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City Hall at a Glance: Everything you need to know about Sarnia council’s April 8 meeting

City Hall 4


Longtime downtown merchant Helen Van Sligtenhorst stood before council Monday and asked for three things she says will improve the shopping experience downtown.

First, she wants new signage so people know they can park for free in the evenings, on holidays and weekends in the parking lot at the foot of George Street that is used by city staff during working hours. Council was unanimously in support and new signs should be up within weeks.

Longtime downtown merchant Helen Van Sligtenhorst stood before council Monday and asked for three things she says will improve the shopping experience downtown. Journal photo

Van Sligtenhorst’s second and third requests would involve increasing bylaw enforcement and council asked for a staff report on both fronts. First, Van Sligtenhorst wants absentee landlords to be held accountable for snow removal on the walkways in front of their buildings. Otherwise, many people can’t shop downtown in the winter, she said. Secondly, she wants enforcement if property owners put their garbage out on the wrong day. 

Bylaw enforcement officers generally respond only when there’s a complaint. Van Sligtenhorst, who owns Harbour Bay Clothing on Front Street, asked for regular monitoring. Look for a staff report in the coming months.



Council saw the initial architectural drawings for significant improvements to the Missing Worker Memorial in Centennial Park and said they like what they see.

Architectural firm Tillmann Ruth Robinson is proposing a new plaza for the unique monument that depicts a person looking toward Chemical Valley and seeing a family in the distance.

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

When Centennial Park was remediated, the memorial was placed in an area that has not proved to be a good gathering place. The upgrade will include new paving stones, perimeter seating, LED lighting, bushes, shade trees, a memorial plaque, and connections to existing pathways. A preliminary estimate is $500,000.

Coun. Dave Boushy pointed out that the city already poured $15 million into Centennial Park in recent years and said he hesitates to spend more.

But Coun. Anne Marie Gillis called the proposal “amazing” and said it pays tribute to both the victims of Chemical Valley as well as local sculptor Shawn McKnight.

“We need to do it up right,” she said.

Coun. Bill Dennis told designer Sam Charlinski he thinks the improvements are beautiful and well-thought out. He suggested loved ones names can be etched in the pavers, an idea Charlinski said may work well.   

It’s expected a final draft of the design will go to council May 6.


Pedestrians and cyclists trying to safely make their way along London Line between Blackwell Sideroad and Old Lakeshore Road should soon have a multi-use path to assist them.

Council approved a $672,446  contract to Sev-Con Paving for the job, with about $500,000 of that cost covered by upper-tier government grants.  In future, the intent is for the pathway to ultimately go under Highway 40, head south on London Road and connect to an existing path at Lambton College.


Efforts to naturalize Mike Weir Park in Bright’s Grove should ramp up this spring after council approved $25,000  to establish native plants and remove invasive species.

Mike Smalls, a retired landscape designer and naturalization advocate, is spearheading the project and cautioned council that it won’t be possible to completely remove the large amount of non-native cool weather grasses already in the park.  Park lovers can look forward to new tamarack and birch trees, button bushes, ninebark, roses and spicebushes to add native biodiversity.

All of council approved the plan including Coun. Bill Dennis who initiated the conversation several months ago by saying that he and other local residents found the park’s existing naturalized areas are unsightly. 


Congratulations were offered all around as coaches and team members of Lambton College’s Lions Women’s Basketball team attended Monday’s council meeting.

They were there to be lauded for finishing first in the west division in regular season play, being the 23/24 OCAA gold medalists and the national CCAA silver medalists.

The Lambton College Women’s Basketball team celebrates its OCAA gold on home court. Neville Newman photo

It was a first for the team and Lambton College President Rob Kardas noted how well-supported the women were by the Sarnia community.

“Sport brings people together like nothing else... No one cheers for the home team like the City of Sarnia,” he said.

Kardas and a team captain Brett Fischer presented council with a signed basketball and an OCAA gold medal.


Bird Friendly Sarnia’s John Cooke made a presentation at council and asked for continued co-operation as his team works to prove Sarnia is in fact bird-friendly.

Cities across the country are getting the designation in an effort to address a 30% decline in bird populations over the last 50 years, he said.

Major reasons for bird loss is habitat loss, pesticides, window collisions, cats and insect declines. 

Currently, Sarnia does not qualify for Bird Friendly designation, Cooke said. More work needs to be done related to city bylaws, dimming of lights at night, installation of bird-friendly window treatments, education of responsible cat ownership and other initiatives.


If Sarnia continues to extend free bus service to refugees, such as Ukrainians, Coun. Bill Dennis wants free transit service for seniors, the poor, and disabled citizens too.

All groups should be treated the same, he said, then requested a review prior to next year’s budget.

CAO Chris Carter said he already knows it will cost the city about $500,000 to extend free service to other groups such as seniors and those who are disabled. He urged council to send Dennis’ request to a fees-for-service review this summer. However, council unanimously decided that the transit advisory committee will be asked to look at the proposal instead. Note that Mayor Mike Bradley and Coun. Adam Kilner were absent on Monday.

Dennis also made a motion asking that council be involved whenever senior staff receive wage increases. He couldn’t find a seconder for that one.


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