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Woolwich to force sidewalks on residents as part of Elmira reconstruction project

Sidewalk

Even the potential loss of a third of the project’s funding failed to prompt Woolwich council to scale back a road reconstruction by, for instance, eliminating plans for new sidewalks opposed by residents.

Instead, the township will push ahead with a $2-million plan to reconstruct an area around Snyder Avenue North in Elmira.

In addition to pleas from residents to avoid inflicting harmful changes on their properties, councillors meeting Mar. 28 heard the township has yet to receive confirmation it will get $635,000 from the federal government to cover some of the costs. While confident the money is forthcoming, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley suggested putting off a decision until mid-April, noting formal approval of the job tender by council would establish a legal obligation to go ahead.

In a split vote, council awarded a $1.7-million tender to Terracon Underground Ltd. to carry out the reconstruction, along with another $118,000 for GM BluePlan Engineering to carry out the administration of the work.

As was the case at last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, both Ward 1 councillors – Scott Hahn and Patrick Merlihan – continued to press for the elimination of some new sidewalks, particularly on Snyder Avenue north of Riverside Drive.

Hahn noted some of the properties will suffer extremely negative impacts, including the loss of parking spaces that will essentially force homeowners to park illegally, either on the street or overhanging the new sidewalk.

The same arguments were made by three residents, two who spoke Tuesday night and another who sent a letter, to no avail.

“It doesn’t make sense to take parking away from people where nobody is going to walk,” said Ken Chalmers, noting the installation of sidewalks on both sides of the streets would serve only to inconvenience and anger residents.

Following up on last week’s presentation to council, William Street resident Jon Millar called for the township to hold off on a new sidewalk given that some of the proposed additions won’t connect to any other walkways.

The lone voice of support was Snyder Avenue resident Marc Christiaens, who pushed for more sidewalks, including on stretches of nearby Herbert and Samuel streets, which aren’t part of this reconstruction project.

“We need a place to walk. We need our sidewalks.”

Noting, however, that the sidewalks already in place aren’t over-used, Merlihan said adding more won’t suddenly turn people into pedestrians.

“There’s just a lot of wishful thinking … that if we build it, they will come,” he said.

“I think you go with the homeowners on this one,” he added of siding with residents’ concerns.

Now, having approved the project, the township will search around for possible alternative funding models should the federal money fall through. That will include drawing on reserve funds and/or savings from other projects, Kennaley suggested, calling it a “high-priority project” due to the lead pipes that are to be replaced.

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