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Essex Council makes decision on earmarked budget projects

by Adam Gault

Essex Council held a Special meeting on the evening of Monday, January 11, to decide the fate of several budget items that were not approved during the adoption of the 2021 Operating and Capital Municipal Budgets on December 14.

  These items and their funding had been earmarked from that last meeting, and included $240,000 for new tennis courts in Essex Centre, $450,000 for the Maidstone – Arthur – Gosfield intersection, and $220,000 for the Old Malden Road tar and chipping project, for a total of $910,000 earmarked for these, or additional project approvals.

  Several years ago, Old Malden Road had base stone installed with the anticipation of tar and chip paving. Since then, some residents and Council members have raised concerns surrounding the continued safety of the road, as well as the commitment of the Town to finish the job.

  “It’s a safety issue. If you don’t grade the roads, then you have potholes. It’s a catch 22. Either way, you’re going to have safety issues with a gravel road,” Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said. “These people on this road pay the same tax rates as anybody that lives on a paved road.”

  Not all Councillors agreed with the proposition, however, noting that the road has little traffic, and that other roads within Essex were in more dire need of repair or upgrading.

  “This is a difficult year for us, as far as the budget goes,” Councillor Steve Bjorkman said. “We only have so much to deal with, and we have to pick the things that are most important.”

  Council carried a motion to leave Old Malden Road in the budget, and to proceed with the tar and chipping.

  On the subject of the Maidstone – Arthur – Gosfield intersection configuration, most of Council was in favour of the reconfiguration of the intersection, noting that installing a roundabout was out of the question due to budgetary constraints.

  “We’ve got to remember, this is an area that’s built up with new homes, and there’s a lot more foot traffic there now than there was in prior years,” Mayor Larry Snively explained of the need for reconfiguration. “It’s an awkward intersection, and why I’m going to support [the motion].”

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen was of the exception to that thought, believing the money for the intersection could be allocated to additional municipal infrastructure projects.

  “I’m not opposed to any money being spent on roads or infrastructure, but I think this money would be better spent elsewhere,” Vander Doelen said. “For the number of people whose lives would be improved by this $450,000, I think it would be better spent elsewhere than on this project.”

  A motion was carried to invest the $450,000 into improving the intersection.

For the proposed Essex tennis courts, there was some debate on whether the money could be better used for additional roads projects, such as paved shoulders on Concession Road 3 in Harrow, or repairs to Viscount Parkway. Ultimately, it was decided to proceed with the tennis courts, while the money for the additional roads projects could be funded through additional means, such as Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) grants and municipal reserves.

  “It’s a perfect location, it all fits in right there,” Snively said of the court’s proposed location next to the Essex Arena. “We have the parking facilities right there. I agree one hundred percent.”

  The tennis courts were approved as proposed in the budget.

  Also approved were motions to use OCIF funding in addition to $120,000 in contingency funding to pave shoulders along a residential section of Concession Road 3, and a motion to explore pulling dividends out of E.L.K. for sidewalks and infrastructure project.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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