Bragging rights, welcoming quilts and extreme fire calls: Four take-aways from Smiths Falls’ June 17 committee of the whole

The Smiths Falls Fire Department has experienced a “very busy” first half of June with three fire calls and more than 200 calls for service following an extreme weather event. – Laurie Weir photo

Here are four take-aways from Smiths Falls’ committee of the whole meeting on June 17, including extreme fire calls, Paddlefest bragging rights and the theatre’s lease agreement request.

Fire department kept busy during first half of June

During the June 17 Smiths Falls’ committee of the whole meeting, fire Chief Rick Chesebrough said the department received 187 calls on June 14 during the extreme weather event, and another 227 the following day resulting in over 2,000 transmissions on 44 calls for service.
Firefighters were called to two structure fires this month, one of which was deemed suspicious, and a major gas leak on Eric Hutchinson Road. They also responded to a structure fire in Lanark Highlands.

“It’s been extremely busy for our staff,” Chesebrough said, as he called the weather event a “relentless” one.

Paddlefest celebrates Rideau Canal

Chief administrative officer Malcolm Morris shared with council an extremely successful Paddlefest on June 15 at Lower Reach Park, with eight teams taking part in the voyageur canoe race.

Captained by Coun. Chris McGuire, Morris said the town’s social committee won their race.

“Hat’s off to the social committee and those who cheered us on,” Morris said. “It was just a fantastic day.”

The event is increasing in size every year, and Morris said the organizers “did a fantastic job.”

He said the purpose of the event is to expose residents and visitors to the town and the Rideau Canal, “and every town looks different when you’re on the water.”

The Smiths Falls team won by a fraction against Wills Transfer.

10-year lease agreement signed with Smiths Falls Community Theatre

The Smiths Falls Station Theatre lease agreement was brought to the table by the community services director, Stephanie Clark, for the second time as she sought council’s approval. Last week, the Smiths Falls Community Theatre Foundation came before council expressing their eagerness to resign a 10-year lease agreement with the town.

This is something that Coun. Dawn Quinn still feels is too long of an agreement.

“I would be happier if they did a two-year contract,” she said.

Quinn said she had no issues with the theatre group, but they should be working together to come up with a “good business plan.”

She said they need the theatre group there, “but I think we can come up with a better business plan,” using the group’s input to increase rentals.

Coun. Chris McGuire said he’s concerned with the different precedents they’re setting for the various groups in town looking for support – such as the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario and the Smiths Falls Public Library. He said he still hasn’t seen any financials from the theatre. He’d like to see a memorandum of understanding where the group would fundraise for capital costs as it’s not like roads and sewers.

“I think this is something we could fundraise for,” he said.

Signing a 10-year lease also makes him “a little nervous,” as he can’t remember any other lease being that length of time.

Clark said the 10 years would enable the theatre group to have that commitment from the town along with the ability to plan for the future.

“If it’s not working for either group, there is an opportunity for us to negotiate a way out,” Clark said.

New quilts for residents moving into transitional housing units

Coun. Peter McKenna, in his verbal report to council, shared that the residents moving into the transitional housing at the former Willowdale retirement home in Smiths Falls will receive quilts created by the Lanark Quilters Guild and the Caring Quilters.

Supported by Lanark County Mental Health, the former retirement home is being transformed into units for local residents experiencing precarious housing situations. The building is owned and being renovated by the Saumure Group of Companies.

“Some of the people doing the quilting live in the neighbourhood of Settlers Ridge,” McKenna said. “That’s a really nice response and welcoming to those new residents when they come.”


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