Bell, city wants answers

With telephone service now fully restored to thousands of Owen Sound homes and businesses, Bell Aliant is shifting its attention to the cause of the construction blunder that took nearly a week of work to repair and left a trail of frustrated customers.
Bell spokeswoman Norma Hughes Howard said the company will launch an investigation into why an underground duct structure was heavily damaged and thousands of cables, housed inside, were severed during extensive road work last week.
“In terms of compensation, I can tell you that when Bell’s infrastructure or facilities are damaged by third-party negligence, we generally seek compensation for any associated repair costs,” she said Thursday.
An estimate on the cost of the repair job, which had Bell crews working around the clock for days, was not available, she said.
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$1.25M raised for rec centre

Fundraisers have secured $1.25 million in donations and pledges for Owen Sound’s regional recreation centre, capital campaign officials announced this morning.
Co-chair Sonya Mount said the campaign is 25% of the way towards reaching its goal of $5 million.
“It is truly a milestone for the group. It is a significant accomplishment this early in the campaign and this early in the project,” she said at a press conference at the Owen Sound Family Y.

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STOP SPENDING: Wright

The spending must stop, Owen Sound Coun. Arlene Wright told her fellow councillors this week.
“We are up to our eyeballs in financial problems,” she said. “The more I think about it, the more I think we need to have a moratorium on spending.”
Wright, chairwoman of Owen Sound’s finance committee and Grey County’s current warden, said city residents are “getting more anxious” about council’s spending.
Wright’s comments came as council discussed whether or not to spend more cash on the city’s over-budget 9th St. bridge project.
In an interview after the meeting, Wright did not back off, saying she is concerned about how much spending council has authorized this year.
She said the city is taking on some massive projects — including the $38.6-million regional recreation centre and a planned sewage treatment plant upgrade — and is in urgent need of more revenue.
“There’s only so many people here paying the bill,” she said.
The city could soon “get to the point,” she said, when it must refuse senior-government grants because it will not have the money to pay for a one-third or 50% share of the cost.

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Hempel gets a no

By DENIS LANGLOIS
Sun Times staff

Christy Hempel says she has no plans to fight city council’s decision to block her from building a four-unit apartment near Harrison Park in Owen Sound.
“We will not pursue the matter at the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board). This kind of project requires solid political support at the city and county level,” she said Monday.
Council rejected Hempel’s application to rezone the southern half of her 2nd Ave. E. property to permit an apartment with four affordable housing units.
A report by city hall planning staff recommended council reject the application because the planned apartment would not fit in with the neighbourhood and the lot would not have suitable space for parking.
Hempel, an architectural designer, said she was seeking federal-provincial funding from the Affordable Housing Program to build the apartments.
She said she wanted to prove that an apartment for low-income residents can be designed to fit into any neighbourhood, including the one by Harrison Park that includes mostly older, single-family homes.
“My goal was to design a four-plex to show that you don’t have to have a horrible apartment building to intensify,” she said in an interview.
She said cities should focus on infilling, rather than permitting urban sprawl. They should also relax the parking rules, she said, if the units are for low-income tenants and are located near a downtown.
City planning rules require five parking spaces, in the rear or side yard, for a four-unit apartment. Hempel proposed to have all five spaces located in the front yard, both on her lot and a severed apartment lot.
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Murdoch, others call for bike lanes

By DENIS LANGLOIS
Sun Times staff

Bike lane advocates say now is the time to pressure the provincial government to link together southern and northern Ontario.
The Ministry of Transportation plans to resurface Highway 6 this summer from Mar to Tobermory and from South Baymouth to Little Current on Manitoulin Island.
Half-metre shoulders will be paved. Bike lane advocates are lobbying the province to increase the width to one metre to create dedicated bicycle/fitness lanes.
“If we bit by bit, stretch by stretch, as it’s being resurfaced, create a one-metre paved shoulder, eventually we can have a cross-Canada bike trail,” said Maja Mielonen, who is leading a fight for bicycle lanes on Manitoulin Island.
A rally is planned for Sunday at 2 p.m. in Manitowaning to show support for a cross-island paved bicycle route.
Mielonen and her supporters say bike lanes foster a healthy lifestyle and boost tourism and road safety.
The MTO says adding an extra metre of road is costly — about $15,000 per kilometre.
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Conservative MPP Bill Murdoch has called on Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne to include cycling lanes as part of the $20-million project to resurface 70 kms of Highway 6 on the Bruce Peninsula.
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Water rates to rise

By DENIS LANGLOIS
Sun Times staff

The cost to use city water will rise by about $1.25 per week for an average residential consumer in Owen Sound.
A household that uses 300 cubic metres of water per year will see their costs for water-sewer service climb by 7.75%, starting immediately. The increase will drive up the annual cost to run the taps from $850 to $916.
Water-sewer bills for commercial users will increase by about 13.11%, while industrial consumers will pay 15.5% more.
City council approved the rate hikes Monday.
Wayne Ritchie, Owen Sound’s director of financial services, said the increases are needed to finance significant upgrades to the city’s water and sewage treatment plants and to make up for lost revenue caused by reduced water consumption.
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City discusses cost-saving measures

Three days after revealing a major stumbling block in Owen Sound’s regional recreation centre build, project planners met behind closed doors Friday to again discuss strategies to cut down on costs and speed up construction.
Mayor Ruth Lovell Stanners said the city and architecture team will endeavor to slash $5 million in costs and return the project to a budget approved in March.
“We’re making good progress and working together to the same end to make the timing of this project as fast as humanly possible and the cost within the original budget,” she said Friday afternoon.
The city revealed Tuesday it will have to spend an extra $2.1 million to create a caisson and beam structure to support the recreation centre above an aquifer that lies under Victoria Park.
The extra expense bumps up the project’s estimated cost to $38.64 million, when using most of a $2-million contingency budget. The facility is now expected to cost the city $9.35 million, if the federal and provincial governments extend a March 31, 2011, completion deadline and provide a full, $22 million in funding.
It will cost the city an estimated $21.96 million — about $5 million more than projected in March — without an extension.
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