 34 registered properties respond by mail or through the Let’s Connect Algonquin Highlands platform online, and that the feedback received would be helpful in informing the discussions he has with the consultant at the initial site meeting.
“It seems like a lot of great input and just general, people being thankful about this process,” said Card.
Through the survey, some respondents noted “discrepancies and disagreements on the official name of the lake,” as Skin Lake is on signage while Lower Fletcher Lake is on maps.
Mayor Carol Moffatt said there are some lakes with two names and as has been discovered through a lake layer on the township’s heritage mapping site, many that have numerous iterations.
“I wouldn’t want us to have to get into acknowledging all of the names, which would be in keeping with our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, but I think we need to be careful not to cross those waters because lake acknowledgements for historic names are in the heritage mapping, so we’ve done that work there,” she said.
“It’s a bit of a tricky one because I’ve heard property owners on the lake refer to both as adamantly passionate as their neighbour refers to the other,” said Councillor Jennifer Dailloux.
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen said she’d like to stick with what is on the official plan, which refers to the lake as Lower Fletcher. Councillor Julia Shortreed said it’s confusing to have road signs that say Skin Lake and a landing that says Lower Fletcher. Councillor Lisa Barry said she supported keeping the name in brackets.
“It sounds a bit of a silly discussion, just call it something, but it’s really important to people, their identities are linked to what they call their lake so if we have to make a decision without going down a slippery slope of never ending signage changes, it might be better just to stick with the official plan,” said Moffatt.
Card said of all the questions on the survey, this is the topic that had people take time to phone and chat with him.
“I had two conversations, each of which was very passionate, on one side or the other, one resident expressing they strongly feel the Skin Lake name should be held on to and that the Lower Fletcher Lake name be completely eliminated, and I had another impassioned conversation for the exact opposite,” he said. “Regardless of which decision, I think some people are going to feel they weren’t heard and some people will feel they were.”
He said it is confusing for staff to first learn of lakes with various names, and that it is possible first responders might be confused. He said listing both, one in brackets, might be important for that reason.
Moffatt said using the name in the official plan on signage with other current known names in brackets, while recognizing and commemorating each name of a lake at the site in the future would touch on what council wanted to do to respect heritage, and also best serve emergency response.