Council goes into CLOSED SESSION without knowing why they are doing so; Taylor votes against the move.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 29, 2011 – They are at it again.  Playing with the rules which I’m pretty sure are being bent.  Your city council went into CLOSED SESSION on a “litigation matter” Monday evening.  That sort of thing happens from time to time;  When there is a Human Resources matter or someone is suing the city Nancy Shea-Nicole will ask the Mayor to hear her comments in a closed session.

This one wasn’t – or didn’t appear to be about an HR matter.  And in this city whenever there is something legal the word “pier” pops into mind.  (Noticed by the way that with this really good construction weather nothing is being done down at The Pier – other than a little bit of grading.)

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor asked Acting city manager Kim Phillips why Council was going into closed session and was told it had to do with “report CD 20-11” which means it has to do with Community Development – an those are the guys who take care of the pier stuff.

Councillor Taylor didn't like the idea of going into a closed session of Council without knowing what they were going to talk about. Acting city manager Kim Phillips told him he would find out what it was about when they were in the closed session. Taylor voted against going. All the others voted for going into the closed session.

Taylor wanted to know what “CD 20-11”  was about and was told it was the same matter that had been discussed earlier – which Taylor couldn’t recall.  He said he didn’t think Council should go into a closed session without knowing what it was they were going to talk about.  Phillips told him that the words “CD 20-11” was all he was going to get until they were in closed session and with that the two people in the room, who were not permanent employees of the city, left the chamber and a sign was posted on the doors of the Council.

Councillor Meed Ward, who frequently mentions her background as a journalist, seems to have forgotten what open public sessions are all about.  There was a time when she would look a little guilty about going into a closed session but with a year under her belt – she slides into those closed session with the sense they are all just ‘taking care of business’.

This time though it was just a little different.  When council – not a council committee – goes into a closed session, the person operating the cameras that broadcast council meetings live, puts the words Closed Session up on the screen and turns off the microphones and he too leaves the room.  So what does Cogeco Cable do, when the television sets go cold?  Our Burlington stayed in the Council foyer for 20 minutes, and they were still at it when we left.

For those at home who have nothing better to do than watch Council meetings it must have been an odd experience.  There is just nothing – no sound, no visuals – nothing.  They could cut to the camera at Spencer Smith Park – do we still have those operating?

For those at home it must have been a little like watching television in the Soviet Union during the Cold War – but they at least had martial music playing.

Given that this was a closed session – and there are occasions when these things are necessary, of a council meeting that was broadcast live, the Mayor could have and should have explained to the public, what they were doing and why.  The city council isn’t trying to hide anything – at least we don’t think so.  What’s disturbing is that they never come clean at a later date and explain why they closed a council meeting or a committee meeting to the public.

As council Blair Lancaster would say:  This isn’t a best practice.  But they do it and it isn’t healthy.


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Chugging along with money in the bank. The Freeman station is just not going to go away.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON October 18, 2011   This should have been written  on Thanksgiving Day – for the citizens of Burlington indeed should be thankful for that band of hardy people who are fighting the good fight to keep the dream of restoring the Freeman Railway Station alive.  It has not been an easy task.

The organization has new leadership, James Smith is the chair and there is something in the order of $20,000. in the bank, perhaps more.  Les Armstrong was the chair previously.  Les is a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee where he did better than yeoman`s work on the gathering of data on waterfront locations where public access to the lake is blocked by private citizens who sort of assumed they could get away with letting people believe that access to the lake that was close to their property could be treated as if it was their property.  Les hasn’t finished with that battle but he has stepped away from leadership at the Freeman Station.  He served very well and very faithfully while he was there.

The Freeman Station could - and should be placed on a site just beyond the trees in this picture - in Spencer Smith Park where it would be yards from where the railway line used to come into the city. It would have public washrooms that are badly needed in the Park.

The Station has a colourful history.  Council, both the current and the one prior to that, were completely irresponsible to the community when they let federal Stimulus funding get away because they seemed unable to find a place to put the station.

No need to go through all that dirty laundry now – there is only one place for the structure and that is right alongside where the railway line into Burlington used to run.   Kind of across Lakeshore Road from the Joseph Brant Museum.  With the Burlington Arts Centre across the street the city would have a small cluster of cultural, historical structures and it is that kind of clustering that draws traffic – which the Joseph Brant Museum could clearly use.

Once the station is in place – what are we going to do with it?  Have the city move the Tourism office into the building – yes, there will be concerns over plumbing and electricity – just find a way to do it and get on with it.  No more excuses please.

The structure sits beside the Fire Hall on Plains Road where rot has begun to take hold.  Something is going to have to be done to wrap the structure and make some basic fixes so it doesn’t  fall apart and have to be sold for poor quality fire wood.

There are two locations that top the list; one in Spencer Smith Park, the only really logical one, and another in Central Park tucked away in the back where it can`t be seen and sitting beside the planned location for the public market gardens that we will see in place early in 2012.  If it goes to Central Park it could end up being a tool shed for the gardeners.  Shudder

During the period of time when the city was trying – haphazardly it must be said, to find a home for the structure, there was talk of putting it in the parking lot behind the Arts Centre – but they didn’t  want anything to do with the structure.

The Freeman Station currently sits in the parking lot of the Fire Station on Plains Road where the weather isn't doing any good to the structure - which is still basically sound..

The city ran advertisements looking for expressions of interest – no takers there either.  There were all kinds of rumours but no takers.   It was when Councillors Marianne Meed Ward and Blair Lancaster asked council for some time to create a committee that would find a way to raise the money needed and to restore the building and find a permanent place for it.  It is that hardy band of people who toil away with fund raising events that got us to where we are today.  Time now to take the next brave step and get council back into the game.

There should be enough support on Council to make this happen.  Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison is a right off; he’d float the Joseph Brant Museum out into the lake and let it sink.  There might be a small chance of getting Dennison support if you put ina bicycle rack or better still set up a bicycle rental service – that would keep Dennison happy.

Councillor Paul Sharman was sympathetic to what the community wanted to do but his perspective at the time was that the community should be given a chance to see what they could do – and if they weren’t able to raise the funds needed – then they should just let it go.  Sharman has enough pluckiness in his character to see what the citizens have done and while he is not part of the Meed Ward fan club he and councillor Lancaster have a good working relationship – there’s your four votes.  And, the Mayor – he should be with them.

The station is on the border of Wards 1 and 2 – but even though Meed Ward and Craven sit beside each other – they don’t exactly hold hands.  Craven could see the larger picture and perhaps be brought on side.  That leaves good old John Taylor of Ward 3 who cares passionately about the rural part of the city and could be brought to appreciate that during the days when the railway ran through part of town it was those box cars that carried all the produce into the city.

Councillor Craven could make amends and spearhead a drive to get the Freeman Station located in Spencer Smith Park where it belongs. That would mean getting along with Councillor Meed Ward. Can Craven get beyond his problems with Meed Ward and see the greater good for the city?

During the phase of this structure`s history mention of Spencer Smith park came up as a location for the train station and at the time Councillors Peter Thoem and Rick Craven voted against the building being located in the park.  There were apparently some people with more money than they know how to count and more influence than most people on the voters list – who convinced – bullied would be a better word – the two Councillors to back off the Spencer Park site.  Something about it creating traffic that would not be welcome and noise – can you imagine – the Sound of Music Festival has a band stage less than 25 feet from the proposed site.

It is going to take a significant chunk of money to get the station out of “storage” and into a public place but with some effort and focus – this city could have the thing opened at about the same time the Pier gets opened.  There will have to be a lot of creative thinking and the city is going to have to loosen up the purse strings quite a bit – but given that they failed to use the money the city actually had in hand – they should come up with much of the cash.

One obvious source for perhaps as much as $100,000. is the Mayor’s planned Cabarets that are going to be held at the Performing Arts Centre.  The proceeds from the first event are already committed to the Centre – the Freeman Station people should begin cozying up to the Mayor and lobbying him for whatever can be generated in 2013.  Don’t be shy people.

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Getting closer – staff has made choice, which they explain to Council andt that t gets voted on. Will it be a 4-3 for or an all 7 for?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 9, 2011 The Engineers have done their work and come to the conclusion that Graham Infrastructure of Mississauga should be the company that completes the construction of the Brant Street Pier. Hallelujah!

The recommendation is part of a report that will go before Council September 26. This has been a long protracted project and it looks as if the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train coming towards us.

The city received and publicly opened four bids from pre-qualified contractors to complete the pier project on Aug. 26. Prices ranged from $6.5 to $10.5 million. Those numbers included 13% HST; municipalities pay just 1.7% HST. The lowest bid came in from Graham Infrastructure.

The city reviewed all four bids to ensure they complied with the requirements of the tender documentation issued to seven prequalified contractors in July 2011. The total contract price of Graham’s bid is $6,429,700, including net HST at 1.76 per cent.

The natural beach was a gift nature gave the city.  Does the city have to spend additional money to build an access ramp to the location?  And is the access ramp proposed the most cost effective solution?  And will we call it the MacIsaac ramp?

The natural beach was a gift nature gave the city. Does the city have to spend additional money to build an access ramp to the location? And is the access ramp proposed the most cost effective solution? And will we call it the MacIsaac ramp?

The bid includes two optional items: a beach access ramp and additional concrete work for the waterfront promenade in Spencer Smith Park. Interesting that the city does not break out the cost of the waterfront promenade part that is needed and the ramp to the natural beach that was formed by current that developed around the pier.

The concrete work for the promenade is necessary – this Council can and should seek some public input on the access ramp to the natural beach. We have a council that talks about getting input from the community but we don’t see this council asking people in the community what they want.

Our Mayor has stayed the course and held firm to his belief that the pier could be completed for the amount that was allocated. And he has done so with a considerable amount of uniformed opposition from a group that want the thing torn down. Well the Mayor has done his job – his council has been with him – well everyone except Ward 2 Councilor Meed Ward who voted with against going forward with a tender because she thought a deal could have been worked out with the contractor that walked off the job. She now takes the position that she will work with whoever wins the tender award. Good for her.

City staff have done a superb job of keeping this very difficult phase of a problem task on point. It has not been an easy job but they’ve done it and done it with all the expertise and professionalism that was missing when the project got started two council terms ago. Again – kudos for a Mayor that stuck to his guns.

I’m looking forward to our Mayor asking each Council member to hold a meeting in their ward at which the Mayor will listen to opinions on whether or not the access ramp should be included in this second phase of the construction project.

There’s nothing wrong with the ramp and it makes economic sense to include it in the next phase of construction – but this city has put up with a lot of delay and a pile of additional expense and they deserve the right to have this all be it small addition explained to them and given a chance to voice there opinion.

Ward 4 councilor Jack Dennison commented that “municipalities certainly no how to spend money” when the idea of an access ramp was first proposed by city engineers.

The Graham Group of Companies is a North American-wide company, with a local base in Mississauga. Graham is the fifth largest construction company in Canada with more than 1,200 salaried staff and a 2010 revenue of $1.8 billion.

Graham is an employee-owned, industry-leading construction solutions partner. They are a diversified and growing company active across North America.

Sounds like a pretty decent organization.  They are certainly big enough and appear to have the scale needed to get our pier built.  Let’s see what Council decides when they discuss the staff recommendation.

Sounds like a pretty decent organization. They are certainly big enough and appear to have the scale needed to get our pier built. Let’s see what Council decides when they discuss the staff recommendation.

Graham covers the entire construction lifecycle and every contracting mode: general contracting, CM/GC, project management, design-build, design-bid-build, integrated project delivery, turnkey solutions, renovations/upgrades, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and partnerships, commissioning and post-construction management. This versatility is underpinned by our major competitive advantages:

Extensive integrated capabilities, based in Graham’s offices and shops in more than one-dozen centres across North America, lifting us far beyond a standard general contractor or construction manager;

Large, company-owned equipment fleet to help us self-execute construction work;

A unique, industry-leading integrated information system that creates a seamless and accurate project execution platform from first contact through final reconciliation.

Two questions: Where were these guys when we began the pier construction project and do they have a trestle of their own?

Assuming council accept the staff recommendation – will we hear jackhammers on the site before we see snow?





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