While it is true that ferry service is a ‘Major focus for Wolfe Islanders, it is not their only focus. The island’s Emergency Services ( volunteer ambulance service) offering emergency medical first response, patient stabilization, and transport as necessary off the island to medical services available in Kingston is as important as “the boat.” These two services make it possible for anyone to live on Wolfe Island safely. Any disruption to either service is noted and creates feelings of unease. So is it any wonder that the smaller Frontenac 11 ferry operating from the Dawson point terminal since April, leaving cars behind with every trip, has been hard to take even with the amenities that MTO has provided, and has certainly diminished the summer tourist business island business owners count on.
Of course the Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca heard all of that, and more from islanders on Wolfe and Amherst when he was here. And islanders are counting on the return of the Wolfe Islander III the first week of November…. maybe. That’s what he said. And it’s great to see the Frontenac II being spruced up to go home to Amherst Island, which also means the Loyalist going back to Glenora. Del Duca said a back-up ferry for the regional ferry service was possible in 2-plus years. No answer to what happens in the meantime.
More recently islanders have heard about, and seen, ambulances and personnel coming from Kingston to the island which would presumably cause delays in getting island medical emergency patients off the island. Both situations so visible while sitting in the line –ups and have caused frustration, and worry.
You might remember that Frontenac County Council passed a resolution Aug.25th for a new on site/on call deployment plan for paramedics for the Wolfe Island Ambulance Station, which has been placed in the hands of management to implement, according to Paul Charbonneau, Chief of Paramedic Services. He noted that the present model will continue until all details are worked out through the various meetings scheduled with the volunteers, the union, and management to the transition to a better paramedic model.
The new model, when implemented, will see 2 trained paramedics on site every day responding to calls for eight hours per day. For the remaining 16 hours, those two paramedics will be on call-back (in the building behind the ambulance station) to respond to calls. (The aim of the plan is to reduce the time it takes to get the ambulance rolling after a call, from 10 minutes to 2 minutes.) The exact date for implementation has not yet been determined. However at this time, the township has been informed that all shifts (except one) until Nov. 1st will have two paramedics.
But rumours that all is not well with the Wolfe Island Ambulance Service persist. WI Paramedic Sally Kane (always counted on to be there) is down with health issues and her return is not guaranteed. There were indeed two ambulance calls, back to back on one day, with ambulances and personnel coming to the island when only one paramedic was on duty. Residents have begun asking questions and want answers from members of council. Council members want information from Frontenac County, and the WI Medical Clinic Board is also seeking information.
Good News. * Mayor Doyle had this to say, “Given there is a lot of misunderstanding on what caused the recent ambulance issue, and there are questions on the plan to move to a new model with one 8 hour shift covered by onsite Paramedics, and the other two shifts each day covered by on-call staff, I asked County Management to attend our next Council meeting to give us a presentation and answer questions. It has been confirmed that Frontenac County CAO Kelly Pender and Acting Chief Gale Chevalier will attend the meeting the November 9th Frontenac Islands Council meeting on Wolfe Island at 6:30 pm.”
Around Town: ** Not once but twice I have wrongly identified Howe Island Councillor Bruce Higgs. My apologies Councillor Higgs. ** Successful evening for WI Medical Clinic Theatre Night fund raiser to benefit clinic sponsored NP program. Thanks to Simon Berry for his help. ** Great sign clean up following election.
Coming Events: **Lunch Bunch Wed. 11:30 am WI United. ** Join group to support a refugee family Oct. 29th at the WI Town Hall 7pm. ** Flu Shot Clinic Nov.7th. Frontenac Islands Council Nov. 9th 6:30 pm Wolfe Island Town Hall. **Remembrance Day Nov.11th 10:45 am WI Town Square. ** Christmas Market Nov. 29th. To book table call Linda 385-1947
It was a first for Wolfe Island to have the Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca standing up there, facing the music so to speak, in front of a disgruntled audience of some 300 persons from Amherst, Wolfe and Simcoe Islands. They came looking for an end to their ferry grievances all due to the prolonged absence of the ferry, Wolfe Islander III at Heddle Marine since April. They came at the invitation of Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala who arranged for, and chaired, the town hall meeting giving the public the opportunity to share their frustrations following a difficult summer of long ferry waits, and loss of time, and money, not only for residents but for businesses and tourists.
At Wolfe Island with Minister Del Duca and MPP Kiwala, were MTO senior staff members, Regional Director Kathy Moore, Stewart Jones of marine services, and Tina White, EA project manager . “This meeting is for the public. It offers an opportunity for everyone to be heard, and for the Minister to respond. We all share disappointment about the dry dock delays,” Kiwala said at the outset.
Minister Del Duca in his opening remarks said that he had been well versed on the ferry difficulties, had met with the mayors of the townships involved, and had been to Heddle Marine where he saw the Wolfe Islander III. “In most other town hall meetings I attended outside of Toronto there have been broad transportation issues but of course the primary source of concern and frustration impacting this community and all of the islands, relates to the Ferry Services. I want to let you know that I see it and I feel it. I do understand what you have been through, that there is frustration with what has taken place and a lack of communication from the government about the repairs and upgrades to the Wolfe Islander III and about what has been going on,” he said.
“As you know Sophie and I were at Heddle Marine so I guess your first question will be when is the ferry coming back. You have had dates provided before and those dates have not materialized. What we have been told is that the work on the ferry will be complete and it will be back here, in service, the first week of November.” Del Duca said to clapping, and to groans of disbelief. “I will say this however. There are factors, weather, wind and testing, beyond the ministry’s, Transport Canada’s, or Heddle’s control. None the less I feel optimistic about the first week of November.”
Del Duca talked about the EA process for a second ferry increasing capacity (2017) with a design process could begin in 2016. Regarding a replacement ferry ( i.e. a backup ferry) “we have searched and can’t find one so we are looking for financial approval to build one ( since it wont increase capacity, no EA is required) in two and a half years.”
With that the questions began: ‘Why was the ferry was out of service during the summer? Is there a back up Plan? Will the ferry come back to the village? Why did ferry leave Wolfe Island before the wheel house was built.? What happens if the Frontenac II breaks down? What if the Wolfe Islander does not come back in November? What about the dangers of breaking mooring lines? How about a bridge ? ‘
There were crushing situations presented regarding Amherst Island and use of Quinte Loyalist 18 car ferry (grain losses, milk losses, difficulty getting crops off, ramps to low, side loading, low water levels etc.) Frustration…tears…anger. ‘We don’t trust you.. What are you going to do for us? ‘
There were questions about parking, increasing the number of daily ferry trips, fixing the bubble system and there was even some laughter between the answers.
Minister Del Duca and MTO staff members answered many of the questions, few to the satisfaction of those in attendance but with thanks for the information. And in closing , Mayor Denis Doyle thanked Minister Del Duca, MPP Kiwala, and MTO Senior staff for coming to Wolfe Island.
One final question to you Minister Del Duca, If the ferry is not back the first week of November will you come to Wolfe Island again?
The Minister of Transportation, the Honourable Steven Del Duca, is coming to Wolfe Island. The announcement made by Sophie Kiwala, MPP for Kingston and the Islands, came just days after she and Frontenac Islands Mayor Doyle, Mayor Lowry(Loyalist Township) and Mayor Quaiff Prince Edward County, met with Minister Del Duca to discuss the far reaching impact of being without the Wolfe Islander III (still in dry dock) for all of them, the serious need for a back-up ferry, and the EA to add a larger 2nd ferry for Wolfe Island. “I would like to invite our citizens to do the same,” MPP Kiwala said in a news release. “On Wednesday, October 14th, I am hosting an evening town hall at (Wolfe Island) with special guest Minister Del Duca for members of the public to share their experiences and concerns, ask questions and find out more information about the dry-dock process and the recently announced environmental assessment for a second ferry,” she announced indicating the minister wanted to hear directly from the residents about the challenges faced as a result of the dry dock.
“The Ministry of Transportation regional office and the municipalities have been working together to help alleviate some of the transportation pressures for residents and tourists, and share up-to-date information with our community ,” Kiwala said. “ While this has certainly improved the current situation, I know many commuters still face long line-ups and are worried about access to emergency services.”
Mayor Doyle on hearing the news of the island meeting had this to say. “Given that Minister Del Duca is making a special effort to come to our community, I encourage Islanders to come out and participate . As far as I know this is the first time that a Minister of the Provincial Government has ever come to the Islands to participate in a public meeting to hear feedback directly from all residents , and where hopefully he will announce actions that will be taken,” he said.
FYI- MPP Kiwala said she continues to follow the ferry situation very closely working with the township, the city, the regional MTO office, the Minister's office and islanders to help resolve issues. “I have greatly appreciated islanders patience, understanding, and cooperation,” she said in announcing the meeting to be held Wednesday, Oct. 14th Wolfe Island Community Hall (behind the Town Hall) The time to be confirmed. Shuttle Bus from the ferry to the Town Hall.
2. Frontenac County Warden Denis Doyle meets Federal Candidates running for Office.
The discussion notes, prepared for these meetings, clearly state that the county provides its residents paramedic and long term care, regional planning and economic development and operates the Howe Island Ferry. Economic sustainability and prosperity are strategic goals. For the 2015 election, Frontenac County is covered by the federal ridings of Kingston and the Island, and Lanark-Frontenac-North Kingston.
“County Issues for the candidates consideration are broad themed centering on - Infrastructure- including cellular networks;
health care and social housing, and economy,” Doyle said . “ I have meet with the four major party MP candidates in the Kingston and the Islands riding, Daniel Beals NDP, Andy Brooke Con., Mark Gerrestsen- Lib., and Nathan Townend Green to discuss priorities, and explain what assistance we need from our Federal Government elected representative. With part of the County in the new North Kingston, Frontenac and Lanark, I met with Philippe Archambault-Lib. and sitting Conservative MP Scott Reid thus far. A senior member of County staff joined me at most of the typically one hour meetings.”
“When it comes to infrastructure, 57% of all Canadian infrastructure is owned by municipalities while they raise only 8% of taxes. Gas tax helps but not enough. We need help with aging infrastructure that used to get financial support
from the Federal and Provincial governments, but in recent years this support has been cut back dramatically ,” Doyle continued . “Much has been down loaded to the municipalities, like major responsibility for the Ambulance Service, and Senior Care Homes like Fairmount, and roads, like 95and 96 on Wolfe, and Highway 38 that runs South to North through the County.”
Concerning Local infrastructure issues, the county supports Kingston efforts to secure funding for the Cataraqui River crossing and the expansion of the airport. “We are looking for Federal participation in the WI ferry EA, also for any future bridge to Wolfe Island that may involve CFB Kingston,, and also in enhancing the WI to US under utilized connection .” Doyle is amazed with the enthusiasm and dedication of the candidates. “They understand our local issues and would support our requests. We will plan to meet with the elected MP’s in early November to remind them of our priorities.”
Coming Events: *Lunch Bunch Series at the Wolfe Island United Church Wed. Oct 7th at 11:30 am. ** Bus Stop a play by Wm. Inge Wed. Oct 21st 8 pm Domino Theatre Play proceeds to benefit WI Medical Clinic **WI United Church Turkey Supper Oct. 24th Doors open 4:30pm, Adults $15.00 / under 12 $7.00, 'Take Out' available Craft / Bake Table, Ferry leaves Kingston on the hour -Shuttle service to church available WI Medical Clinic Walk