County residents want to stop curve removal projects

County residents want to stop curve removal projects

Public meeting in Division 4 hears opposition to removal of gravel road speed curves

Residents from one County of Wetaskiwin division don’t want certain speed curves removed from their gravel roads, and are planning on speaking directly to council about it.

The issue of certain speed curves being removed from gravel roads in division 4 came up at the Public Works Committee meeting Sept. 11. Council voted 4-3 in favour of proceeding with all such work.

Leon Specht, the Division 4 resident who spoke to council Sept. 11, organized a community meeting Sunday, Sept. 16 at the Pipestone Hall located about one kilometer east of the Pipestone School so residents could voice their concerns about the curve removal project.

Also present at the Pipestone Hall meeting were Division 4 councilor Josh Bishop, Division 5 councilor Ken Adair and County CAO Rod Hawken.

Specht, speaking to the crowd of about three dozen people, volunteered to act as MC of the meeting. Specht summarized his presentation to council, stating he didn’t see evidence the curves are unsafe, that the county shouldn’t have any more liability on those curves than any other road, the costs of removing the curves could be higher than the Public Works department has quoted,

He said the community hall meeting was called to discuss the financial cost of removing the curves, the negative effects on the community of removing the curves and accountability of council regarding whether or not the public was consulted on these removals.

Specht asked the councilors present if they were aware of the curve removal projects. Councilor Bishop answered that councilors generally aware of road maintenance and safety issues, “Because some of them (curves) are unsafe.”

Councilor Adair stated that he voted against Bishop’s motion because he was concerned about the safety issues surrounding the curves.

The cost of removing the intersections was discussed. At the council meeting, the figures of $1,500 to $3,000 were mentioned as costs of removing each curve. Specht said he disputed those figures as too low and asked, if the projects go over budget, where will the funds come from to cover that.

It was explained at the meeting that the county budget probably has a certain amount of money set aside for this project, and when the funds are spent, the project will stop until more funds are budgeted.

A resident asked what specific data was used to determine the curves in question are unsafe. Hawken responded that at that moment he had no specific data on each curve, but general data backed up the county’s concerns with the curves.

Another resident stated that nobody in the community seemed to remember a lot of accidents on those curves. However, it was also mentioned that perhaps to increase safety, the speed curves could be altered to one-way merging traffic only.

Hawken noted almost all of the speed curves on gravel roads are very old, dating back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, and are located on private land. The roads were located there on a handshake deal. A resident asked if landowners are complaining about the curves, to which Hawken answered, ‘No.” The resident asked if this was being done because of the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, to which Hawken answered, “No.” Hawken stated concerns have surrounded these curves for some time, including safety, build quality, encroachment and the fact they’re not registered.

Another resident suggested the curves be left alone and that public money be spent on upkeep on gravel roads.

Councilor Bishop stated he mentioned most of these concerns at the Public Works meeting Sept. 11 but his motion was defeated. Bishop stated he felt that removing these curves was not just road maintenance, but a road building project.

Specht summarized that he felt removing the curves wasn’t a good use of tax dollars, that the public should have been consulted on this before the project started, and that removing the curves will negatively affect farmers, oil patch and loggers in the area.

Hawken stated that, since County of Wetaskiwin council decided on this issue through a vote, members of council have to abide by that. However, he pointed out a delegation of Division 4 residents can request to speak to council on this issue at a meeting.

A resident asked why the public wasn’t consulted on this issue. Bishop stated that the subject of consultation came up on Sept. 11 but council voted to proceed without it.

Specht asked for a show of hands of those present who wanted to stop the curve removal program, to which everyone present in the audience raised their hands. When asked who supported removing the curves, Specht raised his hand on behalf of a neighbour who could not be present for the meeting.

At the end of the meeting residents agreed to organize a delegation to council’ Oct. 4 meeting to request a delay or halt to the curve removal program.