News

Council can’t justify $3.5M expenditure on Evergreen Hill Road

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Norfolk County council has cancelled plans to rebuild Evergreen Hill Road in Simcoe this year. File photo

Norfolk County council has cancelled plans to rebuild Evergreen Hill Road in Simcoe this year. File photo

SIMCOE - 

Residents of Evergreen Hill Road in Simcoe who were bracing for construction this summer can relax.

In a 5-4 vote Thursday, Norfolk council decided not to rebuild the street. Simcoe Coun. Doug Brunton was in a cost-cutting mood on the final day of the 2018 operating budget session. He led the charge to shelve the project.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Brunton said. “We’re throwing good money out the window for a sidewalk. Colborne Street is a bloody mess. And we’re going to spend $3.5 million on a road that we just repaved three years ago? It doesn’t add up.”

Last year, the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board lobbied council to rebuild Evergreen Hill Road.

Evergreen is a busy arterial road. Evergreen lacks sidewalks between Norfolk Street South and Elm Street and is lined on both sides with retaining walls.

The Catholic board worries that students making their way to Holy Trinity Catholic High School are taking a risk when they walk on this stretch of Evergreen.

“We are deeply concerned about the reversal of the Evergreen Hill Road sidewalk project,” board chair Rick Petrella said Friday in an email.

“We have been informed that the sidewalks may not be installed for six years. Even then, we don’t have a guarantee that council won’t – yet again – postpone a project that enables safe travel to and from school.

“In light of recent student deaths across the province due to vehicle and traffic issues, we simply don’t understand how council could support the postponement of the installation of sidewalks and question what council’s position is when it comes to supporting the safety of our students.”

Petrella added that board officials will return to Norfolk council for further dialogue on this matter.

The section of road at issue is not long but will be expensive to rebuild because of steep driveways. The road bed will have to be elevated to make room for sidewalks while maintaining access and egress onto adjoining properties.

This section of Evergreen was originally slated for reconstruction in 2023. However, due to concerns over student safety, Norfolk council last year advanced the project to 2018. The project is now on hold for the foreseeable future.

Port Rowan Coun. Noel Haydt agreed with Brunton’s assessment.

“I hear a lot of complaints from councillors about the state of county roads and here we are prepared to tear up a perfectly good one,” Haydt said.

Windham Coun. Jim Oliver has monitored Evergreen Hill Road at the start and end of the school day to see how many students walk on the road allowance. Oliver reported that pedestrian traffic is minimal.

“They’re not using it,” Oliver said. “Why are they not using it? It may be because it’s unsafe. But fact is, they’re not using it.”

When council agreed to upgrade Evergreen Hill Road last fall, it found the money to do so by deferring work on Second Avenue and Kent Street North in Simcoe.

With the Evergreen Hill project on hold, Simcoe Coun. Peter Black asked for the re-instatement of these projects. Council voted against doing so after Coun. Brunton said the work is unnecessary.

“This is unfortunate for the people of Simcoe,” Black said. “I’m sure we all hear from people about the condition of roads in Simcoe. It’s not just the people of Simcoe who use these roads. Putting this off puts us further behind the eight ball.”

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com