In response to a call for public input on the 2011 budget process, local resident Stan Hoard stepped forward Monday night to recommend town council spend more money on fixing roads in Fort Frances.
But residents can do their part to help the town get government dollars to make repairs by writing letters to the province, said members of council and town administration.
Hoard, who has made presentations to council about the bad condition of the roads in the past, said Scott Street is deplorable.
“Coming off the overpass, just past the water treatment plant, the highway is terrible in the right lane. It’s terrible,” he stressed.
Turning west onto Scott Street, it also is in very bad condition, Hoard added, with heaves and dips in the road by the White Pine Inn and further west.
“If people behind me expect me to do 30 miles an hour, it’s not safe to do 30 miles an hour through those holes and dips,” he remarked.
Hoard said most visitors who come here use Scott Street, and it’s “bad for Fort Frances to have drive on that condition of road.”
He added those travelling from the east to west ends of town will find neither Scott Street nor Second Street to be in good condition, and they need to be addressed.
“People in Fort Frances are getting very upset with the roads in Fort Frances, I can tell you that,” Hoard said.
Deputy Mayor Sharon Tibbs said the reconstruction of Scott Street, from Reid Avenue to Colonization Road East, as well as asphalt patching on Colonization Road East, has been included in a five-year capital plan the town is submitting to the Ministry of Transportation.
But she added funding for the reconstruction of Scott Street has been denied for the past two years, and whether the town gets that money this time remains up in the air.
“The funding has been turned down, but the road still has to be maintained,” Hoard argued. “That is the responsibility of the department of highways.
“I know in the past, going up to Dryden, I complained about the road [and] they called me.
“It wasn’t that long after the road was fixed.
“Why can’t the town go after the department of highways and say, ‘We’ve got a road that’s in bad condition?’” Hoard asked.
Deputy Mayor Tibbs said council is aware there are many roads that need to be fixed, and is trying hard to upgrade the total infrastructure of those roads, including the sewer and water pipes underneath.
She added such reconstruction projects are very expensive, and that the town applies to senior levels of government for funding because the town “cannot possibly do them without their help.”
She also noted when Mayor Roy Avis and councillors go out of town for conferences, they have been meeting with ministers every chance they get to reiterate the fact the town needs funding for these important road projects.
“We will take your comments, Mr. Hoard, into consideration,” the deputy mayor said.
“You have pointed out some areas and we will take a look, budget-wise, to see if there’s something we can do to help.”
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown noted the town has prepared a five-year plan for the MTO which includes the following projects:
•the reconstruction of Scott Street (from just east of Reid Avenue to Colonization Road East), a project initially tendered by the town back in January, 2009;
•asphalt patching on the west lane of Colonization Road East from Second Street to Fifth Street;
•asphalt patching on the west lane of Mill Road from the Eighth Street intersection to the School Road intersection; and
•asphalt patching on King’s Highway from just east of the Wright Avenue intersection to 100 metres east of the York Avenue intersection.
Brown explained the “Connecting Link” funding, which sees the province paying 90 percent of the cost of a project and the town the remaining 10 percent, is crucial to the town being able to afford these big jobs.
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig noted that paying for gaps in infrastructure is a problem for municipalities all across Canada. And unless there’s some program to give the town some money, some projects are “almost impossible to do.”
Citing just how expensive these projects are, McCaig said it would cost the town almost $7 million to tear up Fifth Street from Portage Avenue to Wright Avenue, replace the sewer and water piping, and rebuild the road.
“To try and get that [$7 million] out of our taxation or incur long -term debt, that’s a pretty hard pill to swallow in this day and age,” he remarked.
“We’ve got to look for these grant programs, look for these funding partners like the provincial or federal government, or they’re just not going to get done.
“Your tax dollars have to be so many things now that they didn’t have to be before,” McCaig added. “The government of the day backed the truck up here and downloaded a bunch of stuff to the front door.
“There’s a lot of things that your tax dollar does that it didn’t do 20 years ago when we were more in the road repairing business.”
Brown, meanwhile, stressed council has been lobbying for dollars, but that the town is competing with others for “Connecting Link” dollars.
“We compete against other ‘Connecting Link’ roads that go through municipalities in Ontario,” he explained. “There was $16 million divvied up last year.
“We never got one penny.”
Brown advised that local residents like Hoard should complain to the provincial government about the roads, as well as talk to their MPP to keep the issue front and centre.
“We want to do the roads,” he said. “We have our 10 percent, we need the 90 percent from the other government.”
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft told Hoard that council hears what he’s saying, and they’ll continue to “beat the government,” but added “when citizens write letters in response, that helps us, too. . . .
“Don’t be afraid to write letters and get your friends and relatives write letters, too,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft added.
“The only reason why I am here is . . . I wanted to make a little bit of noise about it and make sure that it’s going to be addressed at some point,” Hoard replied.
The public can send messages to Transportation minister Kathleen Wynne on the Internet by visiting www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/feedback/minister.shtml
They also can write her a letter at the Ministry of Transportation, Corporate Correspondence Unit, 3rd Floor, Ferguson Block, 77 Wellesley St. W., Toronto, Ont., M7A 1Z8.