Owen Sound officials address resident's transit concern

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Health and safety measures on Owen Sound Transit buses are working to prevent the spread of COVID-19, public works and engineering director Dennis Kefalas told council.

“To date, I would say that we haven’t had any issues related to COVID. The system seems to be working,” he said.

The comments came after clerk Briana Bloomfield read a letter from Owen Sound resident Tamara Sargent that asked council if it would consider requesting a staff report on any actions that could be taken to ensure bus drivers are wearing masks while driving with passengers on board.

“My concern is that it appears that none of the drivers on any of the routes wear a mask. And it also appears that while there is a plastic barrier, it is not floor-to-ceiling and there has been no additional ventilation installed,” Sargent wrote.

“I think it’s fair to say that a person who boards at the bus station then gets off near the end of the route 20 minutes later has been exposed to the driver and that is not fair. Our public transit should be safe and accessible for everyone.”

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Kefalas said the city’s contractor, First Student Owen Sound, has told the city that its drivers have expressed concerns about their glasses fogging up while driving.

As a result, and in consultation with public health, the contractor has decided not to require the drivers to wear masks while driving the buses, he said.

Other health measures are in place, he said, such as requiring drivers to wear a mask when passengers are getting on or off and when the drivers are exiting the bus. A permanent plastic barrier has been installed between the driver and passengers.

High-touch points are wiped down after each run and the buses are deep cleaned each night, he added.

The number of passengers on each bus is capped at 10.

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CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY UP THIS YEAR

Building activity in 2021 continues to outpace the construction value recorded in 2020, which was a banner year for building in Owen Sound.

The city’s building division issued 11 permits in February with a combined construction value of $2.2 million. Fifteen permits were issued in the same month in 2020, but the construction value was only $572,177.

The year-to-date construction value, as of Feb. 28, was $4.37 million, which was more than double the $1.94 million in construction value recorded in the first two months of 2020.

The city issued permits in February for two new buildings at the Heritage Grove shopping complex on 16th Avenue East as well as permits for Heartwood Home to convert a portion of its main-floor retail space into a restaurant and Miller Concrete to demolish its ready-mix plant at 425 9th Ave. E.

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The new owners of The Sydenham condominium are also proceeding with building permits to complete all of the building’s unfinished suites, according to a staff report.

2020 was a banner year for construction in Owen Sound despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with city hall issuing building permits with a combined construction value of $67 million – double 2019’s value. That amount has been topped only once before – in 2010 when the combined construction value of permits issued hit $71 million.

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CITY INCREASES LOAN TO OS HOUSING

The city has agreed to increase to $4 million a short-term loan to help Owen Sound Housing finish the final phase of its Odawa Heights affordable housing project.

The non-profit organization requested the increase to the original $3.25 million construction loan, approved by council in May, after construction costs for the 60-unit apartment came in at $12.54 million, which exceeded the $10.2 million budget.

The city will use its Georgian Bay Energy reserve fund to hold the loan, which is to be repaid to the city in 2022 once Owen Sound Housing converts its financing into a People’s Trust mortgage, council heard at its March 29 meeting.

Grey County also agreed to increase its loan for the build from $3.25 to $4 million in January for the same reasons.

Construction is now well underway on the apartment, which is to include 43 affordable units and 17 units with market rental rates. The non-profit organization anticipates construction will wrap up in December, with occupancy slated for January 2022.

Owen Sound Housing is also receiving $6.2 million in federal-provincial funding for the build.

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CITY APPROVES BUSINESS LICENCES

Owen Sound has given final approval to the following business licences:

  • Minpro Elite Training, a fitness studio, at 2045 20th Ave. E., Unit 20;
  • Essential Cleaning Company, a cleaning company office, at 998 2nd Ave. E.;
  • CTRE Productions/Ellis Gray Consulting, a production company, relocated to 899 2nd Ave. E.;
  • Dr. Pat Duronio – Dentistry, a dental office, at 1101 2nd Ave. E., Unit 201.

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