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CITY COUNCIL: What you need to know about the July 8 meeting

Sarnia City Hall.


Proposed upgrades to the Centennial Park Missing Worker Memorial. Image: Tillman Architects Ruth Robinson

A grassroots group called Victims of Chemical Valley went to council Monday and demanded a say in the redesign of Centennial Park’s Missing Worker Memorial. 

They also want the work done asap.

This is the same group that fundraised $20,000 to $40,000 years ago to erect the unique sculpture in 2000 in memory of those who have died as a result of Sarnia’s industrial legacy, Mayor Mike Bradley pointed out.

When Centennial Park was torn apart for remediation, the memorial was not put back in its original form as was promised. Now the city has hired an architectural firm to fix the design, improve the drainage, and make the memorial a more pleasant place to gather with seating, shade and lighting. It’s expected to cost about $700,000 to complete, a far cry from the original cost, said Bradley. 

“I’m mystified how a consultant could take it to this level,” he said.

The committee had sticker shock as well, said Nick Dochstader, president of the Sarnia & District Labour Council. “But we want action. It’s time to properly respect the victims of Chemical Valley, their families and all those who lost their lives.”

Council unanimously agreed to expedite the project.


Council unanimously supported an Official Plan amendment to allow construction of a new one-storey commercial building at 1375 London Rd. across from Lambton Mall.

Property owner Terrace Manor Ltd. plans to use part of the building for a new restaurant with a drive-thru.  Specifics on what kind of restaurant are unknown at this time.

“This is a fantastic sign of things to come,” commented Coun. Bill Dennis. 


Proposed view of Ferry Dock Landing.Image from Waterfront Master Plan
Proposed view of Ferry Dock Landing. Image from Waterfront Master Plan

The first major capital project from Sarnia’s Waterfront Master Plan is ready to proceed at the city’s historic Ferry Dock Hill, which connects the waterfront to the downtown.

Ferry Dock Hill at the foot of Cromwell Street was once the heart of Old Sarnia and used since 1832 as an important port where schooners were loaded with shipments from the Great Western Railway.

Later, cruise ships moored there and it was the site for a busy customs building.  In more recent memory, the George, Murray, Shipley and Bell law firm occupied the old customs building.  When the city bought the property, the building was demolished with plans to create an attractive extension to Centennial Park. 

Consultant Brook McIllroy presented a preliminary plan that was endorsed by council Monday and will see shoreline protection and tiered armor stone installed, followed by a full park redevelopment next year.

After extensive public input, the plan potentially includes a boardwalk, a multi-use trail, lighting, an event plaza, a viewing platform on the river and maintenance of the existing fishing platform.  A new boat dock has been rejected based on the cost.

“It’s very much a parking lot today,” said consultant Trish Clarke.  “We want to ensure it is very much a public place with a draw to the water.”  

“You nailed it perfectly,” commented Coun. Anne Marie Gillis, reflecting the general feeling on council.


Council voted unanimously – after Mayor Bradley left toward the end of Monday’s meeting – to open council chambers to the public for the next regular meeting where it will be live streamed on the large screen there.

Council has not met in person since May when the mayor said a work related health and safety complaint was under investigation and virtual meetings were required. Very little has been shared about the complaint.

However, Coun. Bill Dennis has said he is the subject of a health and safety investigation. And on Monday, he shed more light on the issue by saying he “called out the CAO’s lack of responsiveness to my questions from citizens…and asked him why he was protecting a certain general manager’s poor performance.”


The open house to hear the preferred new concept for Canatara Park attracted a packed house. Sarnians are engaged, said consultant Donna Hinde. Cathy Dobson photo

Look at the difference a week makes.

When a public meeting was held – just last week – to review the preferred plan for the redevelopment of Canatara Park, a lot of people said they didn’t want to lose parking along the beach overlooking Lake Huron.

The consultant with The Planning Partnership explained that preserving and expansion of the sand dunes was a priority and parking should be reduced closest to the water. The overall parking in Canatara was reduced from the existing 961 spaces to 778 spaces in last week’s preferred plan. 

That riled a good number who said losing parking is a bad idea and accessibility to all the park’s amenities should be paramount.

Those same consultants appeared before council Monday and said they rethought the parking. The plan now reduces parking to just under 900 spots.

“We recalibrated parking after that meeting last week,” said consultant Donna Hinde. “Let’s still provide parking but do everything we can to retain the integrity of that dune.”

Staff were directed to work on a plan for beach volleyball courts in Canatara, to assist the Seaway Kiwanis Club with a new storage unit, and plan on removing the Thrasher Building, which is a deteriorating picnic shelter at the Children’s Animal Farm. 

The consultants are expected back at council this fall with Canatara’s final master plan.


Coun. Bill Dennis speaks during a heated exchange at a Sarnia city council meeting earlier this year.

Coun. Bill Dennis was unapologetic as council voted 6-2 in favour of suspending his pay for 45 days for what the Integrity Commissioner called deeply disrespectful behaviour at the March 11 meeting.

In fact, Dennis came out swinging with more insults and put-downs toward his fellow councillors, reiterating many of the things that got him into trouble March 11.

“I’m not afraid of these complaints,” he said. “I see them for what they are and I believe everyone else does too…I refuse to look the other way when it comes to council and staff performance.

“I am outspoken and I do speak my mind. I do sometimes cuss and I call it like it is, but am I dangerous?  Get real.”

When it came time to vote on Dennis’ discipline as recommended by the Integrity Commissioner, Dennis declared a conflict of interest. Coun. George Vandenberg and Coun. Terry Burrell voted against any sanction.

Before the vote, Coun. Chrissy McRoberts explained why she didn’t accept Dennis’ defence that he acts with passion.

“Coun. Dennis on several occasions has had an amazing point to make when he has spoken and then loses it when he takes things emotionally and personally and has the outbursts,” she said.  “…Don’t confuse passion with trying to put other people down, or the name calling, the swearing. If you could just stay on subject and on point, you would have a lot more pull and a lot more alignment and agreements with some of the motions you make. I don’t see an end to this.  I’d like you to just stop the extra…and I would have a lot more respect. 

“But please do not call it passion when you are calling the rest of council ‘clowns’ or when you are putting Sarnia down and referring to it as a ‘s _ _ thole in public. That’s unacceptable,” said McRoberts.

“That is not passion. That is something else and I just don’t want it in council anymore,” she said.

Council also addressed a second recommendation from the Integrity Commissioner and voted 6-3 against having staff draft a social media policy that would set standards for elected officials’ behaviours online.

Mayor Bradley said he voted against such a policy because he doesn’t believe social media standards can be defined.  Those who voted in favour of a policy were Coun. Gillis, Coun. Kilner and Coun. Boushy.

Watch the discussion here.


Birnam Excavating was awarded a $7.6 million contract for the second phase of biosolids processing upgrades at Sarnia’s water pollution control centre.

A city staff report said the facility is in need of significant repair and will get a new control room, truck loading ramp, a third centrifuge to separate liquids and solids, and two new air pollution control systems.


A new five-year lease agreement between the Bluewater Gymnastics club and the city was approved with the club taking on substantially more rent.

Historically, the lease has been about $25,000 a year for the club. Now the city will receive $8,250 a month.  

You can view the full council meeting here.

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