Deschênes Ward: Update from city councillor Mike Duggan
Just over half-way through his first mandate as Deschênes district councillor, Mike Duggan has been pleased with the sector’s development, dubbing it “a bloody success”.
Elected in 2017, following four years representing the Lucerne district, Duggan’s priorities included initiatives aimed to improve life in the entire Aylmer sector, while respecting the area’s heritage and the environment. “We have to modernize,” he said, “but we need to respect the heritage and how do you marry those two together?”
Among his most important priorities was to “rethink and reconstruct” the Marina’s Pavilion, which is already underway. Duggan explained that the new pavilion’s construction has been completed and that the next step is to find an entrepreneur to open a restaurant.
Expected to open this year, the pavilion will likely provide a variety of services including watersport equipment rentals, Duggan said.
Along with the pavilion, Duggan’s mandate prioritized to transform the Parc des Cèdres into a prominent leisure destination.
Last July, Aylmer councillors deposited to city council the Plan directeur d’aménagement et de design du Parc des Cèdres – a plan to renew the marina’s waterfront. Designed to host leisure and aquatic activities year-round, the drawings so far include an outdoor training facility, an artistic entertainment space and a skating trail going through the park during the winter. Still in the planning stages, many of the project’s details remain undetermined. We just have the master plan,” he said. “It’s subject to some changes … It’s going to cost a lot.”
Another priority of Duggan’s was to reconstruct the Lucy-Faris Library at the Place des Pionniers. So far, the city has committed to a $44 million budget for the project, which involves demolishing the entire building and erecting a new one by 2024. A public consultation about the project is planned to take place at the Place des Pionniers on March 21. Despite the discontent of many residents, Place des Pionniers – built in 1987 - is expected to be demolished in the fall of 2021.
Duggan sympathizes with small-business owners on rue Principale worrying about the potential effects of their business sector turning into a construction site. However, he noted that the possible benefits that could emerge once the project is complete will make the street an economically-booming location. “When it’s done, hopefully within two years, it will become a major magnet,” he said.
Another project on Duggan’s priority list included the construction of a multi-ice sportsplex in the Aylmer sector. Duggan explained that the city recently purchased a lot of land west of the Canadian Tire in the Plateau for $11 million and that it’s currently waiting for a tender to land the contract for the facility’s construction.
After the city declared that the Sabourin, Cholette and Guertin arenas weren’t up to modern standards, the Plateau’s sportsplex is intended to replace them. Unlike how such facilities have been operated in Gatineau, the sportsplex will be privately run, by a business or a non-profit organization.
Duggan believes that the private model will be a more effective way of running athletic facilities. “The rinks that we have now are city-run with city staff.… It’s very expensive and, for sport, it’s very hard to justify that level of expense,” he said. “Hockey people can manage the rinks. They’ll do it more efficiently than us.” Expecting it to feature four ice surfaces, Duggan said that the city will likely pay for three while another private company or organization would finance the fourth.
Shovels haven’t hit the ground yet, but Duggan believes that the project can be completed within a year and a half, once it begins.
For core services, Duggan mandated the implementation of effective taxes to subsidize roadwork, clean drinking water infrastructure, enhancement of safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists and reduction of traffic congestion.
Besides road congestion, Duggan said the city has made solid progress. For road maintenance, Duggan said that good things are coming, including an overhaul of chemin Lucerne. “From Vanier up to Frank Robinson, that will be done next year,” he added. “The shoulder is going to be paved for cyclists.”
Ensuring clean drinking water for residents, last May, the city spent $53 million to eliminate yellow water from its distribution system, Duggan said. “It just means getting rid of rusty pipes,” he explained. “Most of them were in my district.”
Duggan also pledged $20,000 to fund different projects in four elementary schools – Rapides-Deschenes, South Hull, l’Ecole Primaire des Cavaliers and Euclide-Lanthier. Some have already benefitted, notably with the construction of a synthetic soccer field, the installation of new play structures and a community garden.
To reduce road congestion and improve safety, Duggan said that the city continues to implement a number of measures such as radars, speed-bumps and additional police surveillance. But he believes an optimal solution for the congestion issue would be for the Societé de Transport de l’Outaouais (STO) to bolster its bus service in the sector and for the city to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate it.
“Add a lane to Allumetières and run buses on it,” he said. “Instead of plugging up Aylmer road and Rivermead. Get people to go on Allumetières and get onto an express bus.”
Against the STO’s $2 billion project of implementing a tramway through chemin d’Aylmer towards the Portage Bridge, Duggan thinks expanding roads to accommodate a fast-and-ready bus service is a more logistically and financially feasible solution for the city.
To benefit the environment, Duggan mandated to preserve and expand the Boucher Forest. While progress proves challenging, Duggan said that he has been working hard to expand the forest’s municipally-owned territory from 54 to 75 per cent. He added that the Fondation de la Forêt Boucher has been hired to plan how the municipally-owned portion of the forest should be managed.
Another recent development includes a new high school – 040 – next to the Centre Aquatique Paul-Pelletier, currently under construction. Expected to open in 2021 and host over 800 students, the school will be of great benefit to the sector’s growing population, Duggan said. “We need schools badly, especially with the École Grande-Rivière way over-capacitated. The Plateau school is underway as well,” he said, “and it’s pretty big.”
For the rest of his mandate, Duggan looks forward to seeing a lot of the Aylmer councillors’ hard work come to fruition. With a number of significant projects set to hit the ground or to see completion, Duggan believes that it’s an exciting time to be an Aylmer resident.
Still set on being attentive to the population’s needs, he invites residents to communicate concerns with him so that he can relay them to the city and, hopefully, make Aylmer better.