Category Archives: CarletonDataJournalism2

The Noisiest Ward in Town: Rideau-Vanier

Share

Rideau-Vanier tops the list of noise complaints per year, according to Thamar Spitzer’s analysis of Ottawa 311 service calls. The 3,399 noise complaints in 2016, are four times the average complaints of other wards in Ottawa.

When it comes to reporting noise complaints in the capital, “the city isn’t as effective as it should be,” says Councillor Mathieu Fleury of the Rideau-Vanier ward. “In my mind, it’s very unfortunate.”

Although the number of Ottawa-311 complaint calls, originating from Rideau-Vanier, have gone down this past year, more than two-thirds of these calls were incidents of loud music.

The bylaw says that music that disturbs others between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on a weeknight, 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday until noon, is considered a violation. Violations can also occur as a result of a shouting, musical instruments, radio, TV, dog barking, car alarms, machinery and aircraft noise. A noise level fine in Ottawa can cost anywhere from $400 to $10,000.

(Tamara Spitzer, 2017)

In hopes of reducing the number of Ottawa-311 noise complaint calls, the Town and Gown committee, founded by Fleury, has put pressure on the City of Ottawa. The Town and Gown committee is a joint effort between university students, community members, and local leaders.

The policy change creating a reverse onus situation in Sandy Hill—largely a student community in the Rideau-Vanier ward—has led, “neighbours to be more respectful of one another,” says Fleury. Instead of a bylaw officer filling out a report that a noise complaint ticket was issued, the officer has to file a report stating why there wasn’t a ticket issued if the complaint originates from Sandy Hill.

The Town and Gown committee runs activities during the orientation week when many University of Ottawa students return for the school year. In this year’s Welcome Week Walkabout, Fleury and his team knocked on over 200 residence doors for what Fleury says is an early warning system.

“It gives an opportunity for the advisers to speak to students,” says Fleury. “To get them to understand the importance of maintaining a high quality of life for an area.”

How much is too much noise? (City of Ottawa, 2017)

The committee which was founded five years ago, launched a noise complaint website that, “more effectively tracks and facilitates noise complaints,” says Fleury. The ‘Noise in Sandy Hill’ website has been up for almost a year now and caters to residents that have already called Ottawa-311.

Fleury says it’s a double-sided coin. While community efforts to reduce noise pollution have been considerably successful, “there is a higher risk factor by some residents in reporting the noise,” he says.

“You can only call so many times before you become the problem,” says Christian Marcoux, a reporter for Perspectives Vanier. “I’m clueless as to why there has been a decrease in noise complaints,” he says.

Marcoux, who’s been working in the ward for the past 15 years, says, that the luxury of complaining about loud music existed only when the ward was safer.

Suggesting that there’s a correlation between noise and crime, Marcoux says, “You might not complain about the noise if you got a drug dealer on your corner or an arsonist in the community.”

To compare to a few other wards, West-Carleton-March is the quietest area, with a mere 107 noise complaints, 97 per cent less than that of Rideau-Vanier. Kanata South had 401 noise complaints and Alta Vista had 666.

 

 

Graffiti complaints on the decline in Ottawa

Share

“In The Glebe, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada” by Hodnett Canoe is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Complaints about graffiti in Ottawa are on the decline according to an analysis of the city’s service requests data.

As of August 2017, the dataset shows complaints are down nearly 50 per cent from 2014, or by a total of 239 complaints.

According to the data, complaints reach a yearly spike between April and June, while colder months like January see as few as eight complaints compared to 73 seen in June last year.

The City of Ottawa defines graffiti on its website as the “etching, painting or placing of a mark on public or private property”. Whether on public or private property, graffiti is an act of vandalism under the city’s graffiti management bylaw and vandals can face fines of $615.

City Council enacted the Graffiti Management By-law 2008-1 which makes placement of graffiti a bylaw violation as opposed to dealing with vandals under the Criminal Code.

Charge for graffiti under the code is “mischief under or over $5,000”. Graffiti vandals may be subject to additional community service hours and or criminal charges that could result in a criminal record.

City bylaw manager Roger Chapman said in an email statement that the majority of graffiti-related complaints involve tagging, which is writing or painting an identifiable symbol or “tag”.

Chapman attributes the decline in complaints to the prompt removal efforts and prevention initiatives, such as the Mural Program, which he says has proven effective in discouraging graffiti vandalism.

He says prompt cover-up or removal of graffiti is the most effective method of combating the problem because vandals want their work to be seen, so if graffiti is removed quickly, future acts are discouraged. The sooner graffiti removal is attempted, the easier and more effective it is.

The Mural Program works to discourage unsolicited graffiti while promoting arts and culture within the city. As a part of the program, art professionals can apply to design mural projects, which are large-scale wall paintings on designated underpasses across the city.

The City of Ottawa also has three legal graffiti walls which are free spaces where graffiti is permitted and encouraged.

Albert Street Education Centre Retaining Wall located 422 Slater Street is one of the city’s legal graffiti walls.

Sandy Hill resident Hannah Kim says, “When I see graffiti, I see it as a form of art, not vandalism.”

Sandy Hill is part of Ottawa’s Rideau-Vanier ward, which also covers most of the ByWard Market, Lowertown and Vanier neighbourhoods and sees the highest amount of graffiti complaints across the city annually.

Kim says the graffiti doesn’t bother her as she feels it adds to the urban feel of the community.

“Coming from a city like Toronto, I really like the vibe and the vibrancy that the art pieces bring to my neighbourhood,” she adds.

Kim says the only time when she would make a complaint about graffiti would be if the vandalism propagated hate speech. “I don’t want to see that kind of stuff in my community because I feel like it just brings down the whole morale,” she adds.

Ottawa’s most recent case of hate-motivated graffiti happened during November last year, when a teen vandalized two synagogues, a mosque, a Jewish prayer house and church with racist slurs and symbols like swastikas with red paint.

Kim says incidents like this although rare would in fact deter her from living in such areas as a woman of colour.

Chapman says community members play a vital role in keeping their neighbourhoods graffiti free. When residents see graffiti, they are encouraged to report it by calling 3-1-1 or report the incidents online. Due to the sensitive nature of hate graffiti, the city urges residents report incidents by calling in immediately.

Ottawa public pool health inspections rarely pass without any infractions

Share

More than 700 health inspections for recreational pools across Ottawa were conducted in the last six years, but only two have successfully passed without a single violation, according to an analysis of data from the Ottawa Public Health records.

The discomforting percentage represents the total of Ottawa pools found in spas, hotels, apartments and City facilities that did comply with the Ontario public pool legislation.

The success rate is closer to zero than even 0.01 per cent.

“Health inspectors will determine if the infraction is deemed a health hazard, meaning it poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public by causing risk of potential drowning or exposure to water-borne illness,” said Michelle Goulet, a public health inspector with the Ottawa Public Health.

Although heath inspectors can close pools if there are too many or extreme violations present, closures are rare.  From January 2011 to September 2017, a total of 713 health inspections did not pass inspections without at least one checkbox unchecked.

The Brookstreet hotel in Kanata, a staple known for hosting touring celebrities, is among the top two pool amenities with the largest number of health inspection violations.

When asked about their 67 infractions, the hotel declined to comment. Kanata’s Holiday Inn also refused to be interviewed about their health inspection history.

It takes approximately six years to get to Jupiter by spacecraft. In that timeframe, both the Brookstreet Hotel and the Holiday Inn locations would not be one of the two successful inspections, according to the Ottawa Public Health’s data.

“People leave messes,” said Kurtis Baker, a maintenance helper at the Richcraft Recreation Complex in Kanata.

An infraction can be inadequate pool rules signage, incorrect chlorine levels and even lousy air supply. While legislation and policies vary between different kinds of pools, employees may be responsible for weekly, monthly or quarterly ‘check ups’ of the building as well.

“If we didn’t do any of our assigned duties, we’d probably have diseases running through the changerooms just because our presence isn’t there,” Baker said. “There’s snacks on the floor, there’s footprints, there’s boogers—there’s everything sitting on the floor.”

Kurtis Baker, one of Richcraft’s maintenance helper. Photo by Christine Vezarov.

These behind-the-scenes staff carry a heavy load of responsibility. If basic duties are left unnoticed, like daily administration paperwork— the most common infraction in the city— facilities suffer on public record.

“Logging our hours is mandatory proof that we’re doing our work,” said Baker. “We’re doing preventative maintenance—not maintenance after the fact— but we’re trying to prevent a problem.”

During Baker’s interview, he was the only maintenance employee on site. Three staff called in sick, one had a flat tire, so he was left with an entire team’s duties for multiple hours.

Having worked at multiple City of Ottawa facilities, the 26-year-old has been a part of various teams with different levels of training, operating methods and experience.

“At the end-of-night cleaning, it’s hot, you’re working hard, it’s fast-paced,” Baker said, sitting up straighter in his chair. “It’s aggravating when you see someone go back to the office and sit on their phone for ten minutes.”

The biggest source of tension for Baker and his colleagues has been teamwork and initiative on following through with delegated maintenance duties.

“It’s easier [for someone to pick up a mop] instead of getting in there and scrubbing toilets,” he said.

Of course, all this happens away from the public eye.

“This is a job where you don’t really get a pat on the back from patrons,” Baker said. “You get the stick not the carrot, but you just do it because it’s your job.”

 

-30-

Cover photo by Christine Vezarov.

Noisy festivals a cause of complaints for Ottawa’s core

Share
Festivals like Bluesfest are held annually in Somerset Ward and contribute to the overall noise complaints in the area, according to residents. (Source: Bluesfest.ca)

Residents of Ottawa’s core continue to be the source of most complaints for noisy festivals in the city, according to data compiled by Ottawa 3-1-1.

Somerset Ward, which encompasses the neighbourhoods of Downtown Ottawa, Centretown, and Lebreton Flats, was the source of 38 per cent of festival-related noise complaints made to Ottawa 3-1-1 — the highest of any other ward in the city.

Most of the calls, the 2016 data shows, were made in the height of the summer, during prominent music festivals like RBC Bluesfest and the electronic music festival Escapade, both of which are held at Lebreton Flats.

But noise disruptions due to these big ticket festivals, especially Bluesfest, have been decreasing over the last few years, according to Somerset Ward resident Jacob Billingsley.

“Admittedly, it used to be a lot worse,” Billingsley, who lives on Walnut Court, in front of Albert Street, said. “[A few years ago] my windows were shaking, you can hear the music loud and clear from my living room and it was quite disruptive.”

Billingsley said Bluesfest has since changed their stage set-up, having them face away from dense residential neighbourhoods around the area. This change was made after a lot residents complained to the city, he added.

The festival has also enforced a stricter 11:00 p.m. curfew on artists as a result of residents’ complaints, he said.

However, a decent amount of noise continues to be a reality of living in Somerset Ward, and music festivals can get especially loud at night when concert-goers are heading home, Billingsley said.

“It’s never bothered me personally,” he said. “But I can sympathize with the parents [in the area] who have to put little kids to bed when the music is really loud . . .  I can see that being really frustrating.”

According to the City of Ottawa, there is a spike in noise-related complaints following big sporting events and concerts due to spectators moving to entertainment districts or private parties.

However, the city said in a report released earlier this year that “most festivals are recurring annual events that are expected and accepted within the community,” and therefore the number of calls has dwindled over the years.

According to the city’s website, festival planners are required to submit an noise-bylaw exemption application to the city prior to their event. However, there are restrictions, including an 11-day limit on festivals and a curfew of 11 p.m., no exceptions, from Sunday to Thursday.

While Somerset Ward is the source of the highest number of complaints for festivals, data from 2014 to 2016 shows it is  second to Rideau-Vanier for overall noise complaints in the city, where calls are more frequently made for general music and shouting. Capital ward, located just south of Downtown Ottawa, comes in third.

Despite living in one of the loudest areas in Ottawa, Billingsley has made Somerset Ward his home for almost 10 years, and the area has its perks due to close proximity to the O-Train and Ottawa’s downtown core.

“The benefits of this location far out weigh the noise levels . . .  the concerts add background noise, but you only really notice it if you pay attention.” Billingsley said.

In their noise bylaw report released this year, the city acknowledges “cultural and economic” benefits to the growing number of festivals in the city. The city has also considered extending the curfew for Landsdowne Park in Capital Ward, as more events and festivals are moving to the area.

Construction in urban Ottawa neighbourhood leads to higher water quality complaints

Road construction takes place on Scott St. in Kitchissippi. The ward’s councillor says the high number of road renewals is likely causing more residents to complain about water quality. // Salma Mahgoub

Residents within a municipal boundary west of Ottawa’s downtown core filed the most complaints about water quality in 2016, according to an analysis of data the city uses to track service requests.

Kitchissippi was the source of 73 out of 328 complaints related to water odour, taste, and discolouration—that’s more than double the number of complaints made in any other ward that year.

Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper says the few calls his office receives about water quality are generally related to construction projects, particularly road renewals.

“Our ward has some very old streets,” says Leiper, “so I think we’re seeing more renewal projects than the rest of the city, which would then lead to more complaints.”

The City of Ottawa’s map of planned constructions projects shows most are concentrated in urban areas than in suburbs, where generally less water quality complaints are made.

Leiper says when a road renewal takes place, workers will install temporary water services. Residents’ tap water may run brown for a few minutes when the system starts operating, which he says can cause some to make a complaint.

Urban wards make up the top five neighbourhoods with the highest number of complaints.

If residents complain about water quality to the City’s 311 phone service, staff can direct them to the water department, which may dispatch first responders to test their water quality.

But those cases are rare, says Stephanie, who works for Ottawa 311 and did not wish to provide her full name.

“We just ask that the callers keep running the cold water for some time and it ends up clearing out,” she says. “It’s very rare that we actually have to attend.”

She also says some complaints are related to construction, which may involve a watermain break that can cause air bubbles to change the colour of the water.

Despite the higher number in complaints, Leiper says he has no reason to believe that Kitchissippi has any problems with drinking water.

“The water quality is excellent, but with some of the city projects where we put people on temporary water, I think that sometimes kicks off a number of calls.”

Leiper, who is also a member of the City’s environment and climate protection committee, says he regularly reviews reports monitoring water quality.

“What I’ve seen is that the City’s water quality is excellent and I am not concerned about it at all.”

Kitchissippi resident Taleb Almansoori says he’s not concerned about the quality of his drinking water either, even with a few construction projects starting on his street.

“I never encountered any problems, even before that,” he says.

The ward is home to one of two water purification plants that clean water extracted from the Ottawa River before it is delivered across the city to homes and businesses.

Leiper says he pays close attention to reports on the quality of drinking water treated and distributed from the Lemieux Island water purification plant, which met provincial and federal standards in 2016.

“Water is something I take really, really seriously. It is fundamentally the most important service that we provide.”

Quality Inn Orleans has the highest number of public health infractions of any hotel in Ottawa

Share
(Photo| Marina Wang)

Quality Inn Orleans in northeastern Ottawa has the highest number of public health infractions of any hotel in the city, according to an analysis of data from Ottawa Public Health. Between February 2012 and October 2017, the two-star hotel had a total of 131 public health infractions.

The majority of the infractions pertained to the hotel’s pool and hot tub. The most common types of infractions included not signing or completing daily records, not maintaining required chlorine or pH levels, and not having well maintained emergency and first aid equipment, as outlined by Regulation 565 under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Inspections by Ottawa Public Health are done on both a routine and complaint basis to ensure that facilities comply “with safety and injury prevention standards, as well as to reduce the risk of waterborne illness,” according to their website. Pool regulations prevent the growth and spread of illness-causing bacteria such as E. coli and Shigella.

Quality Inn Orleans, a branch of the Choice Hotels franchise, offers guests a continental breakfast and has had 17 infractions pertaining to their food services. Infractions include not using thermometers to verify food preparation and storage temperatures, and improper kitchen sanitation.

The number of infractions peaked in 2016, with a total of 56. However, as of October 2017, the number of infractions decreased to 18. Farzana Reza, General Manager at Quality Inn, said that last year they had issues with one of the pool’s pumps. “Everything has been replaced, everything is now fine,” she said. “I don’t think we had any major issues.”

The hotel has a rating of 3 out of 5 on TripAdvisor and ranks #61 out of 68 hotels in Ottawa, according to the travel website. “The general disregard for cleanliness, safety and comfort will make your homecoming all the more special,” reads one review from October 2017. Other poor reviews have commented on inadequate front desk service, dirty rooms, and the pool and hot tub temperature being too cold.

Other guests have found their stays satisfactory. Melissa Levy, who recently stayed at the hotel for a business trip, said her room wasn’t ready after her late arrival, but hotel staff then quickly prepared her room. “The room was nice–not the fanciest but had everything you needed and a very comfortable bed,” said Levy. “The hot tub was great, but the pool’s a little cold and shallow for my liking.” Levy also said that the receptionist was “amazing”.

Keith Bonnell, a Carleton University student who occasionally stays with his father at the hotel, stayed for four nights in October and has been in three different rooms over his previous visits. “It really depends,” said Bonnell “In some rooms, some things are falling apart, but the room we have now is good.” Of the three rooms he’s been in, one had a faulty bathroom door lock and a chair was “falling apart”.

“It’s a good hotel,” said Bonnell. “I think the reason why we keep coming back here is because it’s cheap.” Quality Inn Orleans costs around $114 per night.

 

 

Kid’s Kingdom has most violations since 2016

Share

Kid’s Kingdom has had the most health code violations in the past two years compared to any other daycare and playground facility in Ottawa according to the Ottawa Public Health (OPH) website.

Since their opening in November 2014, the OPH has found Kid’s Kingdom in violation of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The act sets the food and health standards throughout Ottawa businesses.

The violations range from non-critical to critical, with critical posing immediate health risks and non-critical meaning the infractions pose minimal health risks.

Meaghan Burgess is the supervisor at Kid’s Kingdom and says standards are strict, especially when you’re dealing with children and parents.

The Kid’s Kingdom kitchen, which provides lunch for daycare attendees and catering for parties, has the same standards as any other restaurant. Burgess says they have regular inspections occurring every three to six months.

Of the 18 violations, 16 are related to food preparation and handling. Critical issues included the contamination and adulteration of food during the serving process and improper storage of food equipment. One semi-critical bylaw that was also broken was in regard to utensils that were not stored in a way to prevent contamination.

“In the past, when there has been an issue of violation,” says Burgess, “The health inspector provides a compliance list of everything she observed. She’ll then give us a recommendation of how to go forward and a date to come in compliance with it.”

In order to address the violations and continue being approved for operation, Burgess has to document the steps taken to comply with OPH standards. “This could mean taking pictures or video evidence and then sending them to the inspector,” she says.

To further help meet these standards, Kid’s Kingdom has hired kitchen staff that work with Burgess to plan menus that follow the Canadian Food Guide.

Jumping Squirrel Ottawa, another children’s party venue in Ottawa, has had only two violations in the past two years.

Top Six Violating Children’s Venues/Daycares

Monica Carcary, a former employee at Jumping Squirrel Ottawa echoes Burgess’ sentiments. “We host tons of parties; the kitchen staff were all trained by our corporate office so they follow very strict rules and regulations.”

Carcary also mentions her manager’s attention to detail saying, “He walks around multiple times on his shift checking kitchen equipment and at night we have huge checklists we follow before closing.”

Burgess’ biggest concern with food is allergies and preferences. In the event that a child has allergies or food restrictions, she books a joint meeting with the parents and cook to ensure satisfaction and safety. “Beyond our philosophy of cleanliness, safety and guest service is that we meet and implement the requests of the parents. Consistency is key. Every parent is different and we accommodate them.”

Leila Mandlsohn, a mother of two, says her children are at that age where every week there’s a new birthday to celebrate. She says it can be great because it means they have something to do on the weekend but the venues are a “breeding ground for sickness.”

“Just last year,” she says, “My older son Jacob went to a party and the next day he had the flu. The following day my other son Adrien caught it and then me.”

“I’m always a little worried about these places because how often are they cleaning the play structures,” she says. “Luckily my children don’t have any allergies, so I’m not too concerned about the food, only that it’s cooked.”

As of August 21, 2017, Kid’s Kingdom was found in compliance with the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Burgess says they will continue to do their best to meet Ottawa Public Health Standards.

 

 

Ottawa restaurants are failing to protect food from contamination

Share

Some of the most common violations committed by Ottawa food establishments during public health and food safety inspections included failure to protect food from contamination and failing to use thermometers to check cooking temperatures, according to an analysis of the City of Ottawa’s inspection data.

Food establishments most frequently violated a maintenance bylaw, meaning the food premises weren’t kept in clean and good condition. Second on the list was failing to keep equipment in the right condition, while the third was not holding foods at the right temperatures, whether it was reheating or freezing food items.

The fourth most common violation though was not being able to protect food from contamination. City inspectors found that a total of 757 food establishments from 2015 to 2017 were found to be “not in compliance” with the bylaw set out in Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotions Act. Each violation is considered either critical, semi-critical, or non-critical. According to the OPH website, failure to protect food from contamination is considered a critical violation, along with other infractions like not storing food at the right temperatures, or not ensuring the hand wash station is used only for hand washing.

 

Number of Businesses in Violation of Each Bylaw

Namaste India, a restaurant located in Old Ottawa South, topped the list of highest number of violations for 2016 with eight violations on eight separate occasions, and even requiring enforcement action to be taken on their Dec. 21, 2016, inspection. Inspectors picked up on a range of infractions, like not sanitizing the surfaces of equipment often enough and not using special washing solutions to clean large utensils.

Barbara Smith, a public health inspector with OPH, says that when action is taken, it usually means an inspector has issued a ticket to the restaurant. She says at first, inspectors will give a warning and provide the restaurant the chance to correct the error, but if the problem occurs repeatedly, a fine could be issued.

Meanwhile, Silver Spoon Thai Cuisine in the Carlingwood area has the most infractions for 2017 for food not protected from contamination, with four violations recorded during inspections done this past January, April, May, and the most recent on August 24. During their August inspection, inspectors found that food items were stored too close to the floor and that certain foods weren’t stored at the right temperature.

Both restaurants declined to comment.

Irena Knezevic, a professor at Carleton University who specializes in food and health regulations, says that concern over food safety in restaurants is valid, but that for the most part Ottawans are safe. She says that it is not necessarily hard to meet the rule of protecting food from contamination, but that the criterion is broad.

“I think that individuals often run a greater risk of eating contaminated food at their own homes than in restaurants. We don’t exactly have a torrent of food poisoning incidents in Ottawa, and these violations indicate that establishments are being scrutinized, or else they would not be ‘caught.’”

Generally, Knezevic considers eating out to be safe in Ottawa and that a violation may not be as critical as it sounds.

Smith agrees that the bylaw is written broadly, as it is meant to protect food from a variety of potential contamination causes because there are so many factors to consider in restaurants.

Emily Reed, a Carleton University student, is wary of the food safety in some Ottawa restaurants after suffering from a food poisoning incident several years ago while eating out. She is glad to hear that restaurants are being inspected often by the City and that they are catching errors.

“As a customer,” she says, “I’m definitely reassured.”

Dog bites on the rise in Ottawa

Share
By the end of 2017, dog bites in Ottawa are projected to be up by 4% more than in 2016. (Copyright-free image)

Dog bites are becoming an issue in the Rideau-Vanier ward of Ottawa according to the City of Ottawa’s 311 database.

There have been 69 reported 311 calls for dog bites within the Rideau-Vanier ward, which covers most of the ByWard Market and the western part of Vanier. This is the highest total for any ward within the city, edging out Alta Vista who sits in second with 63 calls.

Any owner of a dog who has bitten or attacked someone could face charges under Ottawa By-Law.

That is the situation that Scott Wilson, who had recently moved to Ottawa, found himself in when his Labrador Retriever bit a person who was walking by his Cathcart Street home just north of the ByWard Market.. According to Wilson, a man had approached and greeted his dog who was chained up in his front yard before getting bitten on accident.

“She’s a playful dog and loves attention. I think she just got too excited and accidentally bit down on his hand,” said Wilson.

The bite cut open the man’s hand and as Wilson described “needed nothing more than a Band-Aid.” Unfortunately, it went further than that and Wilson was eventually disciplined for the incident.

To avoid a possible court date, Wilson and the city came to an initial agreement that forced him to use a muzzle on his dog whenever he took it out in public but later the charge was dropped.

“It was overkill, and quite frankly it was embarrassing. He’s a gentle dog and there really was no need for it,” said Wilson on having to use a muzzle.

Wilson’s case was just another statistic added to the alarming amount of 311 calls across the city. Since 2016, there have been 898 calls about dog bites and 369 of those calls have been made in 2017 to this point.

The least number of calls concerning dog bites were Osgoode with 20 and Stittsville with 16. The two wards combined makes up just 52 per cent of the total number of calls that have been reported in the past two years.

Wards with the highest number of dog bites vs. the lowest

Wilson says he can see why the Rideau-Vanier ward has a problem with frequent dog bites. He explained how often he sees dogs unattended on the porches of homes with no leash to contain them at all.

“Add in a high volume area where people often walk instead of drive and you have a problem on your hands,” said Wilson

In terms of discipline, Wilson was let off easy as the city’s by-laws get much stricter based on the severity of the bite.

According to the Ontario Dog Owner’s Liability Act if a dog were to attack a person the owner may have to pay a fine to help their recovery from any injuries. Other resolutions may involve posting signs warning of a vicious dog or even building a fence around the property to contain the dog.

Ottawa’s Animal Care and Control By-Law states that in cases of serious attacks or bites, a dog may be seized and “destroyed” or in other words put down.

Complaints about potholes on the rise

Share

Complaints about potholes in Ottawa this year have already exceeded the number of complaints made in 2016, according to an analysis of the city’s monthly service requests data.

The analysis shows that between January and August of 2017, over 27,000 residents called the city’s 311 line to complain about “road travelled surface,” more than 5,000 the number last year and more than double the number in 2015. According to the city, most of these calls are about potholes and other concerns about the quality of roads.

Calls to 311 about potholes between January and August 2017 were more than double the number in all of 2015.

 

Potholes are also the most common reason for 311 calls across all 24 of Ottawa’s municipal wards. However, two wards stand out for the high number of complaints. Residents of River Ward and Alta Vista Ward have called 311 about the quality of roads about 20 per cent more than any other this year.

“It doesn’t mean there are more potholes in River Ward than any other ward,” River Ward Councillor Riley Brockington said. “It just means my residents are maybe more active at calling them in.”

In fact, Brockington said he encourages his constituents to call 311 when they come across potholes during their commute. By reporting them to 311, Brockington said the potholes get logged by the city and prioritized when it comes time to fill them in.

Between January and June of 2017, the city filled over 195,000 potholes, according to Luc Gagné, director of roads and services for the City of Ottawa. That’s an increase of more than 20,000 compared to the same time last year.

Residents in River Ward and Alta Vista Ward placed about 20 per cent more complaints about potholes than any other ward.

 

Brockington blames the number of potholes on the weather. “Last year the winter was brutal,” he said. There were about 80 days last winter when the city experienced a “freeze-thaw,” when the temperature swings from above zero to below zero, according to Brockington.

Although it’s true that the repeated melting and freezing of water over the winter can contribute to potholes by widen existing cracks in the pavement, that’s not the only reason for potholes, according to Carleton Professor of Transportation Engineering Abd El Halim.

Potholes form over time after water trickles into cracks in the pavement and then freezes, according to Abd El Halim. (Photo licensed under CC BY 3.0.)

El Halim said he thinks cities such as Ottawa have the wrong approach to paving roads in the first place, leading to serious problems down the line. The steel rollers that Ottawa uses to pave roads leave hairline fractures in the pavement, similar to the cracks that appear in pastry dough after being rolled out, according to El Halim.

Once these initial cracks are created, El Halim said it’s easy for water to trickle in, freeze, expand and, after repeated cycles of thawing and freezing, create the potholes that Ottawa residents complain so often about.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “We landed a small machine on Mars a few million kilometres away from Earth, and until now we can’t solve a problem that’s two metres away from our houses.”

However, El Halim also said he has a solution. He calls it AMIR, and it’s an alternative to the asphalt rollers used in most cities. Instead of using a steel roller, El Halim said AMIR uses a rubber belt that prevents cracks during the paving process.

Abd El Halim says he has been working AMIR, an alternative to steel asphalt rollers, for over three decades. (Photo provided by Abd El Halim.)

“I’m a taxpayer before I’m a researcher. … I don’t want to pay taxes that go down the drain,” El Halim said. “But I’m also a researcher, so I can find the solution, which I am doing now.”

Although El Halim said he’s encouraged the city to change their paving process, so far AMIR has been limited to test runs. “People sometimes are afraid of the new,” he said.

However, for councillors such as Brockington, the focus remains on resolving the concerns of constituents.  He said he’s been lobbying the city to direct more funding to repair potholes in the next budget cycle.