Bills butt heads over promenade 'showcasing' Midland Bay Landing for residents, investors

·5 min read

One Midland councillor thinks Midland Bay Landing could also go the digital way like everything else has in this day and age.

Coun. Bill Gordon brought up that idea at a this week's council meeting, during which Bill Kernohan, chair of the Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation (MBLDC), presented the idea of a promenade to showcase use of the property.

"In your meeting on the 26th of March, you were talking about a mix of lumber, concrete, and rafters," said Gordon. The graphics and pictures look really nice, but lumber right now is not only short supply, but astoundingly expensive. Why can't we do this in an artist rendition using a 3D walk-through? Why do we actually have to build this?"

He said he knew council had approved around $600,000 for the corporation.

"But why do we have to blow that now when it's the most expensive time to do that?" Gordon questioned. "Why can't we do something digital or just clear some brush and dump some crushed stones for a path and let people use the property and not worry about blowing wads of dough to make it look beautiful?"

Kernohan said there was no lumber involved.

"It is concrete with pavers on the walking section," he said. "There is a middle planting section and an asphalt multi-use trail. We're not using rafts and lumber."

As for why they're not going the digital route, Kernohan said it's because the public and investors want to see the real McCoy.

"We don't want to build something that is temporary or the wrong materials to give the wrong first impression to this signature piece of Midland's waterfront," he said, noting council did not give the corporation $600,000 for this project.

"You gave us $250,000 for this capital work," he said. "We intend to use that or less." Gordon also wanted to know how the group was planning on going about hiring for the project. "Is the Town of Midland doing the tendering on this?" he asked. "Is it going to go through our regular tender website so everybody in town can bid on this or are you doing this own your own? I just want to make sure our local (contractors) are going to have the ability to bid on this project." Kernohan said the independent corporation is working with the town to cooperate on how to get the project built based on drawings that the group generates. "This will be done in an open and transparent way," he added.

But Gordon came back to the money question.

"Your total operating capital (budget) is $701,364," he said. "We're giving $250,000 for site maintenance, so your total capital is $425,000 for 2021. Your total operating costs are $276,364.

"If we somehow, saved a million bucks this year, we're at zero per cent tax increase," added Gordon. "And that's $701,000 of that million right there."

Kernohan said the operating portion of the budget is $277,000, exactly the same as last year.

"The capital portion, which is separate and doesn't affect the tax base, is $250,000 for the interim-use space," he said. "It was approved a year ago and deferred. It's not new money. The other (funds) are for engineering studies that are necessary to advance the MBL project.

"We need to do the studies to entice the development community to come and invest in our community. Without that, the certainty is not great and consequently the returns we would expect to get won't be great either." Gordon said it may not impact the tax levy this year, but it could help strengthen the town's depleting reserves. "We blow money from reserve, and it needs to be replenished at some point," he said. "That comes from tax money."

Then Gordon asked whether there was any work planned for the parking lot.

"It's really like a goat path right now," he said. "It's probably the worst parking lot we have for people to drive down and go fishing. From my understanding, your scope is just that 100-metre bit. I'm just wondering if we're going to be doing any of that parking lot?" Andy Campbell, executive director of environment and infrastructure, answered that question for the councillor. "Council approved $50,000 in this year's budget to repair the parking lot and expand it a bit so that it would be ready for the cruise ships," he said. Mayor Stewart Strathearn asked if this work was in line with what has been suggested for that area in the parks master plan. Kernohan said the parks master plan refers to the parking lot area and suggest it be used as a green open space without any parking.

"The parks master plan does have an allocation of money some years out to do that," he added. "It is not part of the scope of work we're talking about. Our scope of work is literally a 100-metre-long strip." Coun. Jon Main wanted to know about the health of the seawall along that site.

"Have we been given the green light that that area might be suitable for dockage if we do this interim demonstration project?" he asked. Kernohan said an engineering firm has looked at the seawall and the remaining edge of the water that goes along the former Unimin site.

"I don't recall any issues with the seawall," he added. "I assume the town's engineering folks also looked at the seawall as they propose to bring large new cruise ships in.

"The seawall has been there for a lot of years and the plan is we would be using it as is. We would put a steel cap over the top edge of the steel wall and our proposal is that we would put this in as a permanent feature."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com