Pembroke – Bonnechere Valley got little satisfaction at Renfrew County council last Wednesday over complaints about how the Hurd’s Creek culvert and the Fourth Chute bridge reconstruction were handled but they did emerge with a promise of better communication in the future.
“This has been a large learning curve for myself,” Lee Perkins, the County of Renfrew’s director of Public Works and Engineering, said.
The plan in the future is to meet with the lower-tier municipalities earlier to discuss county roadwork projects, he promised.
He had been responding to BV Mayor Jennifer Murphy’s questions about Hurd’s Creek. This had also been the topic at an Operations Committee meeting earlier in the morning prior to the county council meeting, so Mr. Perkins had been dealing with the issue extensively that day. The addendum to the Operations Committee outlined the timeline of the culvert replacement and communication with BV, beginning on June 8.
“While the township has requested other options, the replacement of the superstructure with a single lane bridge is the most economical choice for the County of Renfrew,” the report stated. “The previous bridge at this location was a single lane bridge and the county received no previous complaints regarding this.”
However, the report acknowledged the new single lane configuration will be narrower in order to “improve safety and not give users the impression that the bridge may be a double lane bridge when it is not.”
The bridge has below 400 vehicles a day crossing it, the report stated. In fact, the county estimates it at about 150 in summer and 100 in the fall or spring. BV disputes this, stating it is a backroad access to cannabis stores at Pikwakanagan, and noting 2,450 households must travel 25 kilometers out of their way to dispose of household hazardous waste.
In his report, Mr. Perkins said the options for the county were a superstructure replacement at around $600,000, a new bridge at $700,000 or a culvert at over $1 million. The culvert was the only two-lane option considered. The county opted with the superstructure as having the lowest cost and lowest environmental impact.
Mayor Murphy said there is a lot of talk about consultation at the county, but this did not occur with BV. She said it would have been as simple as contacting the road superintendent for the township.
As of that morning, last Wednesday, there was no structure on site and a detour was in place for area residents, she said.
“This structure has been missing since the May 24 weekend,” she said. “Our farmers are taking a detour.
“I’m unsure why the contractor would remove a structure without the materials in place,” she said.
The township was also upset to see the structure downgraded. She also asked why a Lessard Bridge was not put in place, adding it is not only a road used by farmers but people reaching the township hazardous waste drop off.
Mr. Perkins said a Lessard bridge was priced at $77,000 and this was cost prohibitive. As well, it would take seven days to install.
He said using the existing abutments the new bridge will be a single lane bridge and will be suitable based on other structures in the county.
However, the chair of the Operations Committee, McNab/Braeside Mayor Tom Peckett, minced few words in pointing out the work on Hurd’s Creek should not have come as a surprise. He said the county always publishes a report on what road work projects – including culverts and bridges – are scheduled for each year.
“Hurd’s Creek was undoubtably on that list to be done,” he said.
Mayor Peckett said it is important for councillors to be aware of what is happening in their own municipalities.
“As soon as I get that list out, I go through every item,” he said, adding he makes note if it affects his municipality and local residents or businesses.
There was information about the project before it began, he said.
“I don’t believe it is a valid excuse,” he said.
As well, all the questions BV has brought forward have been answered, he said.
Mayor Murphy was quick to respond.
“By that logic, Phase 2 of 512 will be done next week,” she said.
The Leader had earlier reported the work on County Road 512 was slated for this year but because the county has been unable to purchase land from four property owners the work will not be done this year.
Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue questioned some of the timelines on the Hurd’s Creek work.
“It does seem unacceptable a structure be removed prior to the materials being available to undertake the rehabilitation,” he said.
As well, Hurd’s Creek was similar to other bridges like the Borne Road Bridge or Silvester Power Bridge and those were handled differently.
“There were two box culverts installed by County of Renfrew day labour crew,” he pointed out. “It is two lanes and that was done within budget of $600,000 last year.”
However, at Hurd’s Creek the county was downscaling from the culvert, he said. “I struggle with this one,” he said.
CAO Paul Moreau pointed out every case is different.
“At Hurd’s Creek the cement abutments were sound,” he added.
“The director has acknowledged some work needs to be done in terms of communication,” he added.
As well, there is a contract approved by council.
“Deviating from it right now would put us in a very precarious condition,” he said.
Warden Debbie Robinson pointed out this has been a learning experience.
“It may be sometimes hard to hear we are not communicating as well as we should but we can move on from here and do better,” she said.
Fourth Chute Bridge
North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose questioned the difference in cost to do the Fourth Chute Bridge in stages or one project.
“I appreciate there is going to be a foot bridge,” he added.
For anyone visiting Bonnechere Caves he questioned if there would be parking on the BV Township side of the bridge where people could cross on the footbridge.
“This is a business which has lost two years of revenue,” he added.
Mr. Perkins said staging was considered as too cost prohibitive.
“The width of the bridge does not allow construction to happen at the same time as traffic can pass,” he said.
As for parking, he understands there is a discussion taking place.
“We did supply a walking bridge not only for Bonnechere Caves but I understand there is a large Mennonite community as well,” he said.
Mayor Murphy said she wanted to confirm the county was in consultation with the business owner (Chris Hinsperger) prior to the construction.
Mr. Perkins said the county was not. He was notified in the newspaper of the work to be done. “This was a learning experience,” he repeated.
Mayor Donohue questioned if the work could have been done a different way or if it would have been a “prohibitive amount.” He added if safety was an issue the point was moot.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader