Sidewalk back as item in town budget

Duane Hicks

Town council may consider installing a sidewalk along Keating Avenue, from the entrance of J.W. Walker School to First Street West, but it will depend on several puzzle pieces falling into place first.
The request for the sidewalk came from local resident Merv Ahrens as one of a series of 2019 budget suggestions he had for council–all of which were based on the safety of children and pedestrians in general.
The cost of the sidewalk is estimated to be $65,000. The town is hoping to split that cost with the public school board and possibly the separate school board, which is building a new school nearby, but has no commitments as this point.
The town’s Traffic Safety Committee also requested the same sidewalk in 2014 when the “Kiss ‘N Ride” program first was being implemented.
Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob noted this block is not an easy one to install a sidewalk on as all of the utility poles down this stretch would have to be relocated to make room for it.
“We don’t have room to go behind the poles and we don’t have room to go in front of the poles, so that means we would have to relocate all of those poles in order to fit a sidewalk,” he explained.
The cost of moving the poles is included in the $65,000 cost estimate.
Another issue with the sidewalk is drainage.
“The front yards [on the block] are very flat, if not sloping back towards the properties,” Rob noted. “And so to put a proper sidewalk in there, you’re creating a dam, holding the water onto the private properties.”
Coun. Wendy Brunetta said the safety issue for the school children is a top priority for her.
“If you’ve ever been around that area when school is going in or getting out, it’s just ridiculous in terms of traffic congestion and little people walking on the roads,” she noted.
“It just seems irresponsible.”
The fact that a sidewalk would create a water dam is, to her, at least partly the town’s fault.
“We give those people grades to build their homes and obviously the grade wasn’t set properly if it’s running towards their home instead of away from their home,” Coun. Brunetta stressed.
“In a way, we are responsible for some of the issues that are arising,” she remarked. “We are allowing schools to be put in there and no sidewalks for people to access them.
“We’re allowing an addition and a larger school at the end of the road where, again, there’s no sidewalks to get to them, and again, I feel that’s partly our responsibility,” Coun. Brunetta added.
She noted she would like to examine the sidewalk issue further, whether it’s with school board involvement or not.
Ahrens’ other budget requests included a chain link fence installed along the front of Legion Park to prevent children using the park from rushing onto the busy highway.
Coun. Michael Behan said that at the Operations and Facilities executive meeting’s discussion of the topic, Coun. John McTaggart had suggested a hedge instead of a fence, noting it would “be more aesthetically pleasing” than a chain link fence and address the safety aspect at the same time.
The fence, which would have to be four feet tall in accordance with the town’s fence bylaw, would cost an estimated $22,000.
The hedge option would cost about half that much, Rob noted.
Ultimately, the majority of council decided against the fence and hedge ideas as they felt it was not necessary.
Ahrens also had asked for pedestrian “countdown” traffic signals be installed at the intersections of Keating Avenue and Central Avenue.
Council removed these from the budget as the former intersection just got a new controller installed while the latter upgrade already is planned for 2021.
Ahrens’ request for a sidewalk along King’s Highway from Webster Avenue to First Street West also was denied, as was a suggested crosswalk at Tim Hortons.
The former would cost $23,000, require the approval of abutting property owners, and be an additional ongoing winter and summer maintenance cost to the town while the latter probably would not be permitted by the Ministry of Transportation (as it is, the crosswalk at McDonald’s, which never was approved by the MTO in the first place, may be deemed unacceptable and have to be removed).
Meanwhile, council approved a donation of $7,500 to the “Fun the in the Sun” committee for fireworks (this is the same amount that was donated last year).
As in the past, fireworks co-ordinator Dave Coats, who submitted the budget request, also will pursue other funding avenues to pay for the patriotic pyrotechnics.
Council also discussed a budget request from resident Amy Marchuk, who again asked that the town resurface Elizabeth Street West between Cornwall Avenue North and York Avenue, which also should include curb and guttering.
Ultimately, council agreed with shelving the work until the road is due for reconstruction under the town’s forthcoming updated asset management plan.
In a report from Rob, he noted that road will get resurfaced only once the water and sewer pipes beneath them also are replaced at the same time. One grave concern of his is that this street, along with quite a few others in town, contains a ductile iron watermain with two-bolt connections.
This type of watermain is susceptible to failure, particularly when you start disturbing the ground around it.
The watermain likely would fail simply due to the action of compacting the road base prior to applying the surface treatment. As such, the pipe would have to be replaced and then the new road surface installed.
Rob also noted there are other roads in town in more dire need of reconstruction. The aforementioned new asset management plan will be a “guidance document” to help the town priorize which roads, among other assets, need fixing and how soon.
Council also turned down a request from resident Andrea Avis for more street lights on Fifth Street West.
Rob noted there are no standards for the level to which a road must be lit and the town strives to provide consistent lighting to all roadways.
And as reported in yesterday’s Bulletin, council also denied a budget request from resident Randy Thoms to reopen the north-end ice rink this winter, but decided to keep the rink intact just in case they decided to re-open it in the future.
The aged rink shack will be demolished.

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