News

New Norfolk CAO flexes his legal chops

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Bus driver Jan Hoogendoorn said this week it can be an ordeal getting students in and out of Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Simcoe because of traffic congestion in the area of Evergreen Hill Road. Norfolk County is investigating to see if there is any way of improving the situation. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

Bus driver Jan Hoogendoorn said this week it can be an ordeal getting students in and out of Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Simcoe because of traffic congestion in the area of Evergreen Hill Road. Norfolk County is investigating to see if there is any way of improving the situation. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER

SIMCOE - 

Norfolk staff is pretty sure something like a crossing guard is needed in the area of Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Simcoe.

A one-day traffic survey in February suggested a guard is warranted.

But Norfolk’s new CAO suspects something more may be necessary. The matter is on hold while staff gathers more information.

At issue is traffic and congestion in the area of Holy Trinity at the start of the school day and at the end. The chaos doesn’t last long, but there are concerns someone could get hurt.

Newly-minted CAO David Cribbs – recently of Lambton County – told council Tuesday that responsible liability management requires the county to do further research. A single day’s worth of traffic data, he said, is insufficient.

The situation at Holy Trinity is on the county’s radar, in part, because of concerns raised by Simcoe Coun. Peter Black.

“I know exactly what goes on there – the nightmare,” says Black, who has a daughter at Holy Trinity.

“The nightmare” lasts about 10 minutes in the morning and another 10 minutes in the afternoon.

It involves buses coming and going while parents in their private vehicles swarm both sides of Evergreen Hill Road and interior parking lots and driveways at the school.

Complicating matters is through traffic on Evergreen as well as traffic from Oak Street and Queen Street South trying to get onto Evergreen.

“For a relatively new school, this is a poor set-up,” bus driver Jan Hoogendoorn said Wednesday afternoon as he prepared to fight his way out of the Trinity parking lot and into the surrounding countryside.

The commotion is an issue because – now that it is aware of the problem – Norfolk could be held responsible if someone gets hurt.

“Maybe we need more than a crossing guard,” Black said. “Maybe we need a crosswalk with crossing lights.”

These and other possible solutions will require more data.

Cribbs’ advice provides insight to the management style he will bring to bear on council meetings.

Municipal councils in small communities hope their senior manager is the smartest person in the room.

In places like Norfolk County, councillors are part-time and see themselves primarily as policy makers. They rely on senior managers for advice and to oversee the day-to-day operations of the municipality.

As for Cribbs, he was a triple-threat in Lambton before winning the competition to replace Keith Robicheau, who left Norfolk for the top job in North Bay in February.

While in Lambton, Cribbs, 41, served as the county’s general manager of corporate services, the county’s clerk and the county’s solicitor.

Cribbs’ lawyerly mind was again on display Tuesday during a seemingly innocent discussion about an inspection contract for the county’s 225 kilometres of sanitary sewer mains.

Eight firms bid for the work, which involves inspecting the pipes with closed-circuit television cameras.

Council awarded the contract to Sewer Technologies Inc. of Port Perry. While doing so, Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus suggested staff include the locations of bidding firms in future tender reports.

Bad idea, interjected Cribbs.

The new CAO said council is better off not knowing where bidders are from. If that information shows up in a report, Cribbs said it is reasonable to assume council might have a use for it. If a firm feels discriminated against, it may launch a lawsuit on the basis of local preference.

This could be an expensive problem if companies are somehow connected to the United States or Mexico. In that case, there may be grounds for an appeal to the trade tribunal that moderates disputes related to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“That’s true with regard to both goods and services,” Cribbs said.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com