Thursday night was our community meeting with the city on our back lane problems.
Approximately 200 residents attended to listen to Paul Christensen who is the resident who got the ball rolling by starting a petition and encouraging everyone to sign and participate in solving the problems. Our city Councillor, Dan Vandal attended as did Jim Berezosky – Manager of Streets Maintenance of the Public Works department.
Paul started off with pictures of the lanes both before and after the grading that was done once the city had enough complaints about the condition of the lane, and right before Dan Vandal came out in the spring to talk to Paul and the media about the lanes. He also read some comments he had gathered up from residents who he had talked to. The comments showed the frustration about the water-filled potholes that cause damage to vehicles or to the areas surrounding the potholes as drivers try to negotiate around them. The frustration is also having having to call to complain every spring because without the calls, the lanes will not be graded. Paul showed us the stats from the 311 calls showing the dramatic increase in calls over the last few years.
The city blames the condition of the lanes on our bad winters! Well – this is Winnipeg! We always have bad winters!
Both Dan Vandal and Jim Berezosky spoke about present policy, which is to maintain the lanes, but not to improve them. Improvement is up to the residents to pay and that cost is beyond what most people are willing or able to afford. With a 60% vote of the residents, it can be forced on the other 40% with everyone having to pay their share, which is approximately $900 added to their taxes for the next 20 years ($75. per month) or $18,000 (based on a 50 foot lot). It is hard to get 60% to accept that much added to their taxes – taxes that will also increase due to a higher value of the homes with a paved back lane.
The city does admit that there is a problem and that the lanes need more than just a grading once a year. There is no gravel left to grade in most of the lanes, so they are just turning over and moving the dirt from one spot to another.
Many of the residents who came to the meeting made comments and addressed questions and concerns to Dan Vandal and Jim Berezosky and a couple of times there were shouts and complaints yelled out. One lady stood up and said she was happy with her lane and the graders always did a good job, but she was certainly in the minority. She didn’t stay after she finished to hear any more of the people who have problems. Since she doesn’t have any, I guess no one does. Lots did though and we heard from quite a few of them with the common frustration showing in most of their voices. Actually, one other man mentioned that he did not problems either – but he could look down the lane and see all the problem areas.
The city is getting a new policy procedure together now, which will be presented in early October to address some of the problems. They have also just started their budgets for the upcoming year. Solutions might be to see if all 3 governments can put up some of the money to pave the lanes, leaving maybe 1/3 of it for the residents to pay. With a resident portion of 1/3 of the costs, it would be much easier to get 60% or more of the residents to choose paving. Another less expensive solution might be asphalt instead of concrete, but no cost was given on that possibility. Short term solution will be to double the current budget for maintaining the lanes and just grade each lane, each year without waiting for complaints. They also promised that the lanes would be graded once more this fall and that will hopefully have them in better condition in the spring.
The city accepts that their costs to maintain the lanes would be removed if the lanes were paved, but it would be several million dollars for them to pave all the lanes in the city, so it is not a consideration for them to carry the entire cost for the whole city.
Basically, the city is now willing to consider alternatives to having the residents have to carry the entire cost of paving lanes, This will certainly not happen over night or even in the next year or 2, but it is under consideration now. Governments do not rush into anything – but the problems are being looked at instead of being ignored. In the meantime, they say that they will do a better job at maintaining what we have now.
Dan Vandal has promised to keep Paul aware of what is happening and invite him to attend meetings where the lane situation will be discussed. Paul will then let the rest of us know.
Just so I have a picture and because he is my dog, I have taken a couple of pictures of Chester to add here. We all know he is getting pretty white on his face, but yesterday I noticed he is getting white on his feet. I don’t remember noticing that before. Looking at the picture of his foot, I realize it is time for a trim in between his toes. 🙂