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In-town speeding on Midland council radar again

‘Don’t know if the juice is worth the squeeze,’ says mayor; motion to reduce town residential speeds to 40kph defeated, citing lack of enforcement, cost to replace signs
111919-speed limit 40
(stock photo)

Resident concerns over speeding in Midland have reached the ears of council, but not their wallets.

A notice of motion from Coun. Jim Downer brought the concerns of townsfolk to the recent regular meeting of council, in regards to the frequent issue of excessive speeding within town limits.

“It’s something that we dealt with for the last four years; it was a very contentious item,” began Downer in his explanation. “I hope that this term we do something about it.”

In 2019, the previous term of Midland council approved the town’s transportation master plan, including areas of town where the posted speed limit ranged between 40 to 60 kilometres per hour, with most areas registered at 50 throughout local roads. Arterial roads such as Yonge St., William St., and King St. are set to 50 kilometre per hour limits in town.

“That seems to be one of the biggest beefs in this community is the speed of vehicles in residential sections of the town,” Downer added, pointing to a lack of enforcement as a direct contributor to the issue. “I’d like to see the speed limits reduced on residential streets to 40 kilometres an hour from the present 50. And that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to put in community safety zones in all of those areas, but I think it would go a long way to gain some confidence – at least move in that direction – in this municipality.”

Acting CAO and executive director of environment and infrastructure Andy Campbell expanded on the history, pointing out a decision by last term’s council to reduce Cook Dr. from 50 to 40 kilometres per hour due to resident outcry, despite unwarranted analytics. 

“The biggest challenge with that is: if council approved a 40 reduction for Cook Dr. and it didn’t really fit the traffic calming policy, every request for any other street in town would be in the same situation,” said Campbell.

“Councillor Downer’s comment supports, ‘if you do it for Cook Dr., why not everywhere else?’”

As a suggestion, Campbell noted that a decision to make the whole town a 40 kilometre per hour zone could be an option, but the cost to replace and install new signs reflecting the change could be up to $60,000.

The conversation from council included community safety while balancing the implied costs as Midland heads into 2023 budget discussions. While all council members were sympathetic that “we need to start somewhere” as Coun. Beth Prost stated, a division appeared in the effectiveness of Downer’s proposal.

Coun. Roberta Bald said she would support the motion and provided an anecdote of vehicles travelling over 70 kilometres per hour down King St. on the hill north of Galloway Blvd.

Coun. Bill Meridis held a fiscal point of view. “I’m all for safety, but one issue we have is enforcement on it. If we can’t enforce it, then spending $60,000… Typically, it’s a handful of people that are speeding, but without constant enforcement I don’t see the point.”

The suggestion of speed bumps was raised by Coun. Jamie-Lee Ball, which many on council latched onto; Mayor Bill Gordon noted that they were easy to obtain and affordable, although staff time, installation and maintenance could counter that.

Coun. Sheldon East suggested that the town increase fines for speed limits, prompting several in the chambers to remind East that fines are set by the province through the Highway Traffic Act.

CFO Lindsay Barron additionally noted that the municipality does receive some revenue from fines, but due to the backlog in the court system the amount would be quite reduced from the anticipated intake.

Ten minutes later, East again suggested, “I’m sure the speeders will hate this one. Why don’t we just bump it up to $500 a fine? That’d slow people down real quick.” The response again was a no.

However, the suggestion did bring Gordon to readdress a familiar issue that had surfaced during the election cycle.

“I know – and I’ll probably get shot for saying this – but one of our other financial levers from an enforcement perspective where we do set the fine and we do control enforcement is parking revenues,” said Gordon. “We’ve opted to take one for the team, for the municipality, and forego that.

“So that’s where it gets a little wonky,” he added with a laugh. “That is the one area we can ‘milk the cow’, if you will, but as a community we’ve decided not to do that right now – or at least, we’ve committed to not revisit it for a year.”

Gordon did address several concerns of council on both sides of the enforcement issue, pointing out that Midland was no more deserving of attention than other partners of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment ‘section 10’ police services boards regarding paid extra services. 

“Even if it was free,” said Gordon, “I don’t know that it would really make a difference. The people whose behaviour we’re trying to change don’t care about a sign… or an implied sign in the case of 50, right now. And us spending the money and effort putting signs up around town, I don’t personally believe is going to change that behaviour of our intended target audience.

“I don’t know that this is the answer, but I understand Coun. Downer’s passion for this and where he’s trying to go with it, and that we’ve got to do something and this feels like something. I just don’t know that it’s an effective spend of tax dollars right now.”

Gordon added, “I don’t know if the juice is worth the squeeze with the money we’re going to spend.”

A recorded vote was taken, with the nays of Meridis, MacDonald, Ball, Gordon, and Deputy Mayor Jack Contin defeating the yays of Prost, East, Bald, and Downer in a 4-5 tally.

Of note was a comment Gordon made toward the exploration of automated speed enforcement and traffic cameras upcoming in the council term; previously, Gordon had advocated for the SCRAM surveillance system in the downtown core.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.

Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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