HIRA Briefing Note-August 14, 2019
This is a brief report to HIRA members and others on the Township of Frontenac Islands Council meeting held at the Township office on Howe Island on August 14, 2019. Several of our Directors attended the meeting. There was an overflow crowd also attending. It’s time for the Council to conduct it’s meetings at the Parish Hall where there is plenty of room for residents of the Island to observe Council in session.
Only matters of particular reference to Howe Island or of general interest are highlighted here.
Delegations-There was one delegation relating to drainage issues on Wolfe Island and another delivered by Bill Robertson on behalf of HIRA regarding ferry issues on Howe Island. Bill’s remarks are as follows:
“I wish to address Council on the subjects of
- The county communications system
- High water
- Trailer hitches
- Maintenance periods
- Cameras at the ferry terminals, and
- New drive system
I asked our Board of directors if in the recent past they had experienced a delay in receiving emails from the county on announcements on the status of the ferries; that is a delay between when the announcement is dispatched by the County and when it is received. Each said that they had experienced a delay and that the delay varied from a few hours to a full day.
The delay in communication illustrates clearly a Howe Island issue; Howe needs an island wide high speed fiber network. Individuals can complain to Bell and other carriers that the Island needs a network, but if the Township were to resolve now to persist with Bell, on Bell’s setting up a network for the benefit of all Islanders, the Township might have more sway
Howe Islanders assume the ferry is running unless notified otherwise. It is essential therefore that the announcement is clear on the status change, gives the effective date and time of the change, identifies the reason for the change, if known and gives the estimated time the ferry will resume service, if known. We need more detail not less and we need it promptly.
The experience of high water in 2017 and again in 2019 illustrates clearly that the Township, the County and the MTO must take immediate steps now to make provision for high water whenever it occurs in relation to the operation of the ferries.
The solution to high water is not found in cutting vehicle capacity of each ferry by placing concrete blocks on one ferry and a truck loaded with sand on another.
Sinking these ferries lower in the water so the ramps are usable could have been accomplished by using temporary large gage steel plate on the ferry decks. That would have been a temporary fix and had no adverse effect on capacity. Adjusting the ramp cables on the big ferry could have been done with no adverse effect on capacity.
We do not want another high water year to affect vehicle capacity on our ferries. We do not want the “high water” excuse used again when there are fairly simple solutions available to avoid a spring like the one we have just had.
Trailer hitches on the back of vehicles make it more difficult for ferry users behind those vehicles to load the ferries promptly. Obviously they are wary of bumping these hitches which are unforgiving. We are asking Council to erect signs at each ferry terminal simply asking owners as a cutesy to other ferry users, to remove the hitches before boarding if the hitches are not in use.
Each of our ferries is well used and the need for maintenance is clearly understandable. What is not understandable is the need for maintenance being conducted during the day, a busy time for the ferries. We have previously asked that maintenance be conducted late at night when ferry use is way down. The excuse given for not doing it at night is it cost too much. For the Wolfe Island ferry I’m informed that regular maintenance is done between 2:00 am and 5:30 am; so for Wolfe it’s alright to have extra costs but for Howe apparently it’s not. We need this Council ….all members….to make strong representation on behalf of all Howe Islanders to the MTO to get the maintenance period changed.
Since 2016 HIRA has been requesting real time cameras at the four ferry terminals. I see in the material before this meeting information on cameras at the Howe Island terminals of both the foot ferry and the big ferry. There is no information on cameras at the mainland terminals and no explanation as to why not. We strongly urge Council to resist slow walking this camera project any longer and instead move quickly on getting cameras in place at all four terminals.
New Drive System
We all know the drive system on the big ferry was poorly designed and is in need of being replaced with a system which will result in a speedier crossing and less cable replacement. This Council is quick to point out that the responsibility for replacing the drive system is either the MTO or the County. That may be true. But the responsibility of this Council….and I mean all members….. is to speak with a load and unrelenting voice to those other entities to get them to move on a new drive system.
Street Light at the P for Park
The Township has a designated parking spot near the big ferry terminal on Howe Island. More ferry users are utilizing this parking space. I would have thought for safety and liability reasons, a street lamp should be erected lighting the space.
Resolutions at the July 17th County Meeting
Mayor Doyle initiated resolutions at the July 17th County meeting with the intent that the Twelve Hour Shut Down Friday Fiasco would not occur again. Those resolutions covered obtaining union agreement to allow Township operators to work the big ferry, pay for a standby operator, hiring additional staff and allowing the ferry supervisor to operate the ferry if needed. My question for the Mayor is…what progress has been made?”
At the conclusion of Bill’s remarks Council indicated they would write to Bell asking for upgrades to the system serving Howe Island to try to address the delays outlined in Bill’s remarks.
Council noted the remarks regarding high water and agreed something must be done without being specific.
On trailer hitches, Council agreed to erect signs at the four ferry terminals asking ferry users to remove hitches as a courtesy to other ferry users.
On maintenance periods being moved to late at night, Council indicated that the Wolfe Island ferry has maintenance done during the day and that no maintenance is done during the night. They indicated MTO has been asked previously to move maintenance to the night time but has refused.
On Cameras being installed, later on in the meeting Council agreed to move to install cameras at the Howe Island terminals for the foot and the big ferry.
On a New Drive System, Council indicated that they met with MTO on August 7 2019 during which the MTO said that they are putting out a tender to repair shoreline flood damage around the big ferry docks. Bottom line appears to be that the MTO is busy with the Wolfe Island and Amherst Island transportation needs and will not get to the Howe Island drive system rebuild until the Amherst ferry is in operation, said by Council to be by this year end.
On a street light at the P for Park, Council agreed a light should be installed-timing not specified.
On the subject of the resolutions passed at the County Council meeting on July 17 and where they stand, Mayor Doyle had no information except to say that the County does not meet in August.
Terry Fox run is on September 15th. Everyone is encouraged to get out and run, walk, bike on the various courses on the Island. Check out the HIRA web page where details are posted. Allison Hinton and Rosa Hession are the key organizers.
Council received correspondence from Rory Chamberlain regarding upgrades to the Patrick Norris Community Park. Council asked
Councilor Macdougall to meet with Rory’s group and others interested in upgrades to the Park and bring a plan to the September Council meeting as a delegation.
Howeisland.org Note: If you are a member of HIRA, thank you for your support. If you are not a member, please consider joining at $10 per year or $100 for life.