Fishing and canoeing are now permitted activities at Lake Margaret after Monday’s (May 10) 6-3 vote in support of a couple of motions brought forward by Coun. Gary Clarke.
The turn of events caught city staff off guard as no policies are in place, let alone any signage or launch areas for watercraft.
In speaking with city clerk Maria Konefal this week, her initial advice is “stay tuned.”
She added, “We’ll have a plan that will be coming forward so people are aware how and where . . .”
On Friday the city sent out an advisory of additional items for Monday’s (May 17) agenda including “an overview of measures that will be implemented to provide for non-motorized boating and fishing on Lake Margaret.”
Coun. Clarke calls Lake Margaret, “a positive recreational place for the city to add to Waterworks and Pinafore. It has some features those two don’t have, in terms of accessibility.”
At last Monday’s meeting, Clarke advised council “the reports that we do have, the 2019 fish study and the water quality reports that have been done by the city, the lake can sustain both sport fishing and non-motorized boating with no negative impacts.
“That has been noted by those studies.”
However, the most memorable takeaway from the discussion was the impassioned plea from Coun. Steve Peters who, along with councillors Jeff Kohler and Mark Tinlin, was opposed to opening up the lake.
“I heard some comments made about healthy living and healthy lifestyles and that’s what this is about,” began Peters.
“But, I’m going to argue for healthy living and healthy lifestyle for the environment and our natural areas because we have so encroached on our natural environment. Whether it’s been around Lake Margaret or Shaw Valley.
“For goodness sakes, can’t we just leave some things alone? I just think if we’re going to talk about the health of people, let’s talk about the health of the environment. And, I think it’s being seriously threatened here.
Peters continued, “And, we can leave well enough alone? People talk about accessibility for fishing. I encourage you to go to Waterworks Park. There’s no better place to take a wheelchair or a scooter to go cast a line into a beautiful body of water to go fishing.
“The same is very true at Dalewood Lake.
“We’ve done enough damage to our environment and allowing these activities to take place is not going to do anything good in the long term.”
The risk, warned Peters, is added contamination from Lake Margaret draining into Pinafore Lake and eventually into Kettle Creek.
“Has anybody consulted with the Ministry of Natural Resources because the ministry provides enforcement for fishing licences? This just isn’t about children fishing, this is about everyone having the opportunity to fish.”
While mention was made of a Facebook poll on permitted activities at Lake Margaret, Peters argued the ultimate poll would be a referendum.
“I’m putting environmental health above other health.”
As proposed by some keyboard warriors, are councillors Peters, Kohler and Tinlin now to be voted out of office in the next election because of their stand on the environment?
You would be saying goodbye to many, many years of valuable experience.
CHILD CARE STICKER SHOCK?
As was to be expected, council has given the green light to city staff to attempt to breathe life back into the childcare centre they voted to scuttle just last month because of timeline constraints.
Which required rescinding the resolution agreed to on April 12 to scrap the project and return $2.6 million to the province.
Coun. Steve Peters posed the critical question to city manager Wendell Graves.
“How will we ultimately recover any additional costs this project may incur?”
The last estimate put construction cost in the $4 million range.
To which Graves responded, “I haven’t got a definitive answer on that. I think what we need to see is what the tender results are first to note what the order of magnitude is.
“We had that discussion with our very productive meeting last week with the ministry officials saying this thing hasn’t landed yet. We have to see what the whole picture looks like.
“If it looks like it’s within reach we’ll certainly bring back a plan to see how it could potentially happen.”
Council will have to endorse the tender amount and sticker shock could be the deciding factor they will have to wrestle with.
PATIOS PREPARE TO POP UP
Last year’s pilot project involving pop-up patios in the downtown core has been deemed a success – a bright spot during the first summer of the pandemic – and council has approved proceeding yearly.
The modular units were installed in four locations along Talbot Street and Why Not Cookies Cafe participated on their own.
For this year, Streamliners, The Roadhouse and Why Not Cookies Cafe are onboard.
As suggested by Coun. Peters, could this be extended on an informal basis to allow other businesses to set outside a couple of small tables and chairs without participating in the full patio program?
A welcome opportunity for some of the take-out businesses.
Wendell Graves indicated dialogue with the Downtown Development Board would be in order, however, he cautioned, “We went through a lot of hoops on the liability side . . . so we have to be cautious on that.”
Concerns have been raised by individuals who rely on mobility scooters to navigate around the pop-up patios.
“It’s not quite as easy as it sounds,” offered Graves.
AN ELECTRIFYING DEMONSTRATION
A vote of confidence in the St. Thomas Police Service Monday night as council unanimously approved an expenditure of just over $1 million in a 10-year deal for the purchase of body-worn cameras, conductive energy weapons (Tasers) and access to a digital evidence management system.
The ten-year deal is with Axon which provided equipment for the four-month body camera pilot project.
In his report to council, Chief Chris Herridge noted, “There should be no question that the CEW (less than lethal weapon) has become a very important tool available for officers to de-escalate violent situations.”
Back in March, myFM was invited to the police station for a demonstration of the Taser system by Const. Darren Congdon and Sgt. Travis Sandham.
The Taser to be employed by city police is currently one of the top-of-the-line models from Axon, replacing the X26P model which came out in 2013.
As the demonstration began, the Taser was briefly tested and the electric crackle emanating from the weapon likely would de-escalate many a situation right then and there. It’s a warning this is not something you want to experience.
As Const. Congdon explained, each of the two cartridges loaded into the Taser contains a green and red light which indicates where the two electric probes will hit. Ideally, you want one probe above the waist of a target and the other below to completely incapacitate the individual.
Electricity flows between the top and bottom probes with a charge of about three amps.
It is enough to hurt you but there is no lasting effect.
If you want to envision the impact, think of one of those middle-of-the-night leg cramps and multiply that by about 50 to 100 times. But again, there is no lasting effect.
Just re-reading the above should be a deterrent. It’s more than enough to lock up your muscles and down you go and officers can gain control of the situation.
It’s all about preaching de-escalation. Attempt to talk down the situation and then, if necessary, go to the Taser and not your gun.
So, not only is the individual feeling extreme pain, advises Sgt. Sandham, but between the two probes, all of the muscles will lock up. Thus, the need to hit above and below the waist.
And the size of the individual being hit is of little consequence.
So, once you fire, continues Sandham, you have five seconds to gain and maintain control of the individual. After that five-second window, the person will regain control of their muscles.
Any weapon they may have had usually falls out of their hand.
The larger the spread between the probes, the more muscles impacted.
As Congdon pointed out, not only does it affect those muscles but also any that are attached.
Hand in hand with the Tasers is a virtual reality headset in which those being trained are emersed into real-life situations.
Putting on one of the headsets, I was dropped into a scenario featuring a suicidal individual perched atop a high building. So realistic, I had to step back, and I’m generally not afraid of heights.
The beauty of these Tasers is the probes can be re-energized should the individual again become aggressive and they get another five-second jolt.
Should you have to proceed in that fashion, you have to make it patently clear to the person if they do not comply, they will be jolted again. With 20 feet of wire, the office can move backward away from the individual but still maintain control.
You also can fire the second cartridge mentioned above should another person arrive on the scene. In that case, both of them will feel the five-second jolt.
It’s all about constant de-escalation.
Firing the Taser is the last of several steps. Initially, there is a warning arc that, as mentioned above, may discourage the individual before actually having to fire the probes. The sound and light show with that should send a clear message to not push your luck any further.
You can also flash the green and red target lights on the person which is nothing short of intimidating.
Every time the Taser trigger is pulled data is collected and that evidence can be called up through the Axon digital evidence management system. The Tasers are also connected to the body-worn cameras to assist in the collection of evidence.
No more baseless complaints from individuals that an officer continually Tasered them.
And the very remotest of chances an officer will accidentally pull their gun instead of a Taser, as has been alleged in a U.S. shooting incident.
Under St. Thomas training protocols, if you are right-handed your service revolver would be on your right side and your Taser holstered on your left side.
To re-iterate the comment of Chief Herridge, the Taser “has become a very important tool available for officers to de-escalate violent situations.”
Thanks to Chief Herridge and the officers involved for taking the time to educate us on the value of the Taser, body-worn cameras and the digital evidence management system.
And just how much of a game-changer the Taser is.
ONE TO WATCH
Coun. Kohler obtained unanimous support from council to have staff bring back a report to determine options to limit the distribution of sharps in the city.
“I personally would like to see us go to one distribution site, which would be the health unit,” advised Kohler.
“And there be a return policy before one (sharp) is given out.”
Coun. Peters added, “I can say, as we speak right now, a number of items are being picked up on the former Elgin Handles property.”
That being the site of the Tiny Hope development to begin taking shape this year.
Peters continued, “How do we enhance the strategy that’s currently being rolled out.”
Kohler affirmed the staff report should include options and solutions on sharps distribution and harm reduction.
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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.