The City of London is going to hire an active transportation manager, once a hiring freeze, related to COVID-19, has come to end. The person responsible would help create opportunities for Londoners to get around town on a bike, on foot or on public transit.
Staff were directed to create the job during a full council meeting Monday as part of the environmental and engineering services division, and to offset the cost by reallocating resources.
Using money from the last budget was key for Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire to give support.
“I’m hopeful that this position will bring some clarity in some issues we face in active transportation,” he said. “I would not have been in support if it was looking for new budget money.”
Ward 13 Coun. Arielle Kayabaga also lauded the decision, which was brought forward by Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza and Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis and received unanimous support.
“The community was really pushing for this decision for the past three years,” she said. “Thank you for bringing it forward.”
Staff are expected to bring a report back on the position later in the year. They’re also being asked to look into secure bike parking options in the core.
River Road remains closed
Ward 11 Coun. Stephen Turner was the only councillor not present at Monday’s meeting, which also brought further debate on keeping River Road, a city-owned golf course, closed for the rest of the season.
An auditor’s report at the start of the year recommended closing the course entirely because it operates at a loss, and staff said running it this year could lead to an estimated loss of $80,000.
Council voted in favour of keeping the course closed for the season, with Ward 10 Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen one of the four votes against the closure.
He argued there’s an opportunity for increased revenue because of pent up demand for golf. He also said it can provide mental health relief.
“Most us know there’s a real mental health component going on here in our community with this whole COVID situation,” he said. “Anything we can do to help our constituents and residents get some relief, through recreation [and] outdoor activities.”
Councillors Maureen Cassidy and Shawn Lewis, however, argued other city courses are up and running and keeping River Road closed only means losing 18 holes.
“With the current financial situation, and the way we are responding to the crisis, the other courses are not able to subsidize [River Road] to the extent that they have in the past,” said Cassidy.
Lewis also argued against the notion that golf, on its own, pays for golf.
“Without the tournament revenue, without the banquets and wedding rentals and everything else that happens at those facilities, without the food and beverage that would normally be there, the operations are losing money even at the two courses that are normally profitable. There is not revenue to be gained here.”
It wasn’t all bad news for golf enthusiasts, though.
Council agreed to allow Southside Construction Management to continue using property at 1992 Fanshawe Park Road West as a driving range, temporarily, for three more years.