Main Street Expansion To Be “Disruptive”

From Christina Commisso at the Milton Canadian Champion

Main St. to close for construction. Motorists are advised to expect delays and lane restrictions as construction on the Main Street underpass begins. Graham Paine/Canadian Champion

Milton drivers may be in for some traffic delays as the first two of five planned Main Street weekend closures get underway next month.

Monday town council approved the closures to accommodate construction work for the $49 million Main Street underpass.

Main Street East between Ontario Street and about 10 metres east of the CPR tracks will shut down at midnight Saturday, May 5 and reopen at 5 a.m. Monday, May 7 as construction crews remove the existing tracks and install temporary ones.

The intersection will close again the following weekend from midnight Saturday, May 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 14.

Three future road closures are anticipated for the underpass — which is Milton’s costliest infrastructure project — two in summer 2013 and one in 2014.

Engineering Director Paul Cripps said all closures will occur on weekends for the least impact on traffic, especially for those making their way to and from the Milton GO Station.

Detour routes north of the tracks are planned for Wilson Drive and Woodward Avenue and south of the tracks drivers will be redirected along Childs Drive and Lauier Avenue.

“This project will be very disruptive to Miltonians for some time,” said Mayor Gord Krantz. “But there’s never a good time to close a road like that. When it’s all finished people will ask, ‘Why didn’t you do it 100 years ago?’ They’re probably right, but there was no money to do it.”

Long-term lane restrictions on Main Street East began earlier this month with one lane in each direction and a shared turning lane between the Milton Mall entrance and Wilson Drive.

Construction is ongoing on the temporary mall parking lot at the Nipissing yard and temporary streetlights have been installed at the mall entrance and Wilson Drive.

The underpass is expected to be complete by fall 2015.

The Thompson Road underpass was officially opened in October 2008 following three years of construction and $28 million — which at the time was the Town’s most expensive capital project.


Halton Regional Council Raises Development Charges for Retail

After an almost marathon regional council meeting last week, Halton Region Council voted to increase the development charges for the next few years.  As you will read in this article, the DC bylaw is updated every 5 years to have development pay for the much needed services the region provides including among other things infrastructure, water etc.

As soon as the link to the meeting is up on the Region of Halton website ( I will post a link so you can watch the debate.

From Christina Commisso, Milton Canadian Champion

DC hike for retail development

Retail development will soon cost more after regional council approved a hike in development charges (DCs) Wednesday.

Beginning September, developers building spaces for clothing stores, restaurants or grocers will pay $24.98 per square-foot for Greenfield development and $22.01 per square-foot with Halton’s built boundary in DCs, which represents a 52 and 76 per cent increase over current charges, respectively.

During the DC update process, which began last September, retail developers have spoken against the increase. A Lowe’s that’s been underway in Burlington since 2007 is looking at about another $2 million in DCs, for a total of $3.85 million, without any changes in the scope of the development as a result of the increase. After speaking to council about the issue on several occasions, regional staff said the home improvement warehouse could potentially pay their DCs before the increase is implemented in September.

Non-retail development, such as office and industrial spaces will see a 25 per cent decrease in DCs while charges for homes will see a slight increase. Developers will pay more than $36, 000 in DCs for a single family home built in a Greenfield field area, which is about 13 per cent higher than what’s currently paid while the fee for houses in the built boundary will increase slightly by three per cent to about $27,000.

Changes in Halton’s DC bylaw, which is updated every five years, include a non-retail to retail conversion fee for any space that’s more than 3,000 square-feet. Also, the new bylaw states high-density development requires a minimum of 130 units per net hectare — up from the current 100-unit minimum — or a four or more storey building.

Regional Councillors Debate Development Charges

Here is an interesting article from Christina Commisso from the Champion.

Councillors debate DC issue

Corporate welfare or a tax grab?

Regional council was divided yesterday on the issue of charging business owners a development charge (DC) to convert their space from a non-retail to a retail use.

The issue was a sticking point for business improvement associations that said the hefty fee, which would amount to tens of thousands of dollars, would hurt small, family-run businesses in Halton’s downtowns.

For example, a 2,500 square-foot office, which paid DCs when it was built, that’s converted to a retail use would face a $24,000 DC.

The Region has said generally retail operations generate more traffic and wear and tear on the roads in justifying the charge.

In its 2012 development charges update, the Region agreed to wave the fee for businesses under 3,000 square-feet in the interest of economic development. However, Oakville Mayor Rob Burton called the move “corporate welfare” and asked that all businesses, regardless of size, pay the fee.

His motion was supported by most of Oakville’s councillors and Regional Chair Gary Carr, but failed after being widely criticized by the majority of Halton’s 21-member council.

“This is not welfare. Honestly, if you vote for this amendment you’re stealing money from people. Let’s find out who the thieves are,” said Halton Hills Councillor Jane Fogal. “This (conversion) amount is small to Halton Region but big for the mom and pop operations.”

Added Burlington Councillor Marianne Meed Ward, “Let’s see who is in favour of a tax grab and who is against economic development and small business owners, who are residents and taxpayers as well.”

Not all were convinced that the fee for small businesses should be waved.

“Retail, when it’s converted from an industrial or office use, it creates more demand and use of our transportation infrastructure. There is a cost, it’s not free,” said Oakville Councillor Tom Adams. “We’re talking about money that will come out of the taxpayers pocket eventually for the benefit of two or three developers. That’s the exact definition of corporate welfare.”

Fogal asked if businesses who convert from a retail operation to non-retail would receive some sort of refund on the development charges previously paid, however staff said that move would create uncertainty in terms of regional revenue.

The conversion fee was part of Halton’s 2012 development charges update, which was passed by council.

Currently non-residential DCs — office space, retail and industrial — are grouped together. The updated DCs, which come into effect September, separates retail and non-retail business into two separate categories with retail DCs increasing by 52 per cent and the non-retail charge decreasing by 25 per cent for Greenfield development. 

Cell Tower Information Session

I had the opportunity to attend the public open house held by Altus Group this past Thursday to discuss the proposal for a new cell tower located at the New Life Church at Thompson Road & Clark Blvd.

The room was packed with a number of people overflowing into the hallway and near the entrance of the Milton Leisure Centre.  Many of them were carrying signs of protest and getting signatures on a petition to have it stopped.  Emotions were running high as the residents in the area made their views known to the representatives from Altus Group that they were not happy with the location of the cell tower.

I have made many posts about this on my website and I do thank residents for voiceing their concerns.  From the information I have now, this report will be completed and sent to the Town of Milton for review and their input.  As far as I know, this report will be available to council mid May for information and councillors will be able to comment.  I have mentioned in the past that the Town of Milton does not have a yay or nay say on this tower.  The decision will be made by Industry Canada in the coming weeks.  I do know that Halton MP Lisa Raitt wasnt available to attend the meeting herself, but a representative from her office did make the meeting and spoke at length with concerned residents.

I will keep everyone updated as the process continues.

Here is an article from the Milton Canadian Champion on the meeting Thursday night by Christina Commisso.

Residents express anger at cell tower meeting – Petition circulating to stop 100-foot cross tower in southeast Milton

Lisa-Lynn Vas holds up a sign Thursday evening at the Milton Leisure Centre during an open house hosted by Bell Mobility on the proposed erection of a cell phone tower in the shape of a cross.

Tensions ran high during last night’s meeting on a proposed 100-foot cell phone tower that could grace the landscape outside Milton’s New Life Church.

Residents could be heard chanting “stop the cell tower” and anger was evident in the voices of meeting goers as they spoke to representatives of Bell Mobility, the company behind the tower.

“You can’t stand in there for more than 15 minutes,” said Manny Gulati, referring to the tight space.

Gulati along with a team of residents have been knocking on doors and circulating a petition in hopes of preventing the erection of the tower. They’ve collected more than 500 signatures in two weeks.

Gulati said many of the households he has visited were unaware the cross-shaped tower was being considered on the Thompson Road and Louis St. Laurent-area church property. Once aware of the proposal, Gulati estimated about 80 per cent of individuals are against it. “It’s slowly exposing your body to radiation 24/7. Yes, Health Canada says it’s safe, but their research is still ongoing.”

His feelings were echoed by Ammar Al-Dojaily, who lives down the street from the proposed tower site.

“The problem is no one can say this is safe technology,” he said. “We are not against the technology, we appreciate it, we all use it. But I’m sure there’s an industrial area that could be used, this is not the only location.”

Andrea Anderson has two children who attend the daycare located at New Life. She said if the cell tower moves forward, she will consider pulling her kids out of the program. “If you look at the proximity of the playground, (the tower) is right there. They can probably reach out and touch it or something.”

Area-resident Aaron Sanderson said he wouldn’t think twice about selling his home if the tower is erected.

“Why would I want to expose my children to that,” he said of the radiofrequency (RF) energy given off by the tower. “I have three little kids and there’s some research that shows up to a 43 per cent increase in the chance of cancer. I don’t know if I believe that, but I also don’t know if it’s insignificant and does nothing. So why would I want to take that chance?”

Bell Mobility representatives at the meeting told the Champion they wouldn’t speak on the record with the media.

A Health Canada report distributed by Bell Mobility at the meeting states the International Agency for Research on Cancer said RF energy might be a risk factor for cancer, however more research is needed to clarify the possible link. Health Canada recommends limiting the length of cell phone calls, using hand-free devices and replacing calls with text messages to minimize RF exposure.

The report states, “Precautions to limit exposure to RF energy from cell phone towers are unnecessary because exposure levels are typically well below those specified in health-based exposure standards.”

Residents at the meeting distributed their own material — a study from Brazil that suggests mortality rates from neoplasia (the growth of abnormal cells) increased the closer residents lived to a cell phone base station.

Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Bob Nosal has disputed the study, stating there’s no convincing evidence weak radiofrequency signals from base stations cause adverse health effects.

Wendy Perkins, who has petitioned against more than one cell tower in Oakville, said smart decisions need to be made when it comes to cell towers.

“The public in Canada is waking up to this issue and saying we can do this smart, we can do this safe and we can do this economically, so why aren’t we? We have never recognized the dangers here.”

Through her experience, Perkins said once in a while with enough public outcry these towers are stopped. “But most of the time after years of protesting and banging your head against the wall, you give up.”

Gulati said he’s confident the tower at New Life can be stopped. “The reaction is here. Everyone is against it and the politicians should take note of that. People around Milton who live far away from the tower are standing against it. They know if we let it happen here, it will happen everywhere.”

A protest against the cell phone tower is planning for this Sunday outside New Life Church.

Milton Hospital Expansion Safe From Provincial Budget Cuts

Ontario budget won’t affect MDH

Christina Commisso, Milton Canadian Champion

Group say they’ll keep advocating for the MDH expansion until it’s complete. GRAHAM PAINE/Metroland Media Group

The Milton hospital expansion is still a go.

Following media reports last week that new hospital projects announced prior to the provincial election would be put on the chopping block in today’s budget, members of the Friends of Milton Hospital team were relieved to learn that the Milton District Hospital (MDH) expansion is safe and sound.

Speaking to the Champion from Queen’s Park, Councillor Mike Cluett said MDH isn’t one of the four hospital projects that have been cancelled in Ontario’s 2012 budget.

“Halton Healthcare Services is working on a plan for the expansion and has never stopped with the planning from what we’ve heard,” said Cluett.

He said after Finance Minister Dwight Duncan delivered his budget speech, a thumbs up from Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh signaled the much needed local expansion was on track.

Cluett attended the budget presentation with fellow Friends of Milton Hospital member Samantha Attew.

“We were ready with pitch forks,” said Attew, who said she was elated to learn the plan to triple MDH is moving ahead.

“I look forward to putting this thing in the ground,” she said from Queen’s Park. “You cannot play with health care. It’s something every Canadian is entitled to. It’s not a political thing.”

She continued, “I’m proud to be part of Milton and proud of Ted (Chudleigh).”

Cluett said the Friends of Milton Hospital will continue to advocate for the expansion until construction is complete — which was previously estimated for 2015 or 2016. “I give credit to the people of Milton for speaking their mind and letting the government know that we’re not backing down.”

Last night, Milton council unanimously passed a motion that reaffirmed the Town’s support for MDH and their willingness to help with the 10 per cent local contribution needed for the construction.

Heres What Your Councillors Earn

Here is an article from the online version of the Champion reporting on councillors salaries and professional development expenses (for conferences and meetings attended on behalf of the town) and where everyone ranks.

As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago, I posted a brief outline of those expenses including mileage claimed by individual councillors.  If you go back the last few years before being elected to town council, I have been a strong advocate for councillors to take a leadership role in this area.

The Champion reported that back in June of 2011 when the first of our 2% raises were approved in the budget, I contacted human resources and asked that it not be applied to my salary.  It is a small amount but as I mentioned before, its not the amount, its the principle.

Every day I go to work in this position I do what I can to limit the impact on taxpayers because it is YOU who pay our salaries and your tax dollars should be treated with respect.  There was a citizens committee struck months ago to review our salaries in comparision to other towns/cities to come up with an amount that would be competitive and fair.  Im not against paying politicians a fair salary for the work we do.  It can get hectic at times as I recently found out with the Bell cell tower proposal at New Life Church, news that the provincial government might put the brakes on our much needed and promised hospital expansion among other things.

That report is due in the coming months so I’ll reserve my comments after reading that report.  What I will say is that once we receive the report and review the recommendations of the committee and suggest (if its not already included in the report) that any potential increase they might come up with be approved and put into place the date the next council sits, which will be December 1st 2014. 

This way it wont give the public the perception that we are increasing our own salaries.  Thats long been a stone in my shoe where either behind closed doors or even out in the open, council can raise its salary with little or no public input.  We’ll have to see when that report comes to the table.

Thank you to those who emailed me with your comments.  I am proud to be your representative at Milton Town Council and will continue to work hard to save taxpayers money wherever possible.

In case you missed it, here is the breakdown of councillor salaries, professional development and mileage expenses for 2011.

Heres the article from Christina Commisso.

Here’s what your councillors earn

Milton Councillor Mike Cluett chose not to accept a two per cent wage increase approved in the 2011 budget.

He put the taxpayers’ money where his mouth is.

Councillor Mike Cluett, a critic of council’s yearly wage adjustments, chose not to accept a two per cent salary increase that was approved in the 2011 budget.

Financial documents released this week show the Ward 6 Councillor earned a base salary of $26,495 last year, while his council counterparts took in $26,751.

Mayor Gord Krantz earned $66,582 in salary and benefits from the Town of Milton plus $44,446 in regional council salary and benefits for a total of $111,028. The longtime mayor also received $3,678 in conference expenses and $6,108 in car mileage from the Town and Halton Region.

Among local Milton councillors, Councillor Cindy Lunau, Ward 3, was the biggest earner at a total of $34,588 — $2,611 for car mileage, $2,279 in benefits and $2,947 in conference expenses.

Ward 4 councillor Rick Malboeuf was the Town’s most frugal councillor, taking in $30,201 in salary and benefits and not claiming any expenses for conferences and mileage.

At the regional level, Councillor Colin Best took in $56,452 in salary and benefits, conference expense and car mileage while Councillor Tony Lambert, who also sits on regional council, totaled $49,696 in salary and expenses.

Regional Chair Gary Carr took home close to $200,000 in 2011. He made $189,106 in salary and benefits and charged $5,591 for conference expenses and $3,055 in car mileage.

Milton’s 2012 budget saw a freeze on council’s salaries while a citizen compensation committee reviews the earnings of the Mayor and councillors to ensure their wages are in line with comparable municipalities.

The committee is expected to make a recommendation to council in April or May.

The last review in 2007 led to a hefty increase — the mayor’s salary increased from $49,133 to $60,480 and the rest of council saw an increase from $21,096 to $25,096.

Halton CAO “Too Soon To Predict”

Region of Halton CAO Pat Moyle presented a verbal report to Regional Council last week with an update on the Drummond Report and how it will affect the region and surrounding municipalities.

Christina Commisso from the Milton Canadian Champion wrote about the presentation as well.  Here is the link to the article. 

What I found to be quite telling were his comments (and I have been saying this for quite some time before being elected AND after) that municipalities need to live within their means and stick to their core business.  All the nickels and dimes we spend will eventually add up.  And with the proposals for cuts at the provincial level will eventually make their way down to the municipal level and the property tax base.

You can watch CAO Pat Moyle’s presentation at the Halton website here and it begins just before the 36 minute part.

Too soon to predict Drummond Report impact: CAO

With almost 30 per cent of the Region’s revenue coming from Queen’s Park, Halton’s CAO said the effects of Ontario’s austerity plan will be felt by all.

However, it’s still too soon to predict the degree of the impact in Halton, said Pat Moyle during Wednesday’s regional council meeting, where he quipped, “We are living in a post-Drummond world.”

Moyle provided councillors with an overview of findings from the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services — known as the Drummond Report — but said some of the 362 recommendations are too vague to determine what kind of financial impact they would have locally.

“Some of the recommendations have already been discounted,” said Moyle, pointing to the end of all-day kindergarten and delaying the uploading of social program costs from municipalities to the Province.

Moyle said about 80 of Drummond’s recommendations have a direct bearing on Halton.

“When the Province sneezes, we catch a cold,” he joked.

In the report, Moyle pointed to removing public health as a Regional responsibility. With the Region funding 35.5 per cent of public health initiatives, Moyle wrote, “It is critical that prior to implementing any actions with respect to public health service delivery or funding, that the Province reveal its implementation plan.”

A recommendation to integrate the Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Supports programs could, according to the report, increase caseloads in Halton from 2,000 to 9,000 annually.

Centralized bargaining for emergency services would also have a local impact as police services are bargained at the regional level and fire at the local level.

Other recommendations that if implemented will impact Halton include the consolidation of Ontario’s 80 hydro utilities along regional lines and re-evaluating the portion of slots revenue the OLG distributes to host municipalities.

Moyle said the Drummond report reveals some important lessons for all municipalities: governments must live within their means and stick to their core business, debt hurts credit ratings and it’s important to listen to the governments’ finance people.

“The lessons learned by Drummond are lessons that have applied in Halton for the long term,” said Moyle, adding, We could better withstand the shocks of Drummond.”

Year End Interview With Mayor Gord Krantz

Pan Am velodrome big issue going into new year

Mayor hopes to see funding commitment for indoor cycling track

From Christina Commisso, Milton Canadian Champion

Mayor Gord Krantz says he has learned more about velodromes in the latter part of 2011 than in his whole life.

That learning curve is expected to continue into this year, as the velodrome is one of many Milton projects on the agenda for 2012.

The long-serving Milton mayor told the Champion in a recent interview that he hopes to see a funding commitment for the indoor cycling track this year — one of his many New Year’s wishes.

“This is a huge international sport and it’s growing. There will be 20 to 25 international meets in Canada each year, and they could happen right here,” he said.

Tourism boom could erupt

The 74-year-old mayor said if the velodrome business plan is approved by Milton council and construction is given a green light, he envisions a hotel or two popping up in the immediate area and a tourism boom for the town. “Tourism is a huge industry in Canada, and we’re looking for our piece of that industry.”

The velodrome is closely tied to the Milton Education Village (MEV). The 150-acre parcel of land at Derry and Tremaine roads will serve as home to the cycling track and to a Laurier University satellite campus if Milton gets its way.

Krantz said he was hoping to see more movement on the MEV campus in 2011, “but I’m far from being naïve,” he said.

“The Province has a cash crunch issue…I can’t blame them for being a little cautious,” adding that he’d like to see the funding come through in the next couple of years.

“Where else are they going to get 150 acres of free land? The Province is roughly 60,000 (post-secondary) spaces short and here we are ready and able and willing to help.”

Mayor wishes for ground-breaking

The mayor’s final wish for the new year is a ground-breaking for the Milton District Hospital expansion, a long-awaited promise that came to fruition this past summer.

As for predictions for 2012, the mayor said one thing will be inevitable in Milton — traffic.

“I’ll apologize for that in advance,” said Krantz, pointing to the Main Street grade separation just east of Ontario Street. “It’s going to cause a disruption and I’ll be the first one to acknowledge that.”

Asked why the Town didn’t plan the construction pre-population boom when the traffic impact would be less intense, Krantz said there was simply no way to fund the $50 million, four-year project.

“Development charges are paying for a huge portion of the project,” he said.

Krantz said while Milton is far-removed from the financial crises taking place around the globe, he believes the Town could feel some of the pinch.

“The federal and provincial governments can have an indirect impact,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if certain government services are downloaded to the municipal level. 


Mayor Krantz Addresses Slot Reveune Concerns

The following is an article from the Milton Canadian Champion by Christina Commisso.

Mayor raises slot revenue concerns at conference

Decreases in the Town’s slot revenue had Milton’s mayor, along with about a dozen others, raising their concerns during a provincial conference late last month.

Mayor Gord Krantz said he was very vocal about the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s changes to financial reporting, which result in an annual loss of $136,000 for the Town, during the 2011 Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in London, Ont.

“There are 22 municipalities affected by this and at this point we haven’t challenged the legality of it, or questioned the ethics of it,” said Krantz.

“Regardless of how they report, it shouldn’t have a negative effect on us.”

In July, Town staff voiced their opposition to the OLG reporting changes, which was supported by council.

Krantz also addressed the ‘heads and beds’ subsidy during the annual AMO event, which brings together representatives from 444 municipal governments along with provincial ministries.

Since provincial facilities, such as universities and colleges, hospitals and correctional centres, are exempt from property taxes, the Province gives municipalities a $75 per head/bed subsidy — an amount that hasn’t increased since 1987.

Pointing to the Maplehurst Correctional Complex, Krantz said, “It takes a lot of extra policing to look after a place like that. The subsidy is no where near as close as we spend (on extra policing).”  

Krantz said the Liberal, NDP and PC provincial party leaders made appearances at the four-day conference and municipal leaders were eager to hear the parties’ platforms.

“We all know we have a huge deficit in Ontario,” warned Krantz of election promises.

However, asked if a change in power at Queen’s Park could put the recently-announced Milton hospital expansion in jeopardy, Krantz said regardless of which party comes out on top in the October 6 election, “they’re committed to going through with it.”

“I’m almost positive it (the hospital expansion) will move forward. Maybe it will move a little slower, but it will move forward.”

He said the next big-ticket item the Town has its heart set on is the Milton Education Village.  “To the best of my knowledge, the latest statistics show the Province is short 40,000 university and college spots,” he said.

“We can help eliminate that shortage.”

Milton Champion Coverage of Hospital Expansion Announcement

I’m still giddy (yes I said giddy) with excitement everytime I read something about the expansion at Milton District Hospital.  Here is the article from today’s Milton Canadian Champion (by Christina Commisso) with coverage of the historic announcement.

Hospital expansion approved

Completion expected in late 2015 or early 2016

Hugs, high-fives and tears were aplenty Thursday morning, as Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews announced Milton’s hospital has been given the long-awaited green light for a massive expansion.

Milton District Hospital (MDH) will triple in size following a 320,000 square-foot addition that should be completed by late 2015 or early 2016.

“The support is unanimous. We have people from all political parties who are here today saying yes, this is the right decision. I’m pleased that all of us together have gotten where we are today,” said Matthews, as the room erupted in applause.

Pointing to an outpouring of community support that has  surrounded the MDH expansion, the Liberal MPP said hospitals are the heart and soul of a community, “and no where is that more true than right here in Milton. You should change the town’s motto to ‘where we don’t take no for an answer.’”

Matthews re-iterated that the expansion is poised to move full-steam ahead. “I want to be very clear this money has been allocated. It is in our fiscal plan. It has gone through our treasury board. All of the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed. This money is part of our infrastructure plan.”

The expansion will include a new emergency department to accommodate 45,500 visits a year. Currently the department can handle 30,000 visits. The addition of an MRI machine and chemotherapy services will more than triple the size of the hospital’s diagnostic imaging department. A new maternal child-care ward will include 17 post-partum beds, up from the current eight, and the intensive care unit will see 10 beds, up from six.

Also in the plans are two new medical surgical in-patient units with capacity for 72 patients and expanded operating suites, and a post-anesthetic care unit that will accommodate 8,400 surgeries a year — a 70 per cent increase over the department’s current capacity.

Eighty per cent of the rooms will be single patient to enhance infection control.

Halton Healthcare Services (HHS) CEO John Oliver said construction should be complete by 2015/16, about a year after the new Oakville hospital is planned for completion.

“Both hospitals will be under construction at the same time and one will open right after the other. We’re going to make up for lost time in Milton,” said Oliver to an elated crowd.

He said detailed planning with hospital staff will begin immediately, along with discussions with the hospital foundation and the Town regarding the local share of the construction costs plus the entire cost of equipping and furnishing the hospital.

Asked about the cost of the expansion, Oliver said for the time being a number won’t be released to the public. “We learned from the Oakville project when you put a number out, it changes…we’ll talk about the kinds of services and the number of beds, but we won’t release a number to the public.”

Milton Mayor Gord Krantz said at this point in time he has no idea what kind of money the Town will be on the hook for in terms of the local share.

“This was only the start and now some of the grunt work needs to be done and finances is going to be a big part of that,” he said. “I have a sneaking suspicion the community is going to buy into this and fundraising is going to have to be a definite part of it.”

The recently-announced Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital expansion, pegged at $312 million, is looking for $120 million from the Burlington community. The Town of Oakville has committed up to $130 million toward the construction of the new Dundas Street and Third Line hospital, and the Oakville Hospital Foundation is raising $60 million for the community share.

Asked if the hospital’s local share will be part of the Town’s 2012 budget — which is already well underway — Milton’s CAO Mario Belvedere said, “We will do what needs to be done to support this program and we can work on amending whatever needs to be done.”

He said he plans to meet with Oliver within the next few weeks to discuss numbers, adding that the scope and speed of the expansion is “well beyond our imagination.”

Halton’s Conservative MPP Ted Chudleigh, who has advocated for a Milton hospital expansion for a number of years, joked, “It’s such a good day, I don’t think I can say anything bad about the Liberals.

“This project is going from functional planning to completion in one step, that’s unprecedented in Ontario.”

Asked how the expansion — which several Milton residents and councillors dubbed the number one election issue — changes the dynamics of the October 6 provincial election, Chudleigh said, “It becomes less of an issue. It comes off the table and now it’s a matter of making it happen.”

Local provincial Liberal candidate Indira Naidoo-Harris said Thursday was a day for celebration.

“It’s a wonderful day for Halton and Milton. I am thrilled the minister has been listening to our community.”

Several members of the Friends of Milton Hospital and Grow Milton Hospital groups were on hand for the announcement and said the days of gathering about 40,000 signatures (during two community campaigns) in support of an expansion — in rain or shine — has finally paid off.

“We needed care at all levels,” said Friends of Milton Hospital co-chair and former nurse Cari Kovachik-MacNeil. “Milton’s emergency has always been known for how good it was, but then where do the patients go from here when the hospital is in gridlock. Now they can stay here, in their own hometown.”