Roads, buildings, parking lots, speed signs and the Millennium Trail.
Council adopted Shire Hall’s capital expenditure plan mostly intact approving a $11.6 million list on Friday. Waterworks expenditures are not included in this list, as it is treated as a separate utility.
The largest amount in the works capital budget, $6.7 million, will be spent on roads including the first phase of a multi-year project to reconstruct Wilson Road, another reconstruction project on Danforth Road as well as a project to rebuild Main Street in Bloomfield that is dependent on provincial funding. Work will begin on rebuilding Belleville Street in Wellington.
The County’s works department also received a green light for $1 million of road surface treating— ranging from single coat resurfacing to more substantial roadway repairs and a double coat of new asphalt.
There are 17 projects to improve or repair County buildings totalling $1.1 million planned for 2017. These include a new roof and HVAC system at Shire Hall for $484,500, the rehabilitation of the green barn at Ameliasburgh museum for $152,000 and new sprinkler system at $105,000 for the Picton curling rink.
The County is looking to purchase eight new vehicles, including an excavator, a tandem truck and a pumper tanker for the Picton fire hall.
Under the category of land improvements, council approved a $400,000 project to rehabilitate Benson Park, $282,813 to improve the King Street parking lot and a commitment to the Millennium Trail restoration project spread over five years. The County’s 2017 contribution is $75,000.
It didn’t pass quietly. Councillor Jamie Forrester worries that improving the Millennium Trail will make it more popular to walkers and cyclists. He figures this popularity will lead to pressure to limit use of the Trail by motorized vehicles. Forrester is a member of the Prince Edward County Snowmobilers Club.
“I can’t support this in any way,” said Forrester. “I would be happy to leave it the way it is. I am worried about this trail being hijacked by people who want to see it a single purpose trail.”
Councillor Bill Roberts agreed that it should remain a multi-use trail, but that there were serious safety and accessibility issues on part of the trail. Roberts walked the entire length early this fall. He is impressed that a volunteer organization is putting up $80,000 to renovate this municipal asset.
“It’s an emblem for recreation,” said Roberts. “The Wellington Rotary group need to be commended for the great work they did in and around Wellington.”
Ameliasburgh councillor Janice Maynard discounted the possibility of diverting cyclists onto the trail from the Loyalist Parkway.
“Those are expensive bikes,” said Maynard. “They won’t use the trail. I can’t see spending the money.”
Forrester amped up his objection, describing the Trail improvement project as the creation of a new County highway that would consume vast amounts of municipal resources. He insisted these costs should be tabulated before council voted on the project.
Questions were raised about the wetlands north of Danforth Road. Some proposals call for a boardwalk, but, Forrester figures the concern over the natural habitat and ecosystem in the wetland is a cover for those who want to limit access to the trail.
“I know where their thoughts are going,” said Forrester.
Maynard, too, suspects duplicitous motives behind those seeking to protect these wetlands.
“Naturalists want water flowing through, but if you remove the bed of the railway it stops being a multi-use trail,” said Maynard.
Works chief Robert McAuley explained that his department currently spends about $45,000 each year maintaining the Millennium Trail and could not contemplate this cost rising substantially as a result of more walkers and cyclists.
“I speak for a lot of taxpayers,” added Forrester.
But he could not persuade enough of his colleagues that they should not participate in a project to improve and enhance access to this County recreation asset.
The only addition to the capital projects was $10,000 for the purchase of four additional speed monitoring signs suggested by Sophiasburgh councillor Kevin Gale. The initial set have garnered positive community response. There was no resistance to the budget addition—just a plea that the devices be deployed throughout the County rather than just urban areas. It was explained that while the municipality purchases the equipment, it is the OPP that decides when and where they should be deployed.