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Essex Council meeting notes - July 6, 2020

by Sylene Argent

Policy set to establish speed limits

Essex Council adopted the Transportation Association of Canada’s “Guidelines for Establishing Posted Speed Limits” as the standard for establishing speed limits on Town of Essex roadways, and further adopted Infrastructure Services Policy. “Establishing Speed Limits on Town of Essex Roads.”

  Council had previously requested Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, create a policy on this file.

  The Report to Council notes the Town of Essex has the second largest road network in the region, with close to 300km of roads.

  “The mere reduction of posted speed limits, without changing the characteristics of the roadway to encourage reduced speeds, has been shown to have a minimal impact on vehicle operating speeds,” Girard wrote in the report. “In addition, the posting of additional signage and/or adjusting the posted speed limit of a roadway are generally not considered to be traffic calming measures.”

  The alternative to enhance road safety is through the posting of credible speed limits that match the expectation of drivers for a given roadway and its surrounding area.

  This policy will create a process for Administration to objectively review speed limit change requests from the public, council, and other stakeholders. It will also provide Administration and the public with an objective and reliable tool for evaluating speed limits on Town roads, provide a standard format and process for resolving in a consistent manner, complaints regarding speed limits; and reduce the workload and duplication efforts for Town staff in responding to speed limit concerns.

  With this policy, a petition would be required to request a change in the speed of the road. Girard said if a resident wanted to initiate the Town assessing the speed of a road, they would determine the section of road and present it to the Director of Infrastructure.

  From there, the resident would circle a petition to neighbours that would be affected, and the petition would require a majority of support, of 65percent or greater, in order to initiate the survey of the road.

  “The policy is intended so that it will provide us with a standard process that’s consistent throughout the entire municipality,” Girard said, adding he would like to see every single request go through this policy.

  Girard added that the policy would ensure efforts of the Town are not duplicated. “We get a lot of complaints relating to speed, and having to review these consistently and throughout the year, poses a staff resourcing issue.”

  The intention is to ensure, once the petition process is complete, and deemed unsuccessful, the road’s speed would not be reviewed again for five years. A review could be requested again after the five-year term, he noted.

  This policy, Girard added, will help provide an object way to look at roads, rather than making decisions based on resident complaints.

   Councillor Sherry Bondy would like to see speed limits, and school safety zones, on schools looked at.

 

Vulnerable Children, Children at Play sign policy to be drafted

Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, will draft a policy for Council’s approval in regards to vulnerable children and children at play signage.

  The policy will be drafted with the criteria stated in the report, represented Monday which includes the person requesting the sign would need to provide a physician statement of the disability of child, the application would need to be renewed every five years, and they would need to keep the Town updated on their child’s disability. They would also have to sign a liability waiver to ensure the Town is not responsible for the safety of the child and the signs do not necessarily protect their child from vehicular traffic.    

  Administration had recommended Council authorize and direct the Infrastructure Services Department to no longer install signage indicating vulnerable children or children at play in the Town of Essex. It was also suggested that Council authorizes the removal of the existing signs when the existing signs fall into disrepair or when the child it serves reaches the age of majority or moves from the area.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche was one of the Council members who was not in favour of administration’s recommendation. He believes there is a value in having these signs up, especially for the parents.

  “I think it just heightens the awareness of the motor vehicle drivers,” he said. He suggested, instead, administration prepare a report to track these signs moving forward. He was willing to go through the town to discover where such signs are located and see if they still need to be in place. A few fellow Councillors during the meeting noted they would help with this.

  If signs are not the solution, Council needs to think of a new way to approach this, Councillor Sherry Bondy said. She had feedback from individuals that when they see these signs, they do slow down. She agrees the program needs to be tracked, and thought perhaps the model needs updating.

  Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said the report was drafted using a lot of evidence and studies, but was not necessary his opinion. Ultimately, administration will move in whatever direction Council decides.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen was in favour of scrapping these signs. He said there has been one near his house for twenty years or more. “If those signs worked, the transport trucks wouldn’t be doing a 110 kilometers per hour down the Arner Townline as they do every hour of every day.”

  He added it is not common sense to use the signs, and they are a waste of public money.

  Girard said the Town will have to come up with a proper way to track the signs.

 

Community Policing survey shows mixed results

Council received the Community Policing Survey Results.

  The Report notes that in January, Council directed administration to conduct an online survey to gauge citizens’ perceptions of the quality of policing. The OPP provides policing in Essex by contract. The survey was issued in May, with residents able to respond online until mid-June.

  The survey focused on three categories related to perceptions of local policing: general satisfaction, interactions with police, and community safety. The survey was available online only, due to COVID-19. It collected responses from respondents, in the form of rating through numerical values and through garnering comments.

  There were 308 survey submissions. Of the respondents, 177 were from Ward 1, 37 from Ward 2, 44 from Ward 3, and 50 from Ward 4.

  In regards to comments submitted as part of the survey, Alex Denonville, Manager of Strategic Communications, said he identified common themes, and they were noted to be negative, positive, or neutral.  

  There were mixed results, Denonville said.

  In regards to “overall satisfaction,” there were slightly more respondents indicating they were satisfied/very satisfied than dissatisfied/very dissatisfied. 52 percent indicated dissatisfaction in terms of police visibility.

  In Regards to “information sharing,” there were slightly more individuals indicating dissatisfaction, however, a large portion choose the neutral position, the Report to Council notes. In terms of “working with the community,” there was a slight favour to satisfaction.

  If someone had interactions with police in the last year, they were able to answer questions related to police interactions. A majority of the respondents, he said, identified as being satisfied or very satisfied on all three sub questions. Most of the comments on this section, he said, were related to the quality of the service provided. There were 19 negative and 13 positive comments.

  Many comments, he added, expanded on crime and safety. All 20 comments were negative.

  Voluntary, online only survey, Denonville said, can’t necessarily be reliable to be understood as an accurate reflection of the community.

Before discussion on the matter took place, Councillor Kim Verbeek wanted to table Council receiving the report until members could receive the actual surveys, not just the summary of the surveys. This motion did not pass.

  Denonville said when issuing the survey, it was noted the results would be anonymous, so identifying info would need to be removed before presenting that info to Council.

  Verbeek was pleased with the survey and the way the report was laid out. Her issue was that the survey was designed to be able to present any problem areas to the OPP. When there are 19 negative comments on past interactions with the OPP, unless Council members can read those comments, they can’t know if the negative interaction was because someone got a speeding ticket or if they were dissatisfied with police who responded to a call.

  Councillor Joe Garon reminded everyone of Maclean’s magazine that noted Essex was the sixth safest place in Canada in 2019, in regards to comments on the community not being safe in the survey. He would like to see more police visibility in the community and more enforcement on things, like speeding. Overall, he thinks the OPP is doing a good job.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy wanted the Police Services Board Chairperson, Councillor Verbeek, involved with any decision and any meetings. She thought this Board should be brought in sooner to see the comments. The Board should have called a meeting to see the results, as well.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he takes the survey results with a large grain of salt. The tip off for that, he said, is when people thought crime increased or increased a lot. “I mean, that is just so obviously, laughably wrong that you have to wonder about the rest of their responses.”  

  His own personal interactions with the OPP over the past few years have been excellent, but does agree visibility is an issue. He questions the Councillors so anxious to get their hands on the survey comments. “You got to know the governance rules don’t allow the chairperson of one body a sneak peak at a report prepared by another body,” he said. He wondered if they were looking to find comments that support their preconceived notions.

  Verbeek said there is no agenda in wanting to see the comments. It will help Council understand what respondents said.

   Mayor Larry Snively said it is puzzling that the OPP will not comment on the number of officers on duty at a time. He said the Town pays a lot of money for policing. He doesn’t know why that information can be released to the Town.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he understood why the officers on duty info is not released to the public, but thought it should be shared with the CAO and the Police Services Board to have a better understanding of what the Town has in terms of policing.

  Verbeek agreed Council needs to unite to push for these answers.

  Council had a desire to bring the reps of the OPP before Council to discuss the survey.

  Council Notes for July 6 will be continued in the July 16 edition of the Essex Free Press.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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