The new council in the expansive RM of Wallace-Woodworth will have to grapple with challenging gravel roads where heavy oil industry and farm equipment travel.
A delegation of four ratepayers from Ward 1, Larry Logan, Gary Draper, Sean Draper and Michael Draper, brought their concerns to Council at the regular meeting of Oct. 9.
“You can’t drive a vehicle down one of the roads at 90 kms and not end up in the rhubarb (ditch),” stated Larry Logan emphatically.
Council listened as ratepayers in the former Woodworth sector (Ward 1) detailed concerns.
Garry Draper said, “Not all that long ago the municipality of Woodworth spent a lot of money hauling fill onto Errol Road and built that up into a nice, crowned road. That’s gone! Completely gone.
“The graders used to pull up the shoulders and mulch it. That’s gone.”
He said progress on roads, made years previously, has been lost in recent years because the grading is not being done.
Reeve Denis Carter responded, “I personally have trouble with the [grading] rotation.” (rotation of what? Unclear)
Councillor Sandy Heaman said roads need to be improved. “Certainly your concerns have been brought to the table by the councillor that represents you.
“I can assure you that every one of the questions that you bought about Ward 1, the three of us (transportation committee) get about Ward 2 as well.”
Outgoing councillor from Ward 1 Murray Routledge addressed fellow councillors and the delegation, noting that the grader rotation was approved by council but is proving inadequate to get the job done.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “Going out of council like this, [roads] were not in bad shape two years ago… one of the contributing factors that I think we as councillors have to re-think, is how to keep two people on the grader.”
With eight graders in the RM, council agreed they were down about three-quarters of a staff position since amalgamation.
Carter said, “When we added the extra machine, it has done nothing more than cover up for holidays… it doesn’t really put the power out there like I thought it would. Do you agree with that?”
Heaman, “I’m going to say, I don’t even think it adequately covers holidays….”
Draper pointed out, the RM is not following their policy to grade all-season roads once bi-weekly.
“We’ve gone six to eight weeks without seeing a grader on the all-season road.”
He also questioned how often the roads are monitored, saying, “Errol Rd. is a main road. It’s got a heavy traffic use from the north out to Virden. It’s not being done otherwise it would be graded more often.”
Larry Logan pointed out that cutting the grass on the road edge is being done too early in the season. “You’ve got a guy out there, maybe the end of July. I think his time would be better spent running in that extra grader… when I first came on council, we never had a mower. The graders went around after the first snowfall and it was -10, with a wing down, reaching as far as they could.”
A point that had Carter nodding in agreement.
Draper had one more issue regarding potential water damage to a road in a Ducks Unlimited water control area near Steve Draper’s property.
“Ducks Unlimited took out the control there and put a low level crossing in. The last time that the water breached the lake there, it took that road out between lakes. Now there’s no control for the water coming from the north through there… if we get another high level spring, you’re going to loose that road because it can’t take the water.”
In an interview, CAO Garth Mitchell acknowledged, “In the four years since amalgamations we’ve had a couple of delegations with similar concerns, in both Wards 1 and 2.”
He said that keeping a crown on the roads is important, as is “making sure that we don’t again get caught without enough gravel on our roads when poor weather hits.”
While grader operators and other staff are the eyes of the municipality, they can’t check all the roads every day.
“A lot of times there are traffic patterns, things that happen that we are not aware of. It can be as simple as one or two farmers deciding to haul grain in a particular week.
“In Ward 2 we also have the oil traffic.” He said heavy equipment can change roads quickly.
He welcomes the eyes of the public.
“Our perspective, we’d rather have the heads up about a particular road starting to get beat-up. It may just be that we haven’t been there, or there may be a special reason.”