by Ashley Janes
Morinville – Children and other pedestrians near Morinville Public Elementary School (MPES) will benefit from some safety improvements after Council voted 4-1 in favour of a cost-sharing request from the school.
Claude Valcourt, Morinville’s Director of Public Works, presented Council with two cost-sharing requests from the school during the June 10 meeting.
The first request was for an extension of the northbound sidewalk on the east side of 101A Street in the hopes it will assist in reducing traffic congestion at peak periods where site lines for pedestrians are inadequate.
The second request was for a solar powered pedestrian crosswalk on the east side of 103 Street, so that those crossing will have a safer place to do so. “The children walking from the west end of town attending the school should be able to safely cross somewhere on 101 Avenue, west of 101A Street, and right now they cannot do that,” Valcourt told Council during his presentation.
Both the Town of Morinville and the school will contribute $17,700 to the two projects.
Valcourt also emphasized improvements would assist immensely with the MPES [crossing guard] Patrol Program, ensuring the student’s safety will be maintained while they perform their duties.
Council was given two choices as to where the money would come from before making the decision. The first choice was to obtain new money from outside of the current budget by accessing more grant funding. The second was to allocate money from the current sidewalk replacement budget of $125,000, monies Council approved earlier this year in budget deliberations.
Councillor Stephen Dafoe expressed concern about the effects removing money from the existing budget might have. “What neighbourhoods would not be done, or could potentially not be done, if we did this area?” Valcourt explained the area affected would be the same neighbourhood in question to receive the MPES upgrade, and that the deduction could possibly push the completion of other sidewalk repairs in that area to the following year.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein stated that she was not in favour of dipping into the existing budget, arguing that the neighbourhood sidewalks were flagged as a priority in need of repair prior to the MPES request. “It was identified an area of priority, and I know [the MPES proposal] is also a priority but I’m wondering: are we not meeting that first priority now, and then it gets left for another year and is potentially worse because we didn’t fix it this year?”
Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Oyarzun reminded Council the proposal had come up outside of the 2014 budget because the option arose for MPES to partner with the Town. “We’ve got an opportunity here to share in the cost, so if $17,700 is our half of it then typically it would be $30,000 … this creates an opportunity for us to get more done with less money.”
Ultimately, Councillor Turner put forth a motion to use new funding from outside of the current budget. “I think traffic safety, especially in and around school zones, is a real priority in the community and this partnership is a wonderful thing,” Turner said. All voted in favour except for Councillor Boutestein who explained that the 2014 budget was a tight budget and that she didn’t think there was room for the allotment. “I support the cause, I just don’t support taking any more money out of our budget for it,” she said.
Turner’s motion passed 4-1 Mayor Holmes and Councillor Rob Ladouceur were not in attendance at the June 10 meeting.