Council unsettled on Queen Street improvements


The issue of how to improve Queen Street remained up in the air after Monday night’s meeting of city council. Council will now look to finalize a plan at its Aug. 28 meeting.

A motion by Ward 1 Councillors Sonny Spina and Sandra Hollingsworth, which would have directed city staff to re-examine possibilities for the downtown core and report back to council in January 2024 was defeated by a vote of 8-2.

An alternative motion, from Ward 2 Coun. Luke Dufour and seconded by Ward 5 Coun. Corey Gardi, would have seen reconstruction of Queen Street from East St. to Bruce St., as a first phase. The remaining portions of Queen St. (east to Pim St. and west to Gore St.) would undergo reconstruction no sooner than 2026. That motion drew a 5-5 tie vote and was defeated.

A third motion, from city staff, proposing revamping Queen Street from Brock St. to Bruce St., was deferred as Ward 2 Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen’s Zoom connection had been lost.

“Council if I call a vote (on staff’s proposal) it’s going to be tied. I propose that we defer this until Councillor Vezeau-Allen is back so that we can have a full council decision on it. It doesn’t preclude us from considering it for the next year.”

The original proposal from City Planning and Engineering was an $18 million dollar, three-phase reconstruction of Queen Street from East Street to Gore Street. Two westbound lanes on a
resurfaced Queen Street would be reduced in width to 3.3 metres from the current 3.5, with new curbs and patio areas, and upgraded accessibility. New street lighting was also in the plan.

The plan included, asphalt, curbs, boulevards, sidewalk surfaces, trees and street furniture.
Council agrees the city’s main street needs improving – Queen Street’s last resurfacing was in 1979 – but they’re divided on the exact scope and the project’s timelines. Cost is a factor as well.

Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni told council he was not on board with spending $18 million as originally proposed by city staff. Bruni noted council has already committed a combined total of $25 million to the downtown core for Bay Street conversion, the downtown plaza, and the Mill Market.

“It’s not that we’re not spending any money downtown,” said Bruni, who was on board with the East-to-Bruce concept. “The road does need resurfacing, that’s a definite. Some of the curbs have to be repaired, I totally understand. The lighting (upgrade) is questionable. I spoke to some merchants and they said the lighting is finally working the way it should be but as Carl (Rumiel, Director of Engineering) explained they have to be changed and I have no problems with that.”

A New Downtown In The Works

Mayor Shoemaker favored the East-to-Bruce proposal, calling it a compromise of sorts. “Going with staff’s recommendation on approving in principle the $18 million was a step too far, and not doing any of it, or going to one lane, or doing some other alternative like scraping it down and paving the surface was not palatable to the majority, either. So I tried to find somewhere in the middle that would work. We were close but we didn’t get there. We’ll have to regroup and see what can possibly pass at one of these council meetings.”

Shoemaker acknowledged council may in fact decide to simply resurface Queen Street. “Ultimately it’s council’s will,” said the Mayor, following the meeting. “So if council decides that a resurfacing is all that can get the required number of votes to get there, that’s all that’s going to happen. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think there are better alternatives. I think capping the budget (at $6 million) for the first phase and shortening the distance, or extending the distance – if you can get more bang for your buck – is the right path. If we can’t get to anything other than resurfacing the street, that’s what we have to live with.”

Council Briefs

Sault may enroll in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

City staff was given the go-ahead last night to review the process of enrolling Sault Ste. Marie in Dolly Parton’s book gifting program, known as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Each year, Parton’s program mails out millions of free books to children up to age five, regardless of family income. The program just recently expanded to include Canadian cities. Families would sign-on locally and would receive a book each month, at their doorstep or in their mailbox.

Ward 3 Councillor’s Angela Caputo and Ron Zagordo put forward the motion and city staff
will report back to council with enrollment specifics.

Caputo said if every one of the slightly more than 3,000 local children under the age of five signed on, the annual cost to the city would be roughly $85,000. Caputo adds she has already had potential partners express interest in supporting the Sault’s membership.

Pets may be memorialized along Hub Trail

Saultites may soon be able to memorialize a pet who has passed on with a tag at a special
location along the city’s Hub Trail.

Council approved a motion from Ward 3 Councillor Angelo Caputo, seconded by Ward 1 Councillor Sonny Spina, to have staff explore dedicating a bridge along the Hub Trail as “The Rainbow Bridge.”
The chosen bridge would be adorned with a plaque bearing The Rainbow Bridge poem and could be equipped to allow citizens to hang their pets tags to memorialize them.

“This is something that is near and dear to my heart,” said Caputo. “We lost a furry family member just this past month. My brother’s dog, Rader, was the inspiration behind this. I think pet’s play such a vital role in our families and so having a memorial like this will provide a lot for folks around town.”

“I think it’s fantastic idea, “ said Coun. Spina. “We all love our pets and this is a great way to share that in the community.”


  • Ron Jokelainen

    Ron has returned to writing and reporting after 27 years with Ontario Lottery & Gaming. He began as a staff writer with OLG in 1994 before moving to Sports Marketing in 1997. He retired as a Senior sports analyst in 2021. Prior to OLG, Ron worked in radio and print journalism in the Sault and Simcoe. Folks may remember Ron "Williams" with CFYN-CHAS in the early 90s A graduate of Windsor's St. Clair College Journalism program, Ron lists drumming, gardening and walking among his favourite hobbies.

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