By JIM PITT
Special to the VOICE
I take my dog out to do her business every night before her goodnight treat. While I’m waiting, I watch the evening light show across the way. It never varies. It’s almost mathematical in its precision. The street light in the distance is bright, then goes dark. After a few seconds a pulsing flash appears, grows stronger and then fully lights up, only to repeat the process.
It has been doing this for over two years. I was going to alert the authorities about it, but gave up. I had the same problem awhile back. I went on the Town web site to register the problem at the special page we must use to report such problems—we must do everything on line now; not enough employees I guess—but that didn’t work out, so I contacted the Town, by e-mail, and the light was repaired.
All over the province, communities are addressing the increasing cost of electricity by making changes to efficient electrical appliances and lighting. Many communities have finished this task. One of the areas of savings is LED streetlights. Municipalities and Regions are actively installing these energy savers and the payoffs are tremendous. Most are reporting 50-60% energy savings, and all applied for or are applying for provincial money to help pay for the changeover.
The Town has earmarked $400,000 for replacements lights in 2018. There will be a provincial election in June 2018. There may be a new government with different priorities than the present one. There may not be any grants for lighting next year. This Town has a very poor record of timing projects, arenas and the like, when it comes to applying for grant money. My light show might come to an end, but probably not until next year.
I bought a shiny red sports car last May. I like to drive around the area because the roads go through nice countryside and there are lots of curves. But I must be careful on a number of roads around this town. Not because of speed traps or traffic, but because of potholes, broken pavement, deteriorating shoulders, sunken utility hole covers and overzealous speed bumps. These are in need of immediate repair, but I’m thinking maybe next year. Getting around town has become a game of advanced planning and mapping out the route. The corner of Church Hill and Pelham Street is especially dangerous. We’ll have to wait for a traffic light—maybe next year— but in the meantime, I’m turning right, then left onto College Street. So are many others. I stay away from Poth Street altogether. I watched the Council meeting on July 24, the one where all save one councillor piled on Regional Councillor Baty concerning his call for a forensic audit. Before that feeding frenzy there was a presentation from a resident of Poth Street. He was frustrated with the lack of action he was getting concerning the road being closed. After some back-and-forth and assurances that studies were being done and engineering reports were imminent and fire trucks and snowplows had been notified and the ambulance service would be enlightened, it all came down to: maybe next year, even though it could be done this year. The Town employee reported as much when she stated that the NPCA and MNR had said they were awaiting Council’s approval. It was explained that the cost of the new culverts was $133,000, plus installation. Councillor Durley seems to not have heard that the NPCA and MNR were already onboard, because he explained that there were environmental hoops that had to be jumped through and the Town could be liable for any problems so the Town had to wait until next year. None of the other Councillors seemed to hear their own staffer’s statement either. It was clear that the Town does not have to wait for any apparent reason other than Council’s unwillingness to pay for the job.
What else is there to pay for?
Well, this year the Town’s priority is East Fonthill. The powers-that-be are spending upwards of $6 million on new infrastructure there. A road is being built from Summersides at Station Street to Wellspring. Station Street is getting a new water main and something called East Fonthill Block 2 is getting secondary road work. CAO Ottaway got his American bricks and still has his sights on the $200,000 art installation I call the rusty tree, plus an amphitheatre.
These are on the books as priorities. Why the Town is the developer is a mystery. So far it’s been a net drain with no payoff. Land purchases and road building are usually the jobs of proper private developers.
Meanwhile the Town is starting to look rather sloppy. Last November the Mayor was going on about urban sprawl. It seems that only now, after 200-plus years, has our little slice of paradise been properly put on the road to becoming a “complete community,” in the Mayor’s curious phrasing. When I read this it stuck me as a strange thing to say. He was bragging about all the new sidewalks, bike lanes and the little white empty bus that tours the town.
When we first moved here there were two shopping areas connected by sidewalks, with plenty of parking—the original downtown and the Plaza. Now we have five shopping areas with more to come. From west to east we have the Mossimo’s district, the original downtown, the Plaza, Sobey’s and LCBO, and the Food Basics district. To the south we have a new strip mall coming to Quaker and South Pelham, anchored by the new Circle-K gas bar. So now we have strip mall sprawl. Much more progressive, apparently, but you really do need a car and a lot of patience to gain access to them. And don’t forget to make a route map—it’s dangerous out there.
I suppose you could take the little white empty bus. There would be plenty of room for groceries and the like. Or you could take your bicycle or walk, but that gets tough around November. If you, like me, are starting to see a pattern regarding the way this town is functioning, you too might be thinking that sloppiness is on the rise. Many of the usual jobs that need doing aren’t getting done. The needs and requirements of a phantom community waiting to spring up in a field take priority over a real community that is paying for much needed services now. When will all of this end, you might ask. Maybe next year, starting right around October 22.