road network

Essex County council begins process of redefining road network

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

What is likely to be a long, arduous process of redefining what the Essex County road network is has gotten underway.

A special meeting of Essex County council took place last Wednesday night with the meeting being somewhat out of the ordinary as it was facilitated by Roger Bryan, a retired partner with KPMG whom the county has engaged as a consultant.

The roughly 90-minute “visioning session” saw county council members asked to answer what they consider the purpose of the county road network and what factors and influences should be contemplated when developing the criteria to determine whether or not a road is a county road.

“I’m very pleased with how the meeting went,” said Warden Tom Bain. “I think there were a lot of various opinions.”

Bain said no solid conclusions were reached, nor were any expected to be reached as this was the first of what is likely to be many meetings to hash out what is a county road and what isn’t.

“I feel strongly that we got the ball rolling,” said Bain. “There was a lot of meat put on the table.”

One of the issues was financial inequity, as some members of county council believe their towns pay too much in assessments for what they receive back in road funding. Bain believes that will be an area that will be looked at further as the process progresses.

“It’s going to be a long, slow, tedious job but I feel we’ll come up with a solution,” said Bain, noting he has a goal of having it completed if not by the end of 2017, by the 2018 municipal election.

County CAO Brian Gregg told county council members at the start of the meeting that no criteria was expected to be developed by the end of the first meeting but “we want you to tell us what you want that criteria to look like.”

Consultant Roger Bryan speaks to Essex County councillors last Wednesday night during a meeting on the county’s road network. The county has started a process to review its road system.

Consultant Roger Bryan speaks to Essex County councillors last Wednesday night during a meeting on the county’s road network. The county has started a process to review its road system.

Many elected officials said county roads are roadways that connect municipalities and high traffic areas with one another. Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said he understood that to be the definition and that if that is the case, the county has to be careful on how it designates its roadways. County roads can’t be determined so that a higher amount of dollars will flow to individual municipalities for projects.

“You can’t just designate a street just because you want to give a municipalities more percentage,” said DiCarlo.

Bain suggested that county roads also have to be roads that see a lot of goods transported with Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche suggesting connecting areas of tourism also should be considered for county road status. Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti believed the county should look at the road network as a way to connect rural settlement areas.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara believed there should be “a clear outline for this process” and that open discussion should be had with the lower tier municipalities. Decisions should be made on based on such issues as traffic counts and future growth projections.

“There’s got to be more input,” agreed Essex Mayor Ron McDermott.

LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya wanted a “fair process” and didn’t think his town was getting its share of the county’s road dollars.

“As partners, we should all be concerned about each other. (LaSalle) doesn’t feel like partners,” said Antaya. “I feel we’re just a source of money because we’re not getting a lot.”

Lakeshore Deputy Mayor Al Fazio believed a lot of how county roads are funded has to do with the geographic size of the municipalities.

“It’s not our fault the government shoved (amalgamation) down our throats,” said Fazio.

Fazio said ideally each municipality should be funded equally “but the reality is it’s never going to be equal.”

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) gives feedback during a meeting on the county road system Jan. 25. Consultant Roger Bryan (right) listens to DiCarlo's comments.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo (left) gives feedback during a meeting on the county road system Jan. 25. Consultant Roger Bryan (right) listens to DiCarlo’s comments.

DiCarlo indicated that the most effective routes to move people or goods should be looked at for designation and questioned whether the meeting was to look at what the definition of county roads are or whether it was a meeting to discuss assessment costs.

“To me, it’s almost two different issues,” said DiCarlo.

Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale suggested some roads may need changing but viewed county roads as the most important transit routes in Essex County. Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said standards were developed when there were 21 county municipalities instead of the current seven and that maybe there are roads that need to have their designations changed.

Meloche believed “there’s always going to be disparity” and that looking at specific issues could pit municipalities against each other.

“The next thing you know, we’re not county council,” said Meloche.

Leamington Mayor John Paterson believed municipalities like Tecumseh, LaSalle and his own are overpaying when looking at assessments versus their percentage of the road network, adding that Amherstburg is slightly underpaying. He said Amherstburg has 12.7 per cent of the road network but pays 11.6 per cent of the assessment.

Paterson suggested that the assessment dollars be kept by each municipality and that they look after their own roads.

“So far, no one has convinced me we need county roads,” he said during the meeting.

Fazio disagreed.

“We all need each other. Pulling out is not the way to go.”