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Tay councillor 'infuriated' at stalled Port McNicoll sidewalk project

'It infuriates me that that job cannot be done by anybody in this whole wide world. It blows me away,' says Coun. Sandy Talbot, expressing her frustration about the delay
Coun. Sandy Talbot expressed her frustration at the continued deferral of a sidewalk construction project for 7th Avenue in Port McNicoll. Mehreen Shahid/MidlandToday

A Port McNicoll sidewalk project that staff wants to defer until next year hit a sour note with a Tay councillor.

"I really am still struggling with this," said Coun. Sandy Talbot addressing the staff recommendation contained in a report listing operational department tasks and priorities. "This has been in the books for years. Last year, the money was given to the roads department for road development. The thing for me is you put things on the back burner and then you have to play catch up next year."

Talbot said during Wednesday's council meeting that as far as she could remember the township has always contracted out sidewalk projects.

"I know this council was trying to get our staff to learn how to do these tasks," she said. "You can't tell me there's nobody out there that can't build a sidewalk. I really think that the scope of the work is not a lot. We must have people that build sidewalks in our municipality, regardless if we don't have a manager of public works."

Talbot said she was concerned for the safety of residents in that neighbourhood if the Seventh Avenue project isn't completed now.

"The people of this community and the residents that walk their dogs and the children that go up to our community centre need to walk on our road, because we as a township do not have a sidewalk that gets them safely to that place. It infuriates me that that job cannot be done by anybody in this whole wide world. It blows me away. I'm just so stalled with this whole group right now."

Talbot asked her peers to reconsider adding the project to the list, despite staff recommendation, owing to lack of staff resources and project managers. 

Coun. Barry Norris was one council member, who did not think the project was significant enough to be reconsidered.

"To defer it again, I don't have a problem with it," he said. "I sure have a problem with building new sidewalks. You can say all you want about all the people and everything else. I don't have a sidewalk on my street and I probably got a heck of a lot of people than what's over in Port (McNicoll)."

Talbot said there was a difference between the street Norris was referring to and the one she was talking about.

"People may walk on your street but this is a sidewalk that goes to a community centre that we are responsible for," she said. "I really think as council we need to consider the liability we have to people that walk halfway up the road and then they have to go off a municipal sidewalk to go on the road to get to the community centre."

Going off the lack of support from her peer, she also took a shot at the deputy mayor.

"I'm sure the deputy mayor has something to say, because you've always been against it anyway, Gerard," said Talbot.

Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle said he took offence to the comment.

"I want to support this," he said. "I'm not against this project, but I am looking at the practicality. It's the time of year and I agree with the CAO that we don't have the staff. To put it to tender, will be too late. If this group is agreeable, this sidewalk will happen. I just don't think this is the time of year to happen."

In an attempt to move things ahead, Coun. Paul Raymond asked how the deferral would be reflected in the township's financials.

CAO Lindsay Barron said the funding would be put into a surplus fund and rolled over to the next year, unless changed at budget time later this year.

She also said bringing the project forward may be a possiblity, but at the risk of creating too much work for staff.

"When I originally responded to councillor Talbot, I did voice my understanding on the situation," Barron said. "I know it's an important connection for the community and it's been in the plan for a number of years. It's just a matter of trying to allocate resources where most needed.

"Contract administration feels more manageable, but we are still pretty limited and there are still a number of projects, our paving project for example, that are going to go until the snow." 

The staff report was eventually received for information. 

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers civic matters under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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