Serving Dorchester, Belmont, Thorndale, Thamesford, Putnam, Crampton, Avon, Harrietsville-Mossley and surrounding area

Brutal storm causes outages,

closures and damage

submitted photo
Glover’s Tree Service arrives at a Dorchester home to remove a tree that had fallen on the roof because of the windy conditions on Saturday.

by Wendy Spence

        It was a wild weekend for weather in many areas, including Thames Centre, with a continuous deluge of freezing rain and powerful winds. A number of residents and businesses were without power for many hours; some longer than a day, schools and businesses were closed on Monday and the cleanup continues. There were many downed poles, branches and trees as well as other damage due to the storm. A number of residents had to deal with flooding in their basements and backyards.
        Some were able to stay connected via their smart phones, posting the nearest place with hydro that serves coffee or suggestions for how they managed to concoct their favourite brew, including on the barbecue and camp stove. Social media posts described how people were staying warm, with some lucky to have natural gas fireplaces or wood stoves. Kindness prevailed with offers from residents heading west into London, or east to Ingersoll, offering to pick up provisions for others.
        Residents commented about reading actual hard copies of books and playing games to pass the time, as well as getting dressed for work by flashlight. Those in the area fortunate enough to have power reached out to invite others over to share the warmth, food and company.
        The power was restored to many areas by late afternoon on Monday. According to the Hydro One website, some customers were still without power at press time on Tuesday.

Thames Centre budget

discussions continue

by Wendy Spence

        It is anticipated that municipal financial deliberations scheduled for today (Wednesday, April 18 starting at 9:30 a.m.) should be completed. The capital budgets and some of the operations budgets were reviewed at last Wednesday’s meeting and an explanation of development charges was distributed.
        There have been a number of changes during the fiscal year 2017 and the 2018 budget preparation. New budget software has been implemented, modifying the budget reporting process.
        A number of cost centres’ budgets were “rolled up” last year. All wages and benefits allocations have been reviewed and allocated to the appropriate programs. A fleet department has been created. Similar or duplicate accounts have been reviewed and allocated to one account.
        Some services previously contracted out, including snow removal and grass cutting, have been transitioned to in-house operations staff. It was necessary to purchase two zero turn mowers and trimming equipment to help eliminate the grass cutting contracts.
        Although the municipality has assumed administration of the Thames Centre Playground program, Ward 3 Councillor Alison Warwick pointed out that the program has essentially stayed the same and donations are still needed from community organizations to keep the costs affordable for residents.
        The overall maintenance budget for the soccer fields has increased to include proper maintenance such as field grooming techniques, regular topsoil rejuvenation, over-seeding and fertilizing. A regular irrigation maintenance contract and a line painting contract were entered into.
        The amount of $40,000 per year is being spent to upgrade playgrounds in the municipality to make them accessible.
        Major projects in the environmental services department include the construction of a pump station and force main in south Dorchester this year at a cost of $2.6 million ($1.8 million from development charges and $780,000 from wastewater reserves) and $2.3 million next year to facilitate new residential development. Commissioning is anticipated in 2019. Developers have front-ended some of the cash necessary to move this forward. Construction is slated to begin next year at a cost of $2.45 million and in 2020 for $2.45 million for the Dorchester Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. It is expected to be commissioned in 2020.
        Water and wastewater master plans at a cost of $165,000 have been included in this year’s budget. A $50,000 landfill study was moved to 2019.
        Two purchase requests from the fire department were timely in nature and were approved.
        A Freightliner fire truck to replace the 1999 model is in the budget for next year, but since it takes about 12 months to obtain such an apparatus, the estimated $650,000 purchase was discussed. The department recommends a custom purpose built vehicle with a bigger chassis and more storage that Fire Chief Randy Kalan said is safer than a regular vehicle that is not customized. He told Mayor Jim Maudsley when he was asked that it would cost $450,000 to replace the truck the way it is. Director of transportation Mike LeBlanc said a report on the RFP would come to council after the budget was completed.
        A number of fleet vehicle purchases were approved and it was determined that some could be moved forward a year or two.
        In the transportation department, $209,000 is allotted for bridge and culvert upgrades and rehab. The largest repairs will be to bridges on Heritage Road, Fairview Road and Mossley Drive. Paving projects include 1.3 kilometres on Dorchester Road ($120,000), 830 metres on Fairview Road ($72,000) and 2.3 km on Harris Road ($275,000) – the last road on the west side of the municipality to be paved. Hard surface roads - Oakwood Place and Mitchell Avenue from Oakwood Place to Mitchell Court - will be rehabilitated at a cost of $290,000. Work in the amount of $400,000 will be done on gravel roads on Valleyview and Cherry Hill to upgrade them for future paving.
        Ward 1 Councillor Kelly Elliott requested that $75,000 be allocated for a signalized crosswalk that meets Middlesex County’s standards at King Street, connecting the pathway residents would take to cross from one side of the street to the other.
        The front counter at the municipal office is deteriorating and will be upgraded to include new accessibility standards at a cost of $25,000. Director of finance Denice Williamson recommended that computers in the administration department that see heavy usage should be upgraded on a four-year schedule instead of seven years.
        As was the case last year, an increase in pay for the volunteer firefighters was discussed and a 1.5 per cent increase was removed from this year’s budget. The firefighters receive a point compensation per call that they attend and also for training. The value per point was increased by one dollar last year, which cost the municipality $14,000. “Based on the work we did last year, I don’t think we need an increase,” said Ward 2 Councillor Jennifer Coghlin. Kalan mentioned that a lot of departments do raise the point value yearly.
        There was discussion around putting extra money for winter maintenance (when it exists, during a less severe winter) into reserves so it would be available when needed.
        Pathway lighting will be added on Dorchester Road around Byron Avenue at a cost of $75,000. The expenditure is being funded in part by Main Street revitalization funding and it is also potentially DC eligible.
        Sidewalks on Harrietsville Drive and Putnam Road are to be upgraded to accessibility standards at a cost of almost $150,000.
        A total of $15,000 is being invested in a radar speed sign and trailer to be used as a traffic calming measure and to monitor motorists’ speeds to determine if there’s an issue when concerns are raised.
        Department by department operating costs and more details on the 2018 Thames Centre budget will be included in the April 25 edition of The Signpost.

Inside this Week
New exec director at humane society
Safe drinking water top priority
Help beautify the area for Earth Day
Humboldt Strong – showing our support