Iqaluit councillors square off on boulders and posts

“To remove them would be reckless”

By PETER VARGA

The future of Iqaluit's boulders and posts again came up in a May 14 city council meeting. (FILE PHOTO)


The future of Iqaluit’s boulders and posts again came up in a May 14 city council meeting. (FILE PHOTO)

Do boulders and wooden posts on Iqaluit roadsides provide safety for pedestrians, or are they a roadside hazard?

That debate resurfaced at the Iqaluit city council’s meeting on May 14, when a motion by the Engineering and Public Works Committee of the Whole came up for vote.

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson completely resisted the idea of removing the barriers from roadsides until a better barrier is found to separate pedestrian walkways from vehicles.

“I have been walking around, and can say I am glad for the physical and visual barriers that are provided by the sidewalks we have now,” he said, referring to the protection boulders and wooden posts offer from vehicles travelling on unpredictable roads. “Until we have a replacement, I won’t support any motion to remove them.”

To clarify the motion’s intent, Coun. Joanesie Akumalik repeated the motion aloud at the May 14 meeting: “The committee recommend that the council remove the rocks and posts within the current five-year capital plan, contingent upon receiving legal opinion of their removal, and that a plan from public works identifying the current 40 per cent of the rocks and posts that can be removed immediately, be developed as soon as possible.”

The motion passed, with Stevenson voting against.

The “five-year capital plan” refers to $3.18 million for road and drainage upgrades for 2013-2017, to be decided on by the city’s department of engineering and the public works department.

Drafted at the engineering committee’s last meeting, May 7, the motion had its start when councillors questioned the director of public works, Keith Couture, about the need for boulders and posts, which separate roads from walkways throughout Iqaluit.

Couture had remarked that the barriers complicate snow-clearing and other public works operations, and several councillors added that they sometimes pose a nuisance to drivers.

Couture said the barriers were put in place in response to a coroner’s report, which advised that three deaths in 2000-2003 would not have occurred if barriers had separated a pedestrian walkway from the road.

Coun. Kenny Bell brought up the possibility of removing them, which gained favour when Couture gave the opinion that “30 to 40 per cent” of rocks and posts could be removed without having an impact on safety.

In view of the coroner’s report, Coun. Mark Morrissey suggested council should seek a legal opinion on the matter from the city’s lawyer, which was then included in the motion.

“I have read that coroner’s report,” Coun. Bell said at the May 14 meeting. “There’s approximately 10 recommendations in it that were never followed up on.

“There was at no time a recommendation to barricade the city streets,” he said, but simply “a recommendation to differentiate between sidewalks and roads.”

“The current capital plan does not cover paved sidewalks,” Stevenson replied, noting that the public works director recommended sidewalks as a replacement to the posts and boulders. Even so, “there is no financial plan to build these,” he said.

“Until we have some other form of sidewalks in place, to take them out beforehand would be irresponsible,” said Stevenson. “The division is not perfect but it works better than no division, and to remove them would be reckless in my mind.”

Coun. Terry Dobbin suggested the plan to build sidewalks throughout Iqaluit was doubtful, given the budget available. He recalled that the director of public works recommended the entire road network of Iqaluit be rebuilt “from the ground up” with a capital plan of $3.18 million over five years.

“That’s peanuts,” he said. “That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the funds we need.”

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