Advertisement

Sarnia city council notebook

Article content

Two more diesel buses approved for purchase

Sarnia will spend money on at least another two diesel buses before transitioning to an electric fleet.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

In a 5-4 decision, city council approved the $1.3-million combined expenditures this year and next to shore up the city’s aging fleet, as a study looking into transitioning to electric is expected to be completed by August, said city engineering and operations general manager David Jackson.

“We do need a fleet that’s in relatively good condition as we work through this process, which is why we’re recommending” the purchase, he said. “We agree hopefully this would be the last request for diesel buses.”

The report to council from transit director Michelle Carter says Sarnia could potentially purchase its first zero-emissions bus in 2023.

Making the switch includes upgrading terminals, installing charging infrastructure and ordering buses, and the full transition could take 10 years to phase out the city’s existing fleet of 29 buses, city staff have said.

Some in the fleet currently are nearing one-million kilometres and require frequent repairs, Carter’s report says.

Electric buses have been estimated in previous city reports at nearly three times the cost of diesel but with one-twenty-sixth or less of the 2,680 carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per kilometre.

Current bus emissions likely constitute about one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions from Sarnia, city staff have said.

Couns. George Vandenberg and Mike Stark spoke against making another diesel bus purchase.

“We have to make the move sooner or later,” said Stark, arguing the city could purchase used buses from other municipalities to tide over the fleet while infrastructure upgrades are completed. “You have to draw a line in the sand. For me, this is the line in the sand.”

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Couns. Nathan Colquhoun and Brian White also voted against the two 12-metre diesel bus purchases.

Park space being provided for rec and fitness biz use

All but Stark voted in favour of a motion from Coun. Bill Dennis to work out a system to permit dance, fitness and recreational businesses to make use of public green spaces as they wait for further COVID-19 restrictions to lift.

“Our community needs our help now more than ever,” Dennis said. “As we all try to recover from a worldwide pandemic, many recreational businesses continue to be paralyzed given continued closures.”

The motion calls for proof of liability insurance and adherence to public-health safety guidelines for reservations.

“Parks are not business parks,” said Stark, noting there are outdoor rental options available for businesses. “I suggest that businesses attempt to secure those.”

Diversity and inclusion training approved

Council unanimously approved a motion from Mayor Mike Bradley for council to receive diversity, equity and inclusion training.

Hicks Morley/KOJO Institute were the approved provider and the training will be given to council, city staff and potentially Sarnia Police Services board members, corporate services general manager David Logan said.

The cost per four-hour session is $6,500.

“We’re working with Lambton College on attracting more immigrants and newcomers into the community (and), out of that came, this discussion about, ‘Well, what do we really know about ourselves, about our community and our diversity?’” Bradley said about what prompted the motion.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Stark suggested the diversity, equity and inclusion training would be more appropriate for police services board members given the recent allegations of sexual harassment and racism within the department.

“I don’t want to make any insinuations with this, but does this whole topic … should it not more appropriately be directed to the police services board who appear to have need for this particular training?” he asked.

Councillors could potentially sit in on that training, he said.

The suggestion for police board training in his motion wasn’t the primary focus, Bradley said, calling it an add on.

“I just thought of “the training” as a followup to all the other things that we’ve been doing, particularly at the start of the term,” he said.

Correspondence from the police services board on council’s agenda said, as a result of a settlement that contains a confidentiality clause, “the police service board is not in a position to release” the Helen Daniel report into allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the police service.

The report from the Toronto lawyer has not been released publicly. Sarnia’s police chief has said it found no evidence of harassment or discrimination in the service but did find pervasive gossip.

Allegations of racism have gone to arbitration involving another officer.

Council has received additional training, including on workplace harassment.

Growth management next steps OK’d

Staff can proceed with public consultation and preparing a report looking at options into potentially converting research park lands into new housing, council unanimously agreed.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The next steps are based on a growth-management report that looks at population growth in the city to potentially 88,000 residents by 2051 and suggests housing should be built to accommodate more people.

Dennis said he’s not in favour of developing research park lands for housing and would rather see Bright’s Grove lands used, but voted in favour of letting public consultation and staff work proceed so more information can come back to council for a decision.

Coun. Terry Burrell noted intensification, including use of available “employment lands,” is required by the provincial policy statement before urban boundaries can be expanded.

“I think we have to be cognizant of that,” he said. “We may have a wish list, but if the province says ‘no,’ then that’s unfortunately what we have to deal with.”

More information is expected from staff in the fall, a report to council says.

tkula@postmedia.com

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers