Notes from the Rafters: This Week’s City Council Meeting Recap

Notes from the Rafters
It turns out the city wasn't towing abandoned cars in 2018 because no one wanted the contract.

No Needs: Airing Clean (but stinky) Laundry in Rabbittown

Laundry Services NL is applying for permission to convert the Needs at 95 Merrymeeting Road into a laundromat. The building and land were recently listed for sale so the applicant may be the new/future owner.

An English Prof from MUN submitted the only objection, citing his blog post about the negative effects of scent in public places. His hyperlink did not carry over in the Council’s Agenda Attachments, but, don’t worry, I found it!

In the post, he discusses at length his terrible experience at a fine-dining establishment in Montreal due to a stranger’s cologne that no one else at his table noticed. In his letter to the city, he asks that they prevent the laundromat from using scented products. He is concerned, among other things, that the chemicals will pollute his raised vegetable beds in his yard at least a block away.

The take-away is, is he single? He does say “we” in his letter, but I still want him to meet my mom, (who is single, and awesome, despite the ways in which I am about to make fun of her). I think he would have cheered full heartedly (where I only hid) when she once marched across the street to explain to her neighbour that he cannot use the lawn sprayer he was using because, if he only understood the harmful effect of lawn chemicals and the local geography more actively, he would see how it would run off into the town’s river, and he cannot mean to pollute the entire watershed, can he? I’m just saying. She used to run through department store perfume areas like a fricken line-backer taking out enemies in a gauntlet (sports metaphors!). If she had been at P’tit Plateau with him, she would smelled it, and she would have understood.

Much as the prof predicts in his objection letter, “because what government ever stops harmful businesses these days,” Council voted to allow the laundromat.

Interlude with Korab’s Kittehs!

The city got new quotes for spaying/neutering cats coming through Humane Services. Male neutering will be outsourced at 135$/pair (of balls). Females will be spayed in-house for $140. The same number of females will be spayed as last year, but more males will be neutered. Snip-snap my fuzzy little barbed-penis street prowlers!

BREAKING (but still municipal) NEWS: Why Isn’t the City Towing Cars? … or IS it?

 Welllllll it wasn’t. For a while. First, thank you to the glorious woman who fed me lamb ribs and this amazing rumour. I swear to all goodly vengeful gods of chaos and liberty that I was not going to write about this because even a good municipal story lead isn’t worth taking away an amazing semi-murky parking loophole … for the people.

I didn’t want to investigate. I didn’t want to write this. I wanted to let the (as it turns out, true) rumour spread fast and bright and watch with pure bold glory as everyone parked on whatever vaguely hardened surface they damn well fancied. Screw weak-ass Craigmillar and their pissant sidewalk parking, I’m talking full frontal frozen lawn eff yous to your whole nosey neighbourhood association.

That’s right. For most of 2018, we could have parked pretty much anywhere. Damn street cleaning, snow-clearing, parking regulations, and the torpedoes, and all we would have gotten was a ticket, or slashed tires I s’pose depending on how far you took it, and who’s your neighbour.

But we missed that window. At least I did. I hope very hard that many of you heard this way before me and have been living it the hell up.

So I was going to keep mum, but then I saw VOCM tweeting about abandoned vehicles not being towed promptly by the city, and I figured if the cat was going to get fully out of the bag about the city not even having a towing contract, it may as well be Notes letting it out. Poor puss. Run free.

The last towing tender I could find that the city accepted was in early May, 2018. That was Peter’s Auto Works (aka Fitzpatrick’s Auto) who’s bid was an estimate of just under $60,000 for a one year contract. The city accepted this bid as the lowest (and only) bidder. So what happened? Mr Fitzpatrick declined to sign the city contract for reasons on which neither he nor anyone at city hall would elaborate. He did confirm that his was the winning bid and that his reasons for not signing were not a personal matter.

Cllr Hanlon confirmed that, since May, two more tenders were issued for towing contracts and no one bid. At all. According to information she compiled, “staff have reached out to industry for feedback and will issue another tender in the Spring.”

So, we have one of the highest fines/costs in the country for getting a vehicle towed, at least as of March 2017, ($275 total – $203 for the towing company and the rest goes to the city as an administration fee, plus there is a fee for every day your car is impounded.) But St John’s can’t find a soul to do the towing.

Wait. Does this mean Free-Park-For-All continues through Spring?! No. I am afraid not. According to Hanlon, as of January 4th, an interim tow company has been secured through Regulatory Services. I have not independently confirmed this as of yet. But honestly, it would be a weirdly specific thing for the city to make up. Hanlon further let me know that, “since Jan 4th – seven vehicles that were causing the safety concerns were impounded first. We are now working through the list to impound all abandoned vehicles.”

That’s it. It’s over … or is it? I mean, I left this column for a measly half year and no one notices the city lost its ability to tow? This is why my editor let’s me get away with ridiculously high word counts. The (boring) details matter! Closer appreciation of council notes all year could have brought us some real solid parking shenanigans that would have brought us all closer together and would have brought my car a lot closer to my front door. Like right at it, up my front porch stairs. Because that’s what old Jeeps are for.

Go-Round: Craigmillar, Where illegal parking was never towed anyway

The go-round was all “And a Happy New Year to you my fellow good sirs/madams!” except for Cllr Korab who, over his holiday break was contacted by “dozens of residents” from Craigmillar Ave who “reached out and […] are very unhappy” with the revocation of their sidewalk-parking privileges.

He asked if the city staff could possibly re-visit the issue and see if there is any way to help.

Cllr Hanlon (who handles traffic, generally, and parking, mostly, because … you guys and your priorities) said she has no problem looking at this again, but clarified that there was never a resolution saying residents could park on the sidewalk. There was only an expectation that if you parked on the sidewalk, when you determined it wasn’t passable anyway, you would not get ticketed. The parking enforcers still have discretion to NOT ticket in this area for sidewalk parkers, if the sidewalk really is useless. The only change is that the determination of “passable” is no longer up to the residents.

So back to staff it goes. If they come up with anything new it will resurface at the Committee of the Whole.

Cllr Collins adds, for no good reason, that he has no problem with revisiting it. “It worked since 2004 with no complaints.”

Annnnnd Snow clearing:

Mayor Dan wants to emphasize that residents are not responsible for clearing fire hydrants by their houses.

He says the city is working their way through the list of hydrants, and heavy equipment is coming in to work through all the snow. But, he says that residents are welcome to clear the hydrants themselves if they are concerned, inclined, and able. He says it takes 5-7 days to clear every hydrant in the city after a big snow fall. Again, from the top (aka Mayor Dan), council is not requesting/requiring that residents clear fire hydrants themselves. But knock yourself out if you want.

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