Alberton council moves forward on upgrades to rail crossings

The Township of Alberton is moving forward with plans to bring the railway crossings at Watson and Station roads up to code in order to keep them open for public use.
Both crossings have safety issues that were brought to the attention of the council by CN Public Works officer Randy Domstad back at its August meeting.
The Watson Road crossing requires the most work, and already has been closed to traffic while that work is completed.
“The culverts are good. They need to be cribbed up and backfilled about 30 metres on each side,” Coun. Mike Ford noted at last Wednesday night’s council meeting.
Township staff already has installed signage, and will build up the approaches.
Alberton roads manager Larry George estimated the project would cost about $3,500. Coun. Ford noted it could cost as much as $6,000 to close it permanently.
While the work ideally should be done in winter, George said it could be done earlier if the weather is dry.
Domstad asked that council come up with a plan of action by Nov. 1. He said he was prepared to close the crossings if they were not brought up to standards.
At the Station Road crossing, trees obscure the view of the tracks, making it difficult for drivers to see if a train is coming until they are nearly on the tracks.
“Their main concern was just line of sight,” noted George, adding the local snowmobile club has agreed to clear the line of sight.
That crossing will be kept open for snowmachine traffic only.
Coun. Doug Mitchell continued to voice his disapproval for the project.
“I’m still in favour of not doing anything at that crossing,” he said of the Watson Road one. “It’s a road to nowhere. It’s not worth putting the money into it.
“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” he charged.
Council had discussed the pros and cons of repairing the crossings at last month’s meeting.
Coun. Ford noted if they decide to let the crossings close now, the township would have to meet minimum safety requirements in the future should it ever want to re-open them.
Minimum safety standards 20 years from now could include lights and crossing arms, which can cost up to $450,000.
“We’re not repairing that crossing for use. We’re preserving it. Who are we to thwart potential economic development?” Coun. Ford argued at last month’s meeting.
Also at last Wednesday’s meeting, Alberton council voted against contracting out fire dispatch services outside the district.
“Proposed downsizing of the Fort Frances Fire Department has caused the Town of Fort Frances to give notice of termination of fire dispatch services to the municipalities of Alberton, Chapple, La Vallee, Emo, Morley, Dawson, Rainy River, and Lake of the Woods, as well as to Couchiching First Nation, Rainy River First Nation (Manitou Rapids), and the Watten Fire Department.
“And, additionally, notice of termination of alarm monitoring and paging service to Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. in Fort Frances,” the council’s resolution reads.
Alberton council argued that outsourcing the service to outside providers unfamiliar with the district could cause response delays—jeopardizing the safety of residents.
The move also would mean additional radio tower equipment would have to be installed on the two existing towers which serve the west-end communities, at a cost of about $70,000-$80,000.
Alberton council also estimated outsourcing fire dispatch services could result in a cost increase of up to $2 per capita.
As a result, council voted to urge the Town of Fort Frances “to enter into discussions with representatives from each current fire dispatch service recipient, and representatives from Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. if it wishes to participate, with a view to discussing and developing acceptable terms upon which the Fort Frances Fire Department could continue to deliver fire dispatch service.”
Also at last Wednesday’s meeting, Alberton council:
•heard a report from Emergency Management Ontario community officer Dale Smyk on the township’s program for emergency management;
•heard an update from Fire Chief Cory Jewell regarding repairs at the fire hall; and
•debated a proposed Rainy River District Municipal Association resolution banning hunters from shooting along road allowances.