Whitewater Region -- School’s in and the pedestrian cross-overs in Cobden, Beachburg and Westmeath are still not erected and one Whitewater Region councillor wants to know why.
Discussion on the cross-overs was brought to the September 1 council meeting by Public Works Manager Lane Cleroux, who recalled that council agreed to have four signalized pedestrian crossings: in Beachburg on County Road 21 at Cameron Street for Beachburg Public School; County Road 12 at Grace Street in Westmeath for Our Lady of Grace Catholic School and two in Cobden for Cobden District Public School -- Main Street at Crawford Street and Cowley Street at Gould Street. They were to be installed prior to September 2021.
Councillor Charlene Jackson questioned why they haven’t been installed.
“Was this not approved at budget?” she asked. “Why is it so late? Why is it not done? We also budgeted not to have crossing guards in the fall and now it’s delayed and because of whatever, I don’t know why they were delayed. Why?”
Unfortunately, there was miscommunication between the county and municipal staff, Mr. Cleroux said. Municipal staff assumed since permission was granted by the county for the pedestrian cross-overs, they could be installed when municipal staff were ready to do the work. However, it was discovered that a road occupancy permit must be obtained from the county prior to the work commencing, and county does not meet until late September, Mr. Cleroux explained.
To ensure the safety of the school children, staff are recommending to call back a crossing guard for September and October for the Cobden school, which will allow time for the installation of the cross over and to train pedestrians and drivers on how to use them correctly, he said. There has never been crossing guards in Westmeath or Beachburg.
In answering Coun. Jackson’s questions, Mr. Cleroux said public work staff are installing the pedestrian cross-overs and they were busy with other projects throughout the summer months. The delay from the county was not expected, he said.
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay said the additional formalization of approval from the county is slowing down the project.
However, due to the lockdowns, there is money in the budget to cover the cost of the crossing guard required in Cobden, he said.
While the crossing guards were advised their services would no longer be required and given their record of employment, the ones contacted to work the start of this school year “have a sense of duty and were nice about it” to come back, Mr. Tremblay said.
The pedestrian crossovers are not a surprise to the people, and are being put in two locations that don’t even have crossing guards -- Westmeath and Beachburg, he said.
Since approval is not required at the Cowley Street location, that will be put in right away, Mr. Tremblay said.
Councillor Neil Nicholson said it’s time to cut red tape.
“I don’t understand why the county can’t authorize a warrant and a permit at the same time, unless there is new information to present,” he said. “Maybe this is a way for us to go back to the county and say look at this process. This is frustrating. It’s delaying us.”
Mr. Tremblay said the township was late to confirm with the county, so it’s not all the county’s fault.
However, he also pointed out, there was an “aggressive capital program” to complete and time is required to get the work done.
“It was a lot this past year … we’re not blaming the county,” Mr. Tremblay said. “The good part is, we are improving pedestrian safety in terms of our active transportation plan.
“It’s a little messy right now, but we’ll get it done.”
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader