Culvert project costs starting to trickle in
by Roger Varley
Uxbridge council received a report from treasurer Donna Condon on Monday outlining the latest calculations on the cost of the Brock Street culvert project, which Condon said was estimated at $25.5 million as of August 2020. The actual cost of the project to date is $24.2 million.
When the project was first announced a decade ago, the council serving at that time estimated the cost at $10 million. In 2018, that was revised to $17.6 million and in September 2019 the estimate had climbed to $23.7 million.
Condon pointed out that the original $10 million estimate was in 2012 dollars and did not include costs for such things as building demolition, temporary parking, paving the parking lot and several other items. She said all the estimates were based on information and circumstances that existed at the time. However, all the estimates do not include a wide range of expenses.
But a news release put out by the township later on Monday indicated the estimated $25.5 million is likely to go higher and the true cost might not be known for several years. That is because, although the construction has wrapped up, there are outstanding legal issues associated with the project.
The release said disputes arose between the general contractor, Brennan Paving & Construction Inc. (a subsidiary of the Miller Group), AECOM Canada Limited, which was the engineer and project administrator, and the Township of Uxbridge. Brennan has sued the township and AECOM for a combined claim for $8 million dollars. Most of this amount is a placeholder for the potential claims of third parties against Brennan. Public Works director Ben Kester explained that means $8 million is what Brennan is claiming but the specific total has not yet been determined.
The news release went on to say the township will be asserting a claim in a similar amount against Brennan. Kester said the township has not yet filed a statement of defence and counter claim, but that the details will be made public when it is done.
As well, there are other outstanding issues, include allegations of damage to buildings adjacent to the construction. The township claims that any such damage is the responsibility of AECOM or Brennan Paving & Construction and persons working for them. On top of that, all businesses in the construction area were notified prior to construction about how to make a claim for lost business during construction and the township will process all claims once submitted. Depending on the results of those claims, the cost of the project could be increased.
Chief Administrative Officer Kristi Honey said the township is “frustrated with both Brennan Paving and AECOM,” noting both firms had been hired based on their professional experience and commitment to deliver the culvert project within a specific budget.
“Cost overruns should have been avoided through project management basics,” Honey said. “We expected them to deliver on budget and to have an engineering and construction plan that accomplished the job for the contracted price. They clearly didn’t meet our expectations.”
Honey pointed out that, because some matters are already before the court, there are some details about the project and resulting litigations that cannot be discussed publicly.
The culvert project, which Kester told council was known to be needed as far back as 1983, was undertaken to mitigate the flood risk in the downtown area and to reduce the size of the flood plain to allow for development downtown. He said the old culvert was in poor repair and its collapse could have caused significant damage, claims and lawsuits.
Protesters try to mar candidates’ forum
by Roger Varley
Only three of the invited candidates showed up last Wednesday for the all-candidates forum hosted at the community hall at the arena by the Uxbridge Cosmos.
On hand to address the approximately 50 people who attended the forum in person were incumbent Peter Bethlenfalvy, PC; Ibrahim Daniyal, Lib.; and Khalid Ahmed, NDP. The Green Party candidate sent regrets because of a scheduling conflict, while the New Blue Party candidate, who RSVP’d that she would attend, didn’t show.
Lisa Robinson of the Ontario Party arrived but refused to enter the venue because the Cosmos, which had rented the facility, required everyone, including candidates, to wear masks. Free masks were provided to anyone who needed one. Instead, Robinson set up her own table and sound system outside the hall and held her own meeting with a small group of protesters who refused to enter because of the mask requirement.
Inside, the main topics addressed by the three candidates on hand were health care and the rising cost of living. In his opening remarks, Ahmed said the NDP will make housing affordable, lower Hydro costs and ensure decent wages. He said the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on residents of long-term care (LTC) facilities “is unacceptable” and said the NDP would take the profit out of LTC.
For his part, Bethlenfalvy pointed to the Ford government’s recent announcement of funding for a new hospital and LTC in Uxbridge. He said now is the time to focus on jobs and good wages. He said many jobs will be created by the government’s plans to build new highways and subways and added that the government will reduce provincial tax on gasoline by 5.7 cents a litre on July 1 for six months.
Daniyal offered that “this is the most important election of our lifetime,” noting that COVID-19 has changed Ontarians’ lives, health, economy and dreams. He said the Ford government has not acted responsibly during the pandemic and further claimed the government’s use of ministerial zoning orders (MZOs) is damaging the environment and threatening species.
Pointing to soaring prices for food, gasoline and housing, the Cosmos asked the candidates what their parties are going to do to help the average Ontarian cope. Ahmed said an NDP government would work with the Ontario energy board to regulate gas prices. He said the current government scrapped an increase in the minimum wage. He also claimed the NDP would build 1.5 million housing units, with 260,000 of them being social assistance housing. He said both he and his wife work and they cannot afford to buy a house.
“It’s scary,” he said.
Bethlenfalvy blamed the previous Liberal government for high Hydro prices and said that same government had increased the cost of licence plate sticker renewals. Reiterating the promise to cut gas tax by 5.7 cents a litre, he also said the minimum wage will increase to $15.50 from $15 on Oct. 1 and tax rebates will be offered to anyone earning up to $50,000.
Daniyal said a Liberal government would increase the minimum wage to $16, would also increase seniors’ pensions by up to $1,000 and introduce “buck-a-ride” transit fares. He said every penny matters to those living paycheque to paycheque.
In response to an audience question about LTCs, Bethlenfalvy said the Ford government has built more new LTC beds and is recruiting 27,000 personal care workers and nurses and offering more support for home care. Daniyal said a Liberal government would take the profit out of LTC homes, saying LTCs should be publicly owned and publicly funded. Ahmed said new standards for LTCs must be established, along with the hiring of specialists to avoid future COVID-19 outbreaks.
“I can’t imagine my mother going into long-term care,” he said.
In closing statements, Daniyal said the Ford government had failed to support small businesses during the pandemic, is endangering the environment and, although it promised to remove the tolls on Highways 412 and 418 in 2018, waited until the election was here to do so. Ahmed said the people of Ontario have been neglected for far too long. He said the NDP’s platform is “not aiming for the moon and stars. These are things that are possible.” Bethlenfalvy said his party wants to rebuild Ontario’s economy by building infrastructure such as highways and transit.
“We’re going to continue to build this province like it wasn’t done for 15 years,” he said.
The full forum can be watched here.
Body discovered on Conc. 6 belonged to Toronto man
Investigators have confirmed the identity of the human remains that were located in Uxbridge last week.
According to Durham Regional Police, the victim’s name is Ariel Kaplan, 32, of Toronto. Kaplan had been reported missing to the Toronto Police Service in August 2021.
On May 10, members of North Division were called to the area of Conc. 6 and Allbright Road after human remains were located. A home owner in the Uxbridge area located a hockey bag floating in a pond and contacted police. The hockey bag contained the body of the deceased.
These remains were sent to the Ontario Forensic Pathology Services who confirmed Kaplan’s identity.
An extensive ground and water search was conducted by members of the DRPS Public Safety Unit as well as the York Regional Police dive team. The investigation is ongoing.
The DRPS Major Crime – Homicide Unit is working jointly with the Toronto Police Service and are appealing for any witnesses to come forward.
Investigators are looking to speak with anyone who spoke with or saw Kaplan prior to his disappearance in August 2021. A tip line has been set up for anyone to call with information and the investigative team will follow up with callers. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-888-579-1520 ext. 5444.
Township CAO welcomes Ukrainian family to Uxbridge
by Justyne Edgell
A Ukrainian family of five is, for the moment, calling the Uxbridge CAO’s house home.
After reading about a woman matching hosts with Ukrainian refugees in Ottawa, Township of Uxbridge CAO Kristi Honey and her husband, Tom, felt compelled to sign up as hosts.
“We received a call Saturday evening about a family of five in need,” said Honey. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had little ones living in our home, and we knew there are likely not a lot of homes who could take in a large family. We had the space, and we welcomed them to our home late last Tuesday evening.”
The Bortnyk family, including parents Bogdan and his wife Inna, and their three children, Nika (5), Luka (3), and Daniel (5 mos.), lived in a flat in Kiev, until the Russian invasion forced them to flee their home. They made their way to Spain, through Poland, with only what they could carry, where they learned about the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel – Canada.ca visa.
“Bogdan was permitted to leave as he had three children under the age of five,” says Honey. “If he wasn’t granted exit, the family planned to return to Inna’s parents’ home to help support the refugee efforts while Bogdan took up arms.”
After only a few days in town, the Bortnyk family is already beginning to settle in. This weekend they visited the grand opening of the Jumpstart Multi-Sport Court, and say they love all the green spaces.
“It has been a very difficult time for all Ukrainians, ” says Inna. “The support and generosity of the Canadian people is amazing. We never imagined having to leave Ukraine, and when we did, we didn’t know what we would be coming to. With three small children, we were very worried. We didn’t know what to expect. The entire community has been so welcoming and kind, and we are grateful for all the outpouring of support from everyone.”
Several community members stepped in almost immediately to help Bogdan find a local job. An hour after Honey posted a job search on Facebook, Bogdan had received an interview.
“We realized he needed clothing,” said Honey. “I messaged (councillor) Willie Popp, who provided a suit, and (councillor) Bruce Garrod, who provided dress shoes and socks. Mayor Dave Barton met us at Town Hall to do a mock interview, while (communications officer) Colleen Baskin and I edited his resumé.” Others donated clothing and supplies to the family. And good news – Bogdan got the job!
Honey says there is a wave of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Durham Region in the coming weeks.
“For those that are able, consider hosting a family. You can register at UkrainetoCanada.org or the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Durham chapter at The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) official website.”
The UCC is also accepting donations of gently used clothing, toys, and household items, all of which will be in great need for the incoming families.
“Consider donating to our local food bank, as these will be essential for families settling in our community too,” says Honey.
“We can’t imagine that we have been so blessed to be living with the Honey’s, and in a safe and happy home,” says Inna. “We are smiling for the first time since the war started. Our children are so happy to have this extended family even while we miss our family in the Ukraine.”
Inna and Bognar’s families are still in the Ukraine, helping to support the war efforts and fleeing refugees.
“The amount of stress and upheaval for this family, and all Ukrainian families, is significant. As Canadians we have known peace for a number of generations. If you can offer donations, support, or housing, please don’t wait,” says Honey.
“We are learning the language and culture of Canada,” says Inna, “and we want to give back to Canada and this community.”
Audition call for new LMM musical
The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario (LMMSO) is holding auditions later this month for a new musical based on Rainbow Valley, a novel Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote while living in Leaskdale. The play will be produced at the Historic Leaskdale Church in mid-September.
The show will be directed by Conrad Boyce, who has staged a number of LMM-related plays for the Society in the past. The show has a lead cast of four adults and five children, plus a small ensemble. The children, aged 9-12, have demanding roles as both actors and singers.
Auditions will be held at the Leaskdale Church Friday, May 27, at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 29, at 1:30 p.m., no pre-arranged appointment necessary. Auditioners need only attend one of the sessions.
In addition to reading from the script, auditioners will be asked to sing a Broadway-style song of their choice (please bring sheet music for the accompanist).
Any questions should be directed to Mr. Boyce by email at conradboyce50@ gmail.com
Cemetery Rd. up for more development
by Roger Varley
Council’s planning committee held a public hearing Monday night on the first Cemetery Road development application received since township planning consultant Elizabeth Howson gave her extensive report on the neighbourhood a few weeks ago.
The applicant, Coral Creek Homes, wants the property at 150 Cemetery Road rezoned from Residential to Residential Multiple Density to allow for construction of 25 townhouses and two semi-detached homes on just under one hectare of land. The property in question has about three hectares of bush behind it that the applicant said would not be touched.
During the meeting, councillors raised a number of concerns, including the size of the lots, parking availability and snow removal. Mayor Dave Barton noted that the plan for the development “feels really tight.” The applicant’s representative said the lots are similar in size to others in the region and each townhouse would have room for two vehicles.
But concerns were also raised about the fate of mature trees that currently front the lot. Howson’s earlier report spoke about “the sylvan nature” of the neighbourhood and the importance of retaining the look of the area. The representative acknowledged the trees would have to come down but said they would be replaced.
Howson told the meeting that this was just the first step in a long process, saying a review of the application “will take as long as it needs,” adding that the conservation authority, the fire department, the township and the region all have to review the application before anything happens.
Step aside, Navarro College – Cheerapalooza shows how it’s done
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
With the popularity of shows like “Cheer” on Netflix, competitive cheerleading is becoming a much-talked about sport. Uxbridge will have a chance to witness the athletic prowess of its own cheerleading club at next week’s “Cheerapalooza”!
The Air Force Mavericks are all-star cheerleaders ranging in ages four to 18, and want to show the community how it’s really done. On Saturday, May 28, between 1 and 5 p.m., they’re taking over the demolition derby ring in Elgin Park, setting up a special sprung floor, pumping up the music, and inviting the town to watch both competitive and recreation cheerleading at its finest.
“Most people think about pompoms when they think about cheer and not the athleticism,” says Patrick Mislan, operations director and a head coach for the Mavericks. “We’re going to show people what we do while we’re right at the height of season. Cheerapalooza will bring the community together, and hopefully open up this sport to young people who may never have thought of it as being possible for them, right here in the park.”
Lending to the festival atmosphere will be bouncy castles, face painting, a BBQ, balloons, some character mascots – “It will have a real carnival feel,” says Mislan.
One highlight will be demonstrations and performances by some of the country’s best cheerleaders. Veterans from Team Canada, including some world champions, are, according to Mislan, “the best of the best coming to strut their stuff!”
Because cheer is essentially a contact sport, given the physical contact between teammates during stunting (more simply defined as building pyramids), the Mavericks were prevented from practicing during the most severe lockdowns of the pandemic. “We couldn’t start stunting until late summer 2021, so we were a couple of months behind our normal seasonal trajectory,” explains Mislan. But the 200+ athletes who make up the Mavericks came back strong, placing amongst the top teams during the recent national championships, held in Niagara Falls.
Parking for Cheerapalooza will be on the grass by the south entrance to Elgin Park, and will be manned by the 1st Uxbridge Scouts. Donations for parking will go directly to the Scouts. Entrance to Cheerapalooza itself is free, and all donations collected inside will go towards expenses that the athletes incur during the competition year, like bus and travel costs.
For more information on Cheerapalooza and the Air Force Mavericks, visit airforcemavericks.ca The Mavericks practice at “The Hangar”, located at 40 Anderson Blvd., just west of Goodwood.