It’s a common scene in council chambers across the county. From about May to October every year, irate cottagers make delegations to councils demanding one thing or another.
They are quick to remind elected officials they pay hefty waterfront taxes, and have invested millions of dollars in the area. I think we would all acknowledge the importance of cottagers to our local economy.
However, sometimes the tone of these delegates is a bit troubling. Take for example the folks from Redkenn Road who jammed Dysart et al’s council chambers earlier this week.
They came armed with a petition requesting their road be hard-surfaced after the municipality made it a gravel road last year.
They said they represented 60 owners along a 1.2 km stretch of road along Redstone Lake. They were angered after having had a paved road for 30 years.
They said it affected their quality of life, with one spokesperson saying the pain is real.
They pointed out a neighbouring road was paved in 2017. They broached the have and have not argument.
Not to be unsympathetic, but we need to put these concerns into context. A quality of life issue is a decades-long boil advisory for drinking water in a northern Indigenous community. The difference between a paved and gravel road is hardly a have versus have not argument.
Having your road go to gravel, from paved, is annoying, irksome even. It means you have to slow down for fear of rocks hitting your windshield and fishtailing. But if you slow down, it should ease the wear on your vehicle. Sure, you might have to wash your vehicle more often because of the dust. You’ll have to slow down for safety reasons too. But is it really life-altering?
Not only did the delegation ask for paving, they wanted it before winter.
Not many cottagers are around every winter for budget talks at council. They should be. They would hear how councils grapple with decisions around roads when they have a finite amount of tax dollars coming in. The Redkenn folks would have learned that Dysart et al has to take care of not only their 1.2 km of road, but an additional 303.3 km across the township, some 280 km of hard-topped and 24.5 of gravel. Each and every person on each and every one of those roads wants better.
On top of that, the public works department is levelling out gravelled roads, ditching, cleaning out culverts, mowing and brushing, controlling dust, repairing shoulders, maintaining bridges and catch basin, street sweeping and providing traffic control.
At budget time, townships such as Dysart et al have to triage the worst of the roads and put those to the top of their roads needs list. The decision is often made around public safety.
Mayor Andrea Roberts was completely right in telling the delegation she and her council have to consider the entire municipality, not just the squeaky wheel.
“It’s many, many, many other roads we have to take into consideration,” she said.
So, with all due respect to the 100 people who signed a petition, and to those who spoke out at Dysart council, things have changed. Our townships now do comprehensive roads studies to figure out what roads need to be done and in what order. They’re not about to change plans just because a few angry people show up at the council chambers. And that’s the way it should be.