Swimming Rock fix could cost hundreds of thousands

By Jim Brown

If the steps leading to the beach at Swimming Rock park aren’t refurbished they could become a significant public liability issue, warned an engineering consultant at the Jan 20 meeting of the Resort Municipality of Cavendish. The stairs aren’t up to code since they have four-inch gaps between the steps, when the gaps should be wider.

“I don’t mean to be negative but these stairs open you up to some (significant) liability situations…we encourage the stairs be done in accordance with the national building code, even if the national building code isn’t fully implemented here…there’s a high risk…There’s a very high bank,” said Tom Harland.

“It would not be an inexpensive proposition,” to do the work, he added.

The steep bank, which is also a concern, needs to be reinforced.

“(If) you go for a permanent long term structure to protect from erosion, $100,000 wouldn’t come close to it. Maybe not even $200,000,” said Mr Harland.
“The protection side really has to be done right, or you come out of a good storm and lose it,” he said.

That happened with the stair’s landing, which was swept away by post tropical storm Dorian.

The possible options for building temporary and permanent structures for the steps, including anchoring them into rock, featured a range of costs from tens of thousands of dollars, to hundreds of thousands.

Council will look at several options investigated by Mr Harland.

The first option involves doing nothing, while the second would involve building a “semi-permanent structure” that could used over a number of seasons and anchored on the land. Made of wood, it would be brought in and out every year with the seasons. And the third would cost as much as $300,000 or more.
Mr Harland will provide a further report at a later date.

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North Rustico and area residents need to make housing needs known to government: Brad Trivers

Story and photos by Jim Brown

There are just four people on the waiting list for subsidized seniors housing in North Rustico, which is not a true representation of the need, says District 18 MLA Brad Travers, who hosted a town hall on housing related issues on Jan 13 at the North Rustico Lion’s Club.

Provincial housing officer Jillian Scott.

Forty people joined Mr Trivers including housing officer Jillian Scott, from Social Housing and Development, and other provincial officials from Finance PEI.
Homes are getting pricey, not just in Charlottetown, but all across the Island and eligibility thresholds and subsidies are struggling to keep up.

For example, for a one bedroom in senior housing, the cutoff for eligibility is $29,000 gross, for a two bedroom $35,500 and for a three bedroom it’s $39,500.

In the private market the income thresholds are the same.

Ms Scott, who is also responsible for subsidized seniors housing in rural parts of the province including Hunter River and North Rustico, said while there were only four people on a waiting list for seniors subsidized housing in North Rustico, there were 467 in Charlottetown.

Mr Trivers expressed disbelief at the North Rustico numbers.

“When I first heard there were only four seniors on the wait list (in North Rustico) and maybe five or so (others that he knows of) for nine, I asked how can that be right? The problem is people aren’t actually going through the process. That’s one of the reasons we’re here tonight.”

He urged residents who need the subsidy to get on the list, or if they know of someone who deserves to be on the list, make sure they know about it.

He said he met with a group of seniors last spring who estimated at least 12 units could be filled in North Rustico.

A two hour town hall on housing was held at the North Rustico Lion’s Club.

Builders need that information in order to determine whether the market is large enough to sustain new projects.

“That’s the only way their going to get subsidized housing and it’s also the only way as a government we’re going to be able to fund developers to build subsidized housing in any given area,” said Mr Trivers.

People who qualify for seniors subsidies are 60 and up or 55 with a CPP disability income.

Maximum rents eligible for subsidies are $794 for one bedroom units, $951 for two bedrooms, and $1,118 for three bedrooms. Seniors must pay 25 per cent of their income toward the rent.

Ms Scott added there is a little bit of flexibility in the ceilings, depending on the programs.

Approximately 40 people showed up at town hall on housing in North Rustico, hosted by District 18 MLA Brad Trivers.

Resort Municipality of Cavendish councillor George Clark Dunning expressed some frustration at the soaring rent costs.

“I’m not leaving here with any answers or hope…Good luck finding a one room bedroom for less than $1,000,” he said.

“The numbers aren’t real…There’s been fabulous developments in the Town of North Rustico. There’s some beautiful housing, but I can guarantee you none of them start at a thousand dollars a month and I imagine they are all plus utilities.”

Mr Clark Dunning suggested building a three apartment building could cost $500,000 and rent will have to be set a level that will cover those costs, which are probably higher than the thresholds allowed for subsidies.

Tenants will likely be responsible for utilities and heat which will take a big bite of their disposable income, he said.

Finance PEI officials were on hand later to explain to builders how they could tap into sources of financing that could help reduce the cost of borrowing and make it easier for them to get their projects off the ground.

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Cavendish man has defibrillator in home, wants residents to know they can access it if they have a cardiac emergency

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Ten minutes.

That’s roughly how long a person can live without medical intervention after a sudden cardiac arrest.

In PEI’s largest urban centres, Summerside and Charlottetown, the average response time for ambulances is nine minutes.

The problem for many rural Islanders, including those living in the Resort Municipality of Cavendish where councillor Chris Robinson resides, is that it can take up to half an hour or even longer for an ambulance to arrive.

“We’re a lovely rural area of the province, but we’re almost equidistant between Prince County Hospital and the QEH in Charlottetown. We’re almost as far away from those two facilities as you can be, short of being in Tignish,” he said.

“Defibrillators are key. If you don’t have access to a defibrillator within the first 10 minutes or so after a sudden cardiac arrest, your odds of surviving are only about five per cent,” said Chris, who also chairs the Resort Municipality of Cavendish’s emergency services committee.

Chris has taken the need for defibrillators to heart, and is offering access to the one at his house on 8537 Cavendish Road, across from Captain Kidd’s Dairy Bar and Take-out. His mission to spread awareness and potentially save lives is shared by his wife Stephanie Scharf, who is a registered nurse supervisor and a registered massage therapist, working from her home clinic.

AED sign in front of Chris Robinson’s home in Cavendish

A sign on the lamppost in front of their house, installed by the municipality, shows local residents that an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available for public use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Chris wants people to know one is there if they need it. If they can get there he will help them hook up to it.

“If people wish I would be prepared to go out as a first responder in an emergency if people had chest pains and were waiting for an ambulance. They can call my cell phone, which is 628-9831.”

Chris went on to say “we want to make sure local residents are aware that waiting for an ambulance for half an hour, particularly in stormy weather with icy roads, is not a feasible proposition. You only have eight to 10 minutes in the case of a full sudden, cardiac arrest when the heart is stopped. You only have that 10 minute window, so being prepared and knowing where to find the nearest AED is an important precaution to take, just as people should be checking their smoke detectors this time of year and having a fire escape plan in case their house catches fire.”

The Cavendish Resort Municipality has several publicly accessible AEDs. There is one at the municipal office, but the office is only open during regular business hours. There are also several other AEDs available at local businesses, which are only available during certain hours and certain times of the year.

Chris Robinson wants to improve the odds for local residents who suffer sudden cardiac arrest

Chris says it’s a also good idea for anyone who might be at risk of a heart attack to carry orange flavoured 80 milligram aspirin, which can be very effective.

“You don’t swallow them, but hold them in your mouth under your tongue and the large blood vessels under your tongue will allow the aspirin to dissolve quickly in your blood…and may make the difference while the ambulance is in route or until you can get to a defibrillator.”

Chris’s defibrillator was bought for personal use for about $1,000, but he decided “why just keep it for my own selfish use when others in an emergency may need it.”

In one of her AED community presentations Stephanie stated “I am speaking to you today as a member of the community who owns an AED for personal use…This topic is especially concerning for me since I have a family history of heart disease and I live in a rural setting, which means slower emergency response times.”

Every year more than 45,000 Canadians suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

“Of those SCA that happen outside a hospital, less than five per cent survive due to delays in recognizing the cardiac emergency and access to appropriate care such as CPR and an AED…The survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest without CPR and AED is zero,” she states in her presentation.

Stephanie says using an AED with CPR within the first three minutes of a cardiac arrest can boost the chance of survival by up to 75 per cent.

Chris says anyone in the Cavendish area experiencing a heart attack after calling 911 to get the ambulance on its way, can give him a call and hopefully find someone to drive them to his house within 10 minutes.

Canada has a very poor survival rate for cardiac arrest, only about five per cent.

“It’s largely because of very poor awareness and access to defibrillators on a timely basis,” said Chris.

One other thing he thinks would make a big difference to improve emergency response times in PEI would be for Health PEI to implement a PulsePoint Network of volunteer first responders, who would receive early notification of a nearby emergency on their Smartphone.

“This PulsePoint app has been shown to have a significant impact in improving survival odds for cardiac arrest. Volunteer first responders such as off duty nurses, firefighters, police (and others) can respond to the scene of a cardiac arrest by phone notification and they can stabilize the patient before the ambulance arrives.” he said.

“Saving minutes can save a life.”

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Getting into the festive spirit at the Stanley Bridge Hall

Photos by Jim Brown

It was bitterly cold outside the doors of the Stanley Bridge WI on Dec 7 for the WI’s annual Christmas craft fair but it was warm indoors with several vendors attending to hundreds of visitors over the four hours the craft fair ran. There were lots of wonderful gifts to purchase and the building was filled with the sights and scents of Christmas, including plenty of evergreen boughs, apple cider, wooden ornaments, candies and baked delicacies, landscape photos and paintings and woolen goods of all kinds. Some vendors also set up displays outdoors. Click on an image to view images in a lightbox

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Launching a new strategy, logo to draw tourists

By Jim Brown

A new brand and a new strategy for drawing more tourists to the central part of the Island were unveiled on Nov 25 at a public workshop in Kensington.

Presenter Brianna Flood.

The collaborative ‘Heart of the Island Initiative’ drew dozens of tourism operators to Kensington’s Murray Christian Centre.

Partners for the event were the Town of Kensington, the Kensington and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Central Coastal Tourism Partnership. One of the speakers was Kensington Mayor Rowan Casely.

Organizers want tourist operators to use the hashtag “Heart of PEI” to showcase the area’s many beautiful, striking attractions and the operators’ businesses. Tourist operators were encouraged to work together and pool their resources to draw more visitors – including working with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. They were asked to apply the hashtags to scenic photos posted on websites and across social media platforms.

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Participants described a wide variety of opportunities ready for seizing, including capturing more of the booming cycling market by making businesses ‘cycling friendly’ and even offering stations where cyclists can fix deflated tires and complete minor repairs. Others talked about the great opportunities offered by the legalization of cannabis and by drawing more tourists from the LGBTQ community.

Still others talked about the need to promote the area’s many culinary destinations, as well as local artists, farming, beaches and outdoor adventures.

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Dorian strains resources of Maritime Electric, Resort Municipality

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Angus Orford, Maritime Electric’s CEO, on left and Enrique Riveroll, the utility’s VP of customer service.

Post Tropical Storm Dorian slashed through PEI in early September, devastating much of the Island and leaving many questions in its wake.

Maritime Electric CEO Angus Orford was joined by Enrique Riveroll, the utility’s VP of customer service, for a two hour presentation at the Resort Municipality’s regular monthly meeting in early November.

A big part of their presentation dealt with criticism levelled at the Province for not declaring a state of emergency and accessing additional federal resources.

Sometimes you can just have too many people in one place, causing complications, said Orford, especially if they aren’t specially trained to deal with massive electrical disruptions, such power line technicians and utility arborists.

Mayor Matthew Jelley observed Parks Canada brought in trained personnel from places like Jasper, Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland to cut trees, since they had the level of chainsaw use training required by Parks Canada.

Being out of power for a prolonged period of time doesn’t exactly create warm and fuzzy feelings for utility companies trying to restore everything to normal.

“Customers out for a week are probably not going to fire any accolades at Maritime Electric. But from our perspective it was an extraordinary response,” said Orford.

Workers were busy across the Island, including Kensington, for weeks after Dorian.

Re-energizing lines safely takes time, he said.

Trees fall across lines forcing workers to “isolate, clear the tree, re-energize that section and go on to the next section,” said Orford

He added there could be “beautiful weather” to work on power restoration, “but 1,500 fuses go.”
The Island’s Emergency Measures Organization believes people should be able to take care of themselves for three days, said Orford.

Of course that calculus could change in really cold weather that includes ice-storms and heavy snow.

Fortunately, Dorian struck PEI in early September and in the immediate aftermath the weather was sunny and warm.

“The reality of this type of storm is that it creates a lot of labour intensive damage” and people would run up to a lineman and ask to have power restored to their homes when that isn’t possible, said Orford.

A tree on top of a power line in New London, shortly after Dorian.

It’s a lot different than a car striking and knocking over a pole and a reasonable time frame for repairs can be given, such as four hours.

In the case of Dorian, “Some roads you couldn’t even get down till the trees were out of the way for assessment,” he explained.

Mayor Jelley said hotels booked during Dorian saw significant losses, with guests leaving after just a couple of days – believing the power would be out for much longer. In fact, the power was often restored a short time later, though many were without power for six days.

Maritime Electric has 120,000 poles in the power system, with 100,000 replaced since the 1980s. A total of 80 crews were available to handle the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

The Resort Municipality, despite its status as a small community, swells to a population of 20,000 or so in the summer due to a heavy influx of visitors and seasonal residents and as many as 25,000 when the Cavendish Beach Music Festival (CBMF) is on, in early July.

Discussions eventually moved to the problems faced in Cavendish peak periods of the spring and summer.

Deputy Mayor and local businessperson Linda Lowther said her frozen yogurt took a hit last summer.

“We have a frozen yogurt business and we have five ice cream machines and every time Maritime Electric has done any kind of a switch or played with the wires our machines would go down and we’d lose product.”

Lines of communication should be improved, she and other councillors said.

Mayor Jelley said brownouts also happened on the Cavendish Beach Music Festival Weekend.

And he went on to explain that when maintenance to the Rattenbury substation was done earlier this summer in mid-June: “We had fuses blowing, capacitors blowing on motors (and) refrigeration equipment in restaurants failing.”

Maritime Electric is hoping to get a St Mary’s Road project launched before the summer to bring a new transmission line to Cavendish. Mayor Jelley said he hoped it wouldn’t cause too much disruption during the CBMF and other busy times in the high season.

That project is part of a budget application in front of the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.
Mayor Jelley want to to say: “If you need room for a substation in Cavendish I’ll probably donate the land…Certainly if there’s a transmission line up Route 6 I would do what I could to advocate…and if you need land slightly off Rte 6 and it means more reliable power then I’d be happy to donate the half an acre to make it happen.”

Cavendish is growing and so is the demand for electricity.

“Every cottage operator is putting in those heat pumps on all of their units,” said Linda Lowther.

Mayor Jelley, who is the president of Maritime Fun Group which operates Shining Waters Family Fun Park, said his business is “looking at four new waterslides…120 horsepower total, run 10 to 12 hours a day.”

When the St Mary’s Road project is finished Cavendish will have three feeds running into it.

The Resort Municipality has 14 lift stations, five telephone exchanges and three electrical substations.

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North Rustico remembers its fallen soldiers

Photos by Jim Brown

Hundreds of people attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at the North Rustico cenotaph on Monday, Nov 11, joining thousands of others in services across the Island marking the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers in wars and peacekeeping operations. Attendees were greeted with snow, rain and fierce gusts of wind that forced many to seek shelter under umbrellas. The bleak weather matched the solemn, somber mood during the ceremonies.

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Big crowd for New London Community Complex Christmas craft fair

Jim Brown photos
The parking lot was jammed with cars, forcing many motorists to park on the highway’s shoulders at the New London Community Complex’s annual Christmas craft fair on Oct 20.

More than 50 booths were set up and hundreds of people at a time made their way through the building seeking the perfect gift for the holidays. Halloween-themed merchandise was also on sale. Unlike last year’s event, there was no power outage to disrupt shopping.

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Cleanup work at Cavendish Campground hindered by trespassers

By Jim Brown

Parks Canada’s Hurricane Dorian cleanup work on the Cavendish Campground and the main beach is being impeded by unwanted sightseers.

“When they spot people on the site everyone has to drop their chainsaws and shut down for 15 minutes,” Mayor Matthew Jelley told councillors at the Resort Municipality’s monthly council meeting on Sept 16.

“Under their labor laws and codes it’s (hurting) cleanup right now.”

These people are being treated as “trespassers” when they show up, said Mr Jelley in his update.

Mayor Jelley went on to say Parks Canada is bringing in commissionaires to the main beach site to steer people away from areas where restoration work is underway.

A great deal of the cleanup work will be done by the end of the week he said. But Hurricane Dorian has caused tremendous damage to certain areas that will take a long time to bring back to some semblance of normalcy and may even prompt changes that could impact the Resort Municipality’s strategic plan.

For instance 80 per cent of trees have been uprooted and knocked down, falling atop power lines, water lines and sewer lines, he said.

On Sept 16 access was still not possible for workers to 20 per cent of the campground, which will be closed for a prolonged period.

Parks Canada will have to tap cleanup funds through various government agencies.

Mr Jelley met with Parks Canada officials four times since Hurricane Dorian struck the Island, including just before the Sept 16 Council meeting

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Bridge jumpers show their stuff at River Days Festival, Aug 25

Story and photos by Jim Brown

The word “car” was replaced with “boat” as youngsters assembled at the bridge at the Stanley Bridge wharf on Sunday, Aug. 25, when prizes were handed out to fearless jumpers as part of the 17th annual River Days Festival. Jumpers had to be wary of pleasure craft travelling near and underneath the bridge.
Some older adults also took the plunge during the River Days weekend.

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