/Tory Hill EMS base moving toward permanent 24-hour staffing

Tory Hill EMS base moving toward permanent 24-hour staffing

By Sue Tiffin

The following are brief reports of items discussed during a March 9 committee of the whole meeting and recommended to be approved by county council. 

Tory Hill EMS base could soon see 24-hour staffing, seven days a week, permanently, as recommended by Tim Waite, director of paramedic services. 

While traditionally staffing at the base has been two paramedics working 12 hours per day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 365 days per year, staffing hours have incrementally been increased.

“Over the last four years we’ve been adding additional shifts to maintain 24-hour coverage,” said Waite.

Since fall 2020, 24-hour coverage, seven days a week has been maintained year-round in Tory Hill, through the use of Safe Restart funding. Currently it’s been used to maintain 24-hour staffing from Jan. 1 until the May long weekend. 

“Included in this year’s budget is an additional $110,400 to maintain 24-hour staffing in Tory Hill from Thanksgiving weekend until year end,” read Waite’s report to council. “In 2023, an additional $200,500 will be required to be included in the budget to maintain 24-hour staffing from Jan. 1, 2023 to the May long weekend. The additional $200,500 for 2023 will be offset by approximately $55,000 from 50 per cent funding from the province in 2023 due to the additional $110,400 increase for 2022. This will then have Tory Hill staffed 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, permanently.” 

Dark Lake and York River Bridge projects 

Two bridges in need of rehabilitation are to be added to the 2022 budget with an estimated construction cost of $1,445,056, including HST. 

McPherson-Andrews Contracting Ltd. is recommended by county staff to be awarded both projects. The Dark Lake Bridge rehabilitation includes concrete repairs, waterproof and paving, replacement of a barrier wall, expansion joints and guide rail. The York River Bridge rehabilitation includes a concrete deck overlay, concrete repairs, replacement of barrier wall, expansion joints and guide rail. While in progress, both projects will allow for one lane of traffic to be maintained.

Dark Lake Bridge on County Road 648 will be repaired at an estimated cost of $711,560 and the York River Bridge on County Road 10 will undergo work at a cost of $733,495. Inspection and contract administration fees for DM Wills – the county’s design consultant for this project – will cost an additional $45,853 for the Dark Lake Bridge project, and $43,544 for the York River Bridge project. Both projects are expected to cost less than what was budgeted, the Dark Lake Bridge project being approximately 20 per cent under the approved 2022 budget costs, and the York River project coming in at 10 per cent under the approved budget. 

Drag River Bridge rehabilitation 

A contract for the rehabilitation of Drag River Bridge is recommended to be awarded to UrbanLink Civil Ltd. at a cost of $1,613,881 including HST. Seven bids were received for the project, ranging in price from about $1.6 million to $2.3 million.

The Drag River Bridge, on County Road 1, is a high-priority projected identified in the 2020 biennial structure inspection report and recommended to be rehabilitated this year.

The rehabilitation includes a concrete deck overlay, concrete repairs, waterproof and paving, replacement of a barrier wall, expansion joints and guide rail. During construction, traffic will be reduced to one lane using temporary traffic signals.  

“We did revise our scope from last November when budget came through, so we were able to remove some items,” said Robert Sutton, director of public works. “It’s less under budget than it appears because we did reduce the scope.”

The inspection and contract administration fees for Planmac are estimated to cost $51,042, bringing the project to $1,664,923, approximately 33 per cent under the 2022 approved budget.

Sutton said the project would take “the whole season,” being Haliburton County’s longest bridge at roughly 50 metres long, which makes it as long as the Dark Lake and York River bridges put together. 

Visitor experience and destination training 

Tracie Bertrand, manager of tourism and Scott Ovell, director of economic development and tourism, recommended that staff develop and deliver visitor experience and destination training to staff at Haliburton County’s visitor information centres.

As the pandemic has caused more domestic travellers to explore the province, the report from the tourism department says “there is a tremendous opportunity for Haliburton County to assist the visitor, make excellent first impressions, and encourage exploration into parts of the region not known to others – but considered unique by residents, to promote local businesses, accommodations and adventures in order to increase spending, length of stay and overnight stays.”

Five visitor information centres or equivalent are listed in the report: the trails office in Algonquin Highlands, the Haliburton Welcome Centre in Dysart et al, Wilberforce in Highlands East, the Minden Hills Cultural Centre common room and the County of Haliburton office located in Minden. 

“The report goes over the importance that we feel customer service and exceptional visitor experience will make to supporting the destination management plan and moving things forward through the tourism lens,” Bertrand told council. 

The visitor and destination training program would cover topics such as why visitor services are important, how to make a great first impression, how to best promote products and services in the community and tips and tricks on how to anticipate visitor needs.  

Dysart et al mayor Andrea Roberts said she’d participated in the past in a First Impressions exchange program through what is typically referred to as OMAFRA, or the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

“Those first impressions, that person, when you walk into a visitor centre, if they’re sitting and texting on their phone, or not paying attention to you or just couldn’t be bothered … it’ll put somebody right off, ‘oh, I went to Haliburton once, it was awful,’” said Roberts. “I really am excited about this.”

Roberts said there had been training a few years back related to the Disney model.

“It’s just so, so important,” said Roberts. “I’m just really excited to see this. I only wish it could extend to not just municipal staff, visitor centres, but perhaps local grocery stores, coffee shops.”

Bertrand said that was the goal, noting the tourism department wanted to start with the welcome and visitor centres but ultimately wanted to be able to provide training to anyone who encountered visitors in the region.

Warden Liz Danielsen and Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt acknowledged the attempt to offer similar training and programs throughout the years, with Moffatt noting current information had been provided over the years, but “we have room to do better there.” Moffatt said there was much information available on what had worked and what hadn’t worked over the years. 

She asked about adding the Dorset museum and identifying other places that might be touch points such as the Stanhope Airport. 

“I think one of the challenges is to get local businesses to be open to the idea that there is room for improvement and to see the value of customer service,” said Danielsen. “I think they think they’re probably doing a fine job when in fact they’re not, or not all of them anyway. Some of them are doing a great job.”

The proposal is part of a destination management plan focusing on tourism development. Ovell also presented an economic development and tourism department work plan that he said was a “living document.” Since November 2021, stakeholder relationship building has been ongoing with the tourism team, who have met with over 50 businesses and organizations. According to that plan, visitor experience training is expected to begin in April and be completed by May.