Aus Hunt Marina boat launch ramp will remain open as remedial work carried out

Kagawong Marina, Summer 2013

KAGAWONG – Billings Township council has authorized an expenditure for sheet piling and associated work at the Aus Hunt Marina (AHM), and to enter into a contract for work to be carried out. However, it will not include removing the AHM boat launch. 

“There is a recommendation to council and a resolution that needs a mover and a seconder,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson at a council meeting last week. Councillors Bryan Barker and Sharon Alkenbrack put forward and seconded the motion.

“This will require discussion,” said Mayor Anderson. “And our EDO (economic development officer) is present and has provided a detailed report in his memo to council.” 

The recommendation had been made by staff that council authorize the expenditure of $222,236 plus HST for sheet piling and associated work at AHM and to authorize the CAO to enter into a contract with Denis Gratton Construction Ltd., to complete the work.

“Given the dollar amount, I had a look at the recommendation from staff and the work that has been done so far,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. “This work will need to be done now or in the future. But I don’t realistically see funding coming from the government, especially with COVID-19. It makes sense to follow the recommendation especially since (Gratton and the equipment needed for the project) is on site already.” He said the township has been extremely pleased with the quality of work Gratton has provided in the Main Street Hill project. 

Councillor Barker noted staff had indicated that if council accepts the recommendation as is, it will mean that the launch ramp at AHM will be removed as well. “As for the removal of the existing boat launch I am not in favour of this.” He asked if there has been any accidents arising from people using the launch ramp in the past. 

Todd Gordon, Billings (EDO) told council that, “I’m not aware of an accident having taken place in that location.”

Councillor Barker said, “I see the boat launch ramp as an asset for the township. It can be used as an alternative launch when weather dictates, and is good for larger boats to use. I think it would be a  mistake to remove that launch.”

“I agree with Bryan to a certain point,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “I agree if we wait for funding (the project) is probably never going to happen. But I don’t support keeping the (AHM) boat launch ramp. I support  taking out the boat launch. I think the boat launch being downtown is a liability issue. As we grow as a community and get busier, downtown traffic is going to increase and the launch ramp is going to become a liability with people using it (and being so close to the street).” 

Councillor Michael Hunt explained that he agreed with Councillor Barker that the boat launch ramp should not be removed. “There is a lot of public support for leaving the launch ramp. There is ample room between the ramp and the road. And other municipalities have launch ramps on busy roads, Gore Bay for example has two. There is considerable community support to keep the launch ramp. The fire department uses the ramp for training exercises. And large trucks when they miss the corner turn at the highway often come downtown and use the boat launch area space to turn around. Closing the ramp would go against the best interest of the township.” 

“I agree with Councillors Barker and Alkenbrack to move ahead with the sheet piling work. We have a healthy amount of funds in reserves,” said Councillor Sharon Jackson. “And the (government) funding well may be dry. As for the launch ramp, we just created the new small craft harbour. I agree the (AHM) ramp can become a hazard, as people try to back up boats in the water and may block the road. And it would look better aesthetically and logistically to fill in the area so there would be no boat launch ramp.”

With councillors’ views on the recommendation Mayor Anderson wondered if a second resolution was needed on the boat launch issue itself. 

“I support the expenditure to stabilize the shoreline and be part of the Main Street Hill construction,” said Mayor Anderson. “I think this should continue.” He acknowledged, “I have had a change of heart on the boat launch. I had originally thought we could get away with having one launch ramp, but I’ve examined both, and there is a lot of community support to keep both.” He said the AHM launch ramp is valuable for several reasons and pointed out, “the old launch has a proven track record of working. And in my 47 years living on the Island I can’t recall any accident having taken place there. I support expenditure and retaining the second boat launch.”

Township clerk Kathy McDonald said the current resolution and cost is based on the work to be done and the launch being removed. 

Councillors Barker, Hunt and Jackson, along with Mayor Anderson voted in opposition to  the original recommended motion. A new motion was then brought forward that council give its authority for the sheet piling work to be carried out, with the boat launch ramp remaining in place. Councillor Barker put forward the motion and Councillor Michael Hunt seconded the motion, with no one opposing the motion. 

Mr. Gordon, in his memo to council, said the sheet piling on  the west side of the AHM, in the vicinity of the parking/turning area immediately north of the Anglican Church, is work that has been anticipated as part of the AHM rehabilitation. “Although a full AHM plan is not in place, and we have not secured any funding for this work, the current opportunity represented by Gratton Construction being already on site is a good one, in the opinion of staff. For the sake of clarification, this expenditure will be funded 100 percent from the municipality’s own reserves.”

“For your additional information, the associated work will include rehabilitating the turning/parking  area, raising the elevation and re-asphalting this area,” continued Mr. Gordon’s report. “The associated work is $55,697 and will be included in  the Main Street reconstruction project, and will cost $55,697.14. So, to be clear, this amount is not included in the recommendation made above.”

Mr. Gordon also informed council, “in spite of some delays, and a little bit of weather, the (Main Street Hill construction) project continues to run well ahead of schedule. At the time of writing, the situation is as follows: all roadway sub-base drainage structures are in place; the road base is at grade and ready for asphalt in many locations; the retaining wall at the Kuku Hut and Chocolate Works is well underway; the parking area adjacent to the Anglican Church will be receiving a new retaining wall to match the others. This work is underway. This is an additional item to the original project scope; all retaining walls will receive handrail/pedestrian barrier; there will be fencing installed along the escarpment at the Old Church on the Hill; the escarpment face has been hydroseeded. This is experimental, but the hope is that the hydroseeding will take hold and contribute to erosion control; the curb and guttery contractor will remobilize soon to complete the curb and gutter work and concrete sideway. And the road between the intersection of Highway 540 and Henry Drive (the main entrance to the Park Centre) will be asphalted within the next week or two.”