Is Milton doing an "Outstanding Job"?

In the May 9th edition of the Milton Canadian Champion, town CAO Mario Belvedere said the town of Milton was doing an “outstanding job” managing growth and roads over the past several years.

Town doing ‘outstanding job’: CAO

Town of Milton CAO Mario Belvedere tells council growth has been managed well overall

Melanie Hennessey, Published on May 09, 2008

While things may not be perfect when it comes to the timing of development and infrastructure in Milton, Town staff says that overall it’s doing a good job in managing growth.

This was one of the key messages staff delivered on Monday afternoon at an information workshop for council on growth management.

CAO Mario Belvedere told council he feels that generally the Town has done an outstanding job in managing growth.

He acknowledged there might be “hiccups” when it comes to things like the timing of road construction.

“But other than that we’ve done a pretty darn good job,” he said.

Town Director of Planning and Development Mel Iovio shared similar sentiments.

He said the planning, development phasing and financial agreements the Town has struck with developers have generally resulted in a controlled and logical growth pattern.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he remarked.

He noted the fast rate of growth has caused some inconvenience, but on the plus side it’s resulted in communities being completed much faster.

Town Director of Engineering Services Paul Cripps pointed out that some roads projects are being fast-tracked through the Accelerated Transportation Capital Program, such as the widening of Derry Road from Tremaine Road to Bronte Street.

The work wasn’t slated to get underway until next year, but the timeline has now been moved up so that construction will start this spring and wrap up in the fall.

“We want to continue working with the development community to accelerate as many roads projects as we can,” he said.

He went on to outline other Town and Region road works scheduled to take place from now until 2021. Within the next few years, those projects include:

2008 — construction of James Snow Parkway from Steeles Avenue to Boston Church Road

2008 — reconstruction of Thompson Road from Derry Road to Main Street

2010 — construction of a road underpass on Main Street at the CPR tracks

2010 — widening Regional Road 25 from two lanes to four between Derry and Britannia roads

Cripps explained the timing of the projects coincides with when the “capacity crunch” will come along for those roads.

The downside of this, he said, is the pressure the Town receives from residents who are pushing for roads to be up to par before the development boom.

But Cripps said there’s also an advantage. With the new roads coming on board after the majority of developers’ heavy construction traffic has come and gone, residents will “get a brand new road with a maximum life expectancy.”

Ward 3 Councillor Cindy Lunau asked staff to keep in mind the road upgrades that are also required in the rural area. “We need to reserve a certain portion of our budget each year to maintain the quality of life in the rural area.”

Cripps said staff is mindful of the needs in rural Milton.

The workshop also included presentations from each of the Town’s senior staff members on the responsibilities and roles of their departments when it comes to planning for growth. For example, the Corporate Services department handles development charges and the financial agreements made with developers, Engineering Services looks after transportation issues and Community Services plans for facilities like arenas.

Iovio detailed the numerous items on the Planning and Development department’s plate for the coming years, including plans for the Derry Green Business Park, the next phase of residential development and the Milton Education Village, which will hopefully see Wilfrid Laurier University come to Milton.

Melanie Hennessey can be reached at mhennessey@miltoncanadianchampion.com

***

While I will disagree with some people who say the towns done a horrible job managing growth, outstanding isn’t a word I’d be using. That article made the town and its council sound very arrogant. Bad choice of words. It almost ranks up there with Mayor Gord Krantz telling the Champion during an interview that Milton didn’t have a traffic congestion problem right under a picture of Thompson Road (before all the work started) backed up from Main Street to Derry Road.

I think it isn’t up to the town to decide if they are doing a great job as only time will tell that tale for certain.

This article brought up a number of responses in the Letters to the Editor. Hmmm, next time a slice of humility before speaking with the press, shall we? It’s making those of us, like the author of this blog, who know everything look bad.

***

Let us decide if Town is doing the ‘wonderful’ job CAO claims

Published on May 16, 2008

In last Friday’s Champion, the front-page headline read ‘Town doing outstanding job: CAO.’

I think it would be a good idea if town council and members of regional council took a look around Milton before they decide how “wonderful” things are.

If they really want to know how things are going, they should have a town hall meeting and invite townspeople to speak about this subject — without limiting how people can voice their opinions and views.

AGOSTINO GALIOTO, MILTON

Comment on management of growth tough to swallow

Published on May 16, 2008

As a 22-year resident and taxpayer of Milton, it pained me to read the verbal diarrhea that emanated from the lips of our illustrious Town of Milton CAO, Mario Belvedere, at a recent town council meeting.

He stated that the Town is doing an “outstanding” job and that growth has been managed well overall. Not surprisingly, the statement was supported by his minions in the planning and engineering departments, who make me ask — outstanding compared to what?

The term outstanding is used to describe things that are exceptional, terrific, wonderful, stupendous, dazzling, marvelous, excellent, great or superior, not abysmal, myopic, unresolved, unsettled or incomplete.

Attempts to downplay the glaringly-visible deficiencies that plague Milton are disappointing to say the least, as statements suggesting there might be “hiccups” when it comes to things like the timing of road construction can only lead one to believe there have been and will continue to be numerous glitches, interruptions and setbacks. In my opinion, this has been characteristic of the progress of the roadwork and other infrastructure-related projects to date in Milton.

Now one may ask, how was the City of Mississauga able to implement access roadways into and out of subdivisions — equipped with proper turn lanes, fully-functioning street lights and pedestrian crossing systems — prior to new subdivisions being completed? Might it have something to do with the fact that the City of Mississauga actually controlled the manner and pace in which growth was implemented?

This logic seems to have evaded the grasp of the current director of engineering services, whose portfolio includes both transportation and community services plans for recreational facilities such as arenas.

In terms of roadways, commuters traveling east on Derry Road are now treated to a traffic backlog stretching all the way from Trafalgar Road down to Trudeau Drive.

Sixth Line south of Britannia Road is another source of commuter frustration, as drivers are greeted with an absence of turn lanes and traffic lights. Town Engineering Services Director Paul Cripps’ reply to this is that “staff is mindful of the needs in rural Milton.” Okay, prove it.

Meanwhile, Milton District Hospital is a mess that speaks to the collective inaction by the four levels of government within our area to ensure it’s able to adequately service the health-care needs of Miltonians. It’s abundantly clear that it isn’t.

I’m thankful my children were born between 1988 and 1992 when the hospital was able to adequately manage the patient load, and the emergency room was treating emergencies.

What has the Town of Milton’s executive and administration done in conjunction with the Region of Halton, provincial and federal levels of government to ensure the provincial minister of health, premier of Ontario and federal minister of health are aware of our hospital’s needs? And what has the Town done to secure the requisite funding to resolve the hospital’s need for expansion?

C.J. MCCARROLL, MILTON

***

OUCH. Maybe the Town needs a little help getting ready the next time it decides to pat itself on the back.

Where will ward one go

Is the town making the right decision by looking at changing the ward boundries in Milton?

By the sounds of this letter to the Champion last week, they might be jumping the gun. Milton resident Robert Harris states that the Town of Milton should wait until the Region of Halton completes its “Sustainable Halton” plan before making changes to how the town is divided up. Here’s the letter…

Doing review of town’s ward boundaries now is premature

Published on May 20, 2008

Hats off to Councillor Colin Best, who stated the obvious at a recent town council meeting about waiting for the Sustainable Halton plan as the template to follow before realigning ward boundaries in Milton.

He has shown that he can envision town growth and at the same time save taxpayers money — a sum of $40,000.

The optics around this ward boundary review recommended by council don’t look good at this time. Some would look at it as an attempt by some councillors to possibly ensure another term in office by surgically removing urban growth within their wards.

It could be initially viewed as an effect to ensure representation for rural Milton, but the consultant’s report will probably recommend a reduction in councillors in these sparsely-populated wards, favouring representation for urban areas.

Rural Milton stands to come up shorter in representation as a result of this poorly-timed initiative.

Best’s view to wait until the 2014 election to realign ward boundaries is prudent and falls in line with regional council’s decision.

The Region has stated that there’s to be no change in the number of councillors representing Milton until the 2014 election.

I say wait, Milton council, and save the taxpayers some money. This will prevent the possible hassle of a future Ontario Municipal Board hearing over proposed ward boundaries that will require changes again after another four years of growth.

ROBERT HARRIS, GOWLANDS CRESCENT

In case you missed it, the Town of Milton recently commissioned a study to review the ward boundaries for the next municipal election in 2010. Currently, the town has 4 wards with two councillors serving for each ward. For much of the new area south of Derry, we live in whats called ward one.

Before the “big pipe” was built and the throngs of new homes were constructed here, ward one was mainly a rural ward much like ward 3. Seeing ow the majority of the growth has happened here, theres a population spike in our ward and what looks like an unfair balance in the way we are represented on council.

Councillor Brian Penman at the April 28th meeting of council stated that it was difficult to answer the calls and emails from the growing number of residents in ward one. It is this logic which brings us to the changing of the boundaries in Milton.

Yes it does need to be done. Right now ward one has the largest population of all the wards and continues to grow with every new family that takes possession of their new homes. The population will continue to grow over the next couple of years and if I plan on running again in 2010 for town council, it will essentially be double the size of 2006 election. (I need the exercise anyways)

Milton, we have a problem. The Region of Halton has yet to make formal its “Sustainable Halton” initiative which will make clearer what new developments are going to be approved and when. While it might seem that Milton has reached its peak in development and population, there is still lots of land to build homes and businesses in the coming years. The Town of Milton has just entered into talks for the Wilfred Laurier University education park, which would bring thousands of new residents to town to continue their studies.

The land surrounding the hospital is to be developed for commercial and residential use, not to mention HOPEFULLY the province gets off its duff, and makes changes to ensure the expansion of Milton’s hospital (thats another rant) and many more subdivisions to come.

Regional Councillor Colin Best made mention of this very fact at that meeting and urged council to hold off until the Region has finalized its plans.

With all this new development to come, it could change the population of the now Ward one area by upwards of 40,000. Then at that time, changes would have to be made again.

So whats the hurry then? Why doesn’t it make sense to Milton council to hold off on the ward changes and wait for the Region in 2014 and then make the much needed adjustments to the wards? Good questions.

This doesn’t even touch the cost of the program yet. The Town staff has budgeted $40,000 to pay for the study to be done. Dr. Robert Williams, who is a political science professor is also doing a similar study for the city of Kitchener and is expected to make his ideas known soon. I do have a problem with the cost of this study and where the money was to be coming from.

The Town of Milton gets a per centage of the revenues from the Mohawk Racetrack just north in Milton. Its a great deal that was signed awhile back to ensure the racetrack gives back to the town. These revenues are to go to programs like the Milton Community Fund that helps organizations and events in town with raising money to help better our community. Proceeds from the racetrack revenues are NOT to go to operating expenses but towards programs like this and possibly capital programs to help the town grow.

It would be like you turn to your spouse and ask them to go to the corner store to buy a lottery ticket so you can afford to buy milk and bread for your family. Its just wrong.

The money to commission this report was going to come from that fund…which is wrong. Town staff does the odd thing right but this idea, whoever it was, is just plain stupid. Before the motion was passed by council, they made an amendment to have the cost of the study come from the Capital Works reserve fund.

So, given the fact that once the Region finalizes the SH plan, we as a town will have to do this all over again. Lets save $40,000 from our reserve funds and wait. The councillors can tough it out for another few years to give the residents the representation they need and once completed, we can get it right.

It doesnt seem that council is thinking that way. So, $40,000 is tossed away on a study that can wait and those funds can go to something else the town needs. The Town of Milton seems to like spending money.

Don’t get me started on how the Town of Milton is spending its away into financial problems…again, another post for another day. Seeing how time is limited with the new addition to the family, I have to pace myself in my rants to avoid bursts in blood pressure.

The topic was also brought up casually during the discussions of the April 28th meeting that they might want to look at making the Milton town council a full time position instead of what it currently is, a part time job.

While nothing was brought forward formally regarding the change in job description, the seed has now been planted to talk about it.

Mayor Smitherman?

smitherman

The buzz in the City of Toronto is that Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman is contemplating a run at the City’s top job. In a recent speech at the Toronto Board of Trade, many people who were there and heard the speech feel hes either testing the waters for a mayoral run or has already decided he will.

Also, in a recent interview on CFRB Toronto Councillor Rob Ford spoke with Leslie Roberts saying that once he settles his “personal issues” he will definitely be running against Mayor David Miller. In a survey of CFRB callers before Rob Ford came on, there was strong support for Rob to run.

You can tell things are getting antsy in the City of Toronto when more than 2 years before the next municipal election you are seeing high profile candidates preparing for a run at the top job.

I know the City of Toronto is a bigger place with a lot more on the line as it seems than lets say the Town of Milton. But what would your reaction be if one of the sitting councillors here said, “Oh ya, Im going to run for Mayor of Milton.” Thats 2 years away. I think theres a few issues that need some immediate attention other than ones political career…especially in Toronto.

To be honest I think Mr Smitherman should be working on his governments promises of reducing wait times in our emergency rooms and improving our health care system. And not just in the City of Toronto. The province is grossly understaffed in doctors and nurses and the ones we have now are being stretched to the limit. In the coming years, Ontario will see more doctors and nurses retire than anytime in history, while the number of people entering the field wont be enough to cover the short fall. This means family doctors will be harder to find, emergency rooms will be like madhouses, people wont have places to go to get regular checkups, families that have children with autism will continue to lag on the waiting lists for much needed funding and too many more issues to mention here.

Many people who frequent Milton hospital are running into some issues. Milton’s population is now over 70,000 and in a short time will be getting close to 100,000. One major thing thats been ignored over these years? The roads? Yes. But just as important if not MORE important…The hospital.

And to be clear, people have to realize (before the start blaming the town, which is a sport it seems here) that funding for the hospital comes from the province. There are some drastic needs that our hospital faces in the coming years. It needs to expand…now.

The same kind of problems was faced in Brampton. For years, Peel Memorial (then called William Osler Health Centre) was the only hospital in town. One hospital for almost 400,000 people. It only took about 10-15 years to get another health care facility opened in Brampton and recently Peel Memorial has closed down, creating a huge vacuum of need there.

Milton Hospital, if not addressed soon…can be headed the same way. Recent estimations of Milton’s future population growth see it reaching 170,000 and maybe even more in the next 20 years. We could be facing the same issues Brampton has if we dont do something about it now. This province needs a full time health care minister and not a part time mayoral candidate. With this speech and others like it to come, Smitherman will be dogged by the media to find out when hes going to be running, if hes going to be running, what will his platform be, etc all the while the hospitals go unchecked.

On the other hand, the hospital is making the improvements it can, especially with the CT scanner and the fund raising involved in it. Through the generosity of many Milton residents and businesses, Milton hospital now has the CT scanner up and running.

The importance of this issue just isnt prevalent in adults and corporations. Recently a friend of my son Anthony had a birthday party and included in his invitation was a request. In lieu of presents he would like the guests to his party to make a donation to the CT scanner in Milton hospital. Through a small group of kids, they raised $250 and he personally delivered it to the hospital.

Too bad it seems that the provincial government doesnt show the same concern to our hospital as does this 8 year old and his friends. Smitherman has time after time made claims that they are fixing the problems in our hospitals, all the while people are stuck in the waiting room looking for care.

I know in some cases, there are people who really shouldnt be in our emergency rooms and going to either a walk in clinic or their family doctor would be more productive and less of a strain on our emergency room staff. There are legitimate cases where care is needed NOW, but they are forced to either wait, suffer or try to find another hospital that can take them.

The fact that Smitherman, a full 31 months before the next election, is “shaking the bushes” shows his concerns lie somewhere else and not in Ontario’s health care system. If being Mayor George is important to him, maybe he should call Dalton and ask that he be replaced in the health care file so that someone who isnt worrying about his next political step can take charge and make real changes to hospitals and health care in our province.

Step aside George.

Yates Drive and March Crossing

mike-cluett-005.jpg

Just the mere mention of that intersection causes many residents in the area to roll their eyes.

Why? We have seen many near misses of vehicles driving down Yates from Thompson Road with cars coming out of March Crossing. This weekend was no different.

Lets go back in time to this past summer around the dinner hour. Local residents were brought out of their homes with the sounds of screeching tires, loud thumps and a big bang. What had happened was a car traveling north on Yates Drive towards Bennett Blvd. at what witnesses describe as “over the speed limit”, narrowly missing a vehicle coming out on March Crossing into the intersection. This car swerved to miss that car, lost control and jumped the curb on the opposite side of the road and smash into a house. Luckily there was no one hurt, the car sustained some damage and the bay window of the home was damaged.

For those of us who live in the area know, kids are walking up and down the sidewalk heading to their friends homes or to the local parks and thank God no one was there was this happened.

Now, we go back to this past Saturday and the almost exact situation happened again. A car traveling up Yates Drive from Thompson Road heading towards Bennett Blvd. driving up the street, narrowly misses a car coming out from March Crossing, loses control and jumps the curb on the opposite side and hits the same house in almost the identical spot.

Enough is enough. Im not one person who favours putting stop signs at every intersection or reducing speed when there is no justification. Something has to change before any other home or God forbid, someone is injured or killed.

The speed limit on Yates Drive is 50km/hr. During last falls election campaign, I spoke with many people about community safety and what we as citizens can do to make our streets safer. Many of you favoured reducing the speed limit on streets. Is that enough?

Would a 40km/hr speed limit saved this home owner from yet another insurance claim and time away from their lives to repair the damage to their home that someone else caused? Maybe.

If the speed limit was reduced it might be cause for the driver to make sure they slow down. Who really knows.

Would a stop sign have done the trick? Again, who knows. If drivers know there is a stop sign approaching at that intersection, would they reduce their speed before they come to March Crossing?

Possibly. Only if people open their eyes and realize our residential and town roads are not speedways.

It’s frustrating to live in an area such as this with such amazing neighbours and people living in the subdivision to have to deal with this. The only thing we have left is to turn to the town of Milton and see what can be done.

For years now, residents have complained about speeding on our streets. To the town’s credit they have done some studies about excess speed on Yates Drive and have concluded it doesnt warrant a stop sign at this particular intersection.

My message, that I plan on delivering with the help of the local residents, is simply this.

Reduce the speed to 40km/h and / or put a 4 way stop at this intersection. By doing nothing, is simply condoning this behaviour and endorsing what has already happened.

The safety of the people in the area, their homes and our children are more important than worrying about if people will be inconvenienced by an additional stop sign.

Whats more important to you?

Is the Green Cart program enough

 

The Region of Halton recently announced that it was going forward with a Green Cart Program to help reduce the amount of waste that heads to our landfill site. In case people are unaware of where that landfill site is, take a trip down 25 (Bronte Road) south of Derry and you will soon see it.

There was quite the discussion during the last municipal election on what should be done with the landfill, which is quickly approaching capacity. With the hundreds and hundreds of new homes being built in the area there will be a further demand on that landfill and its up to us as residents to do our part.

The Region of Halton currently has the Blue Box program in place. You are to put glass, plastics etc in one box and in the other we place the acceptable paper products, boxes, etc. As of April 2008 it was announced that residents will be able to put all products into one box instead of separating it, given the improvement in the separation technology available.

During that campaign a debate raged on about the EFW (Energy From Waste) proposal that was put before Regional Council and the pros and cons involved. In essence, an incinerator would be built at the landfill and the waste would then be burned using clean technology to produce energy that would be used in the region of Halton and beyond. Coupled with this proposal there was the much maligned Pristine Power Plant issue that seemed to dominate the last half of the campaign.

Recently Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr along with council announced that it was putting the EFW option aside permanently and focusing only on the existing programs and the Green Cart.

Does it go far enough?

With our landfill approaching capacity quickly (some analysts have said that within 25 years Halton will be required to have another landfill or another option in place for our garbage) will simply placing household food scraps and other materials in our Green Box do the job? With the landfill approaching capacity by 2023 according to Halton Region analysis, we need to take sufficient action now. The addition of the Green Cart program will add 7 years to the life of the landfill where the EFW facility would solve our problems for close to 50 years from now.

The EFW program, according to the proposal and the experts would have added at least another 100 years to the life of the Halton landfill. Does the Green Cart program go far enough?

At first glance it would seem that unless I’m mistaken and someone can hopefully provide me with more information, that it would have little affect on the amount of garbage at the landfill. The Region of Halton, and residents in general, need to come up with a longer range plan to solve the landfill issue.

Of course costs will be a major factor in making this decision. Who pays for it, how will we pay for it, etc. But the main question remains, what will it cost if nothing gets done? What if we wait until the landfill is near capacity and decisions have to be made then? The cost to taxpayers will pale in comparison and who knows the effect on our environment.

The amount of available land is decreasing with every new resident that we welcome to the area. What other options are there available to increase the life of our landfill?

It seems that the easier political issue would be to scrap the EFW and go with the easier to sell Green Cart Program. Tough decision are going to have to be made NOW and not 25 years from now when our landfill is overflowing and the residents will be screaming for answers.

Lets look at all the options … now, before its too late. Food scraps and other items just wont cut it.