Now we know, where to get on GO
We’ve talked a lot about the fact that GO Transit is coming back to Guelph in 2011. The biggest part of the plan to bring GO back was the question of where the new station’s going to be; it wasn’t always a forgone conclusion that it would be at the VIA station downtown, although that would be logical. In fact there were three sites in the running including the VIA station, as well as new stations on Watson Rd. or the Lafarge site. But GO Transit released an Environmental Assessment on the impact of expansion this week that seems to have settled the matter.
In the report, GO with its partners cited that the downtown station would be the best option based on environmental, cultural, technical and economic grounds. Both Lafarge and Watson Road were turned down due to the potential, deleterious impact on the local environment, and inadequate access to the site from the outside. But most importantly, the other two sites were too expensive to convert over the pre-existing VIA station. This is good news for the downtown and Ward 1 Councillor Bob Bell who told me in December that host the GO stop downtown is “the single biggest thing that will happen to downtown Guelph this decade.”
Interestingly, the plan had an addition previously unknown to city staff, a park-and-ride on Neeve St. at Farquhar. Richard Henry, the city’s manager of engineering said he was “a little surprised” to see the notation on GO Transit’s plan for the downtown stop, but added, “It is a potential site. It is not firmed up at this point.” According to Bob Chapman, the city’s manager of parking and traffic, the 210 spaces required for the initial rush can be handled by pre-existing parking downtown, plus the on-the-books development of a parking structure on Wilson St. What’s unclear though is how the creation of new parking on Neeve St. will be paid for. Chapman said that discussions about cost sharing could happen as soon as this April.
Social services cash fractures city and county
The social services and housing budget at a joint city and Wellington County social services committee meeting last week failed to pass after a tie vote. The vote fell along party lines as the three county councillors and Wellington County Warden Joanne Ross-Zuj voted in favour, while Mayor Karen Farbridge and three Guelph City Councillors voted against. The committee’s budget called for Guelph to pay $1.25 million more than the $23.5 million the city approved in its Dec. 15 budget vote. “We're sitting at a 21 per cent (caseload) increase over January of last year,” County treasurer Craig Dyer said, adding the previously expected 20 per cent increase through 2009 is not enough. Despite the failed vote, the social services budget will now go to county council on February 26 where it can be reopened and approved with the county's entire budget.
Roll Call released
The city recently posted attendance numbers for councillors at all meetings in 2008. There was a three-way tie for first in attendance at 47 out of 47 council meetings; Mayor Karen Farbridge and Councillors Vicki Beard and June Hofland were counted present for every meeting of the whole council. Reversely, Ward 5 Councillor Lise Burcher has the worst attendance at 37 meetings, followed by Ward 3’s Maggie Laidlaw at 38. Interestingly, Gloria Kovach tied for third best attendance even though she spent three months in the middle of the year running for higher office. You can find all the numbers on the Mercury’s 59 Carden St. blog.
The group Land Is More Important Than Sprawl will be holding a press conference today (Thursday) at 11 am at the (maybe) future site of the Hanlon Creek Business Park. For more information, jump over to my blog, guelphpolitico.blogspot.com, or come back to next week’s Guelph Beat.