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Opinion: Dave Dale, Main Street a couple bricks short ...

The price tag of the facelift will probably be higher than anyone anticipated, like all the projects conceived before the COVID 19 pandemic. It could be too much to swallow for the 2022 budget.
council paving stones
North Bay city council will need to budget more for replacement bricks if it goes ahead with the Main Street redevelopment.

It’s no secret that Main Street North Bay is due for a nip and tuck face lift. The interlocking brick that spruced up the downtown corridor after the last ‘Big Dig’ in the 1980s is well past its prime.

A roll through downtown North Bay in 1985 helped me decide this was a place that has some pride, prompting my move here in 1986 to attend Canadore College. OK, perhaps attracting my kind isn’t the best argument for another revitalization, but you get the picture.

The fact remains that city council has set a fix-up plan in motion by approving the design services tender earlier this year, a $340,000 contract awarded to R.V. Anderson Assoc. (which did the work almost 40 years ago). It’s part of the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan commissioned in 2016 and adopted the following year. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, the city buys enough bricks of the same style so they can replace the broken ones down the road.

If I had a business downtown, though, it would be a good idea to start mounting pressure on council to keep this a priority. The price tag of the facelift will probably be higher than anyone anticipated, like all the projects conceived before the COVID 19 pandemic. It could be too much to swallow for the 2022 budget.

You can imagine council will have to take a real sharp pencil to the 2022 budget with the $120-million Cassellholme redevelopment adding a bucket of debt to the city’s financial profile. Psst! Word on the street is the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care won’t be spiking the project despite most of the municipal partners wanting it reviewed and redone. Expect some details soon.

Council likely won’t be building any big twin pad arenas at the Steve Omischl Sports Fields Complex anytime soon, in my opinion. Discussion by councillors at last night’s meeting, with the park plan getting visionary input from elected officials, focussed on perhaps monkey bars and slides for the kids waiting for sporting parents and sibling to finish their field games instead. Expect someone to dust off a plan to put a tent up for teams to change gear.

There was also grand talk about cutting back on the number of outdoor rinks to build a couple multi-purpose outdoor facilities with roofs, similar to Callander and Bonfield. They might even have artificial ice-making capacity to stretch out the season, like Nipissing First Nation’s Garden Village rink, plus some basketball hoops for the summer.

If the Main Street paving stone revitalization plan cost more millions than available, I can see a band aid solution being proposed to do something for the worst spots. Pavement fill would be better than what’s pictured above. It’s hard to believe it’s been allowed to get this bad but the liability of someone breaking an ankle or worse should prompt immediate action.

Fingers crossed one of the floats doesn't bottom out in the Reboot Christmas Santa Claus Parade this Sunday. The end of the route is at Main and Cassells (near where the photo above was taken).

Perhaps the people attending Downtown North Bay and Waterfront’s Merry and Bright events, every Thursday until Christmas beginning tomorrow 5 to 8 p.m., can take pics of the worst brick holes and send them to councillors as a bit of a friendly poke. Maybe a Facebook page and fundraising pool on what date each hole gets filled would get a lot of traffic.

I almost contributed with another parking ticket as I was taking the photo. While getting the shot, I got a reminder about one of those 52 Coffee talks and did a Zoom video talk while standing in the parkette between Fraser, Main, Oak and Algonquin. There was an interesting flashback going on as I talked to a guy who moved here with his wife (who has family here) after a stint in Toronto.

I was looking at the building where Amora Portrait Studio used to be. Wayne and Maureen Singleton were my first employers the summer of 1986. I remembered going into work a little hung over after partying at The Regis, where I later earned my entrepreneurial scouting badge by selling the shirt off my back. It was a black Jack Daniels tank with sleeves cut off at the shoulders. A guy offered me $50 for it and I pulled it off and handed it to him on the spot. Standing beside me was a pal that gave it to me as a birthday present that afternoon. He paid $20 for it, so I bought a few rounds – after the bouncers made me wear my windbreaker for the rest of the night.

It was during this daydream while talking about how great North Bay was that I noticed the city bylaw officer over by the CIBC where I parked my Sportage. I hadn’t bothered with the Pay & Display ticket because I intended to just take a quick photo of the missing bricks and continue on my way. Lucky for me, the bylaw officer was scribbling out a ticket for someone else first and I was able to slide in and escape without penalty.

I was thinking about that close call while watching the council meeting on YouTube last night. There were more than 40 people getting the live stream. It was painful. Councillors got most excited talking about the new municipal election signage bylaw during the committee portion. Apparently, anyone planning to get one of those vehicle wraps to promote their bid for election will want to ensure they can take it off. It won’t be allowed when parking on public property (like when attending Memorial Gardens events). Also, only two signs will be allowed at public property spots like Lee Park, so spelling out names with a sign for each letter is a no-no too.

At 12:30 or so in the recording, you can see the committee meeting end and turn into the council of the whole session. It was a bit weird that they had to retake attendance officially, but I guess there was a short break between and someone could have ducked out. I wish I did when they started calling for recorded votes. Too much dramatic build-up when nobody was taking a stand against anything.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to [email protected]. To contact the writer directly, email: [email protected] or check out his website