Killaloe – A frustrated group of Byers Creek Road residents appeared before Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards (KHR) Township council last Tuesday night seeking answers regarding the possible rehabilitation of the road they live on.
Don McInnes, spokesperson for the seven-member delegation, wasted no time getting to the reason for their visit.
“We’ve been told, and by the grapevine too, that our Byers Creek is again not getting done and
we’d like to know if this is a fixed deal that it’s not getting done again,” he said. “This is going on six years now and we keep getting told that it’s not (getting done).”
“And we’ve got some questions to ask about getting it done,” he added.
Public Works Superintendent Dean Holly said, “Contracts for Hillcrest
and Stone Chruch Roads have not yet been awarded, but the process
to do so has been started.”
“It’s definite, those are the two that are getting done this year, and that’s it?” queried Mr. McInnes.
“That’s what council decided,” Mr. Holly responded. “I’m working on the tenders right now.”
Mr. McInnes questioned how council decided what roads would be repaired this year, noting the annual road tour was cancelled this spring.
“How do they vote on something that they haven’t seen?” he asked. “I went and toured the two roads yesterday and compared to our road, they look pretty good.
“And one of them looks like the 401 compared to our road,” he added. “How do they justify the difference?”
He said he has been told it was an expense issue whereby Byers Creek was more expensive, so the township could do two roads instead of one. He suggested half of their road could have been done this year and the other half in 2024 if that was the case.
Mr. McInnes said they have been told the road was going to get worked on since the flood of 2017 and are repeatedly told there is not enough money to do it.
“The cost keeps going up; when is it going to match up?” he asked. “They don’t seem to budget for any of these big roads to get done.
“It’s only smaller roads; it’s getting pretty sad,” he continued. “They’re spending lots of money patching.”
He said the works department is there so much he is on a first-name basis with the employees.
“Sometimes they’re there five days a week,” he pointed out. “That’s got to add up to some cost.”
He said he heard the road would be patched using a process with the grader, which he said will also come at a cost, adding a similar process was done not that long ago and it is already falling apart.
“So at what point does council decide, ‘Hey, we have to do something with this road’?”
He said there are 11 full-time residents and another 10 seasonal residents on one side of the creek who will be cut off if one of the beaver dams in the area breaks and washes out the road, which would require an emergency repair. He explained there is basically nothing left of the road surface and if a dam should break, everything would be washed away.
“At what point do you justify not doing it is the point I’m trying to get at,” he stated.
He re-iterated he had been told by the previous mayor and some councillors the road would be done the next year and their turn still hasn’t come up.
Mr. Holly explained he had given council a list of possible roads for consideration and Hillcrest was the number one priority on that list.
“And my number two was Byers Creek,” he said. “So, it is council’s decision.”
It is council that makes the decisions what roads are done, not him, he said, adding he felt the questions were being posed to him rather than council.
“You’re looking at me kind of saying it’s my fault; it’s not my fault,” Mr. Holly stressed.
“I’m not saying it’s your fault,” Mr. McInnes responded. “I was looking at you because I had talked to you about it.”
Councillor Maureen MacMillan explained after they agreed to do Hillcrest, the money simply wasn’t there to do Byers Creek this year. She noted council only had $311,000 to work with and felt they would get “more bang for their buck” by doing the number one and number three roads this year. She noted if they did Byers Creek rather than Hillcrest, they would have people from Hillcrest at the meeting protesting.
“So, we’re kind of like damned if we do, damned if we don’t, in some ways,” she noted. “I totally understand you’re mad. I’d probably be really upset too.
“We made a decision based on money and how much we could get done this year,” she added.
Mr. McInnes said his group is getting tired of being told each year there’s not enough money.
“But nobody seems to plan on anything like this,” he remarked. “There’s no direct roads committee or something that’s doing the planning, right?”
He re-iterated had council done half the road this year it would have been better than nothing.
Councillor Ted Browne said council would never consider doing half a road.
“So when are you going to get enough money to do our road then?” Mr. McInnes persisted.
“I don’t know who has been telling you next year,” Coun. Browne responded. “Nobody in this position has the right to say next year because we don’t know until we sit down for budget.” Mr. McInnes asked how the ratepayers there can get involved with the process so the road will get done.
“You’re in the process right now, voicing your concerns, and that’s being noted by all the people sitting at this table,” Coun. Browne told him. “But if you’re here tonight expecting a promise that we’re going to do it next year, unfortunately we cannot do that.”
Once again, Mr. McInnes questioned when there will be enough money to do the road, reminding council costs are rising each year.
“I’d hate to think of the number of dollars they have put into that road since the original flood just patching.”
“All I can say is, you were number two on the list this year and I can’t see why you wouldn’t be number one next year,” Coun. Browne replied.
Mr. McInnes said he had been told that before, yet nothing has been done.
Work Based On Funding
Coun. Browne said council doesn’t know from year to year what grants might be available for road projects, explaining it is that money that is allocated for the major road work.
Mr. McInnes noted the two suggested projects for 2023 were approximately $200,000 each, so that puts them already over the allocated $311,000 being budgeted for the work.
Coun. Browne stressed council felt Hillcrest was the priority this year and there was not enough left to do Byers Creek.
“I feel bad, I understand, I drive that road as well,” he remarked. “We have so many bad roads in our township.”
His fellow councillors weighed in, noting they too sympathize with the group but there is only so much money to go around.
“I drove your road. I know what it’s like,” said Councillor Harold Lavigne, chair of the roads committee. “You can’t miss the potholes. You miss one, you hit 10.”
Mr. McInnes said the road looks like it’s four-lane because everybody drives on the shoulder to avoid the potholes.
Coun. MacMillan noted there is a new council in place and they all have heard Mr. McInnes’ plea for action.
“We’ve driven all the roads, by the way, so we’re not making a willy-nilly kind-of decision, ” she stated. “We are all very aware that your road is bad.”
Mr. McInnes said he has repeatedly been told that but is then told there is no money, so why isn’t there sone type of plan in place to put aside the required funds. Mr. Holly noted he has been trying to convince council any future road projects are done with hot mix paving rather than surface treatment to increase the longevity of the work from five to seven years to 15-20 with the hot mix. However, the hot mix process comes at a significantly higher cost but lasts about three times longer.
Mayor Dave Mayville told the delegates he could feel their passion. He explained when they started the process, they had 10 to 12 roads listed, which were later reduced to three.
“And you heard tonight that it was a matter of dollars and cents,” he stated.
He admitted the budget process has been an eye-opener for him, noting during the campaign process, he wanted to do every road in KHR.
“I wanted them all done. Unfortunately, that can’t happen,” he said. “We turned down roads that desperately need to be done in Killaloe and other places.