A recommendation from municipal staff to council that would change the way summer road maintenance and winter snow removal are funded for unmaintained roadways and private roads drew a large crowd to the council chamber on Monday, July 17.
The recommendations to discontinue the allocation of municipal funds for the private road and unmaintained roadways, and to enter into negotiations with local road associations to either establish a Municipal Service Agreement (MSA), or to sell the land allowing for condominium associations to be created to oversee road maintenance, were made as part of the service delivery review initiative that began last year.
“Prior to amalgamation, the former St. Vincent and Sydenham Townships provided financial support for summer road maintenance and winter snow removal to a number of beach and cottage road associations. This practice continued after amalgamation for the same pre-existing road associations,” Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman noted in his report to council.
Chapman explained that currently beach and road associations in the municipality receive financial assistance via road maintenance allotments for maintenance expenses for private roads and unmaintained rights-of-way throughout the year, though he noted that the process isn't fair as just one of the nine private roads in the municipality currently receives funding.
While the dollar value of the funding is minimal, at less than $30,000 per year, Chapman said that insurance and liability are the primary concerns.
“During a review of services provided to the Beach and Road Associations in 2011, and through a meeting with one association, the provision of services to the Associations were “flagged” by staff with regards to insurance and liability surrounding the maintenance of these roads. Staff reviewed the concerns with the Municipal insurer, Cowan Insurance, at that time. It was suggested that a Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) be developed highlighting the responsibilities of the associations and the need for insurance. The agreement would outline the Association’s responsibilities as well as the Municipality’s in these situations and would serve to protect all parties. The MSA was never instituted as a best practice however two beach road associations, Kiowana and South Kiowana, both have purchased annual insurance policies which are claimed as part of the expenses for the annual allotment,” Chapman explained.
As a result, staff made four recommendations to council at their July 17 meeting. Two of those recommendations involved the discontinuation of road association allocations for private roads and unmaintained roadways. Council was hesitant to vote in favour of discontinuing the funding before the other two recommendations were implemented, and so they removed the items from consideration for the time being.
Council gave initial approval for the two remaining recommendations as follows:
On the unmaintained rights-of-way known as Fraser Street, Lakeshore Road, South Georgian Beach Road, North Georgian Beach Road, Cedar Avenue, and Sunset Beach Road, direct staff to negotiate with the road associations, before November 1, 2018, the option to either:
a. Enter into a Municipal Service Agreement stipulating responsibilities of the association and the requirement for insurance; or
b. Sell the right-of-way for a nominal fee contingent upon the creation of a common elements condominium to oversee the maintenance and operation of the access; or
c. Where neither option a or b has been elected, enact a local improvement by-law for the construction of the right-of-way to a minimum municipal standard with the cost fully paid by the affected property owners, after which point the municipality will service and maintain the road section; and
Direct staff to develop a policy framework for private access roads utilizing provincial best practices to be adopted by Council before November 1, 2018.
Chapman told council that establishing municipal service agreements with the road associations will clearly delineate responsibilities of the municipality and road associations.
Councillor Mike Poetker noted that the lack of documented service agreements puts the municipality at risk of exposure to liability.
“It's a pretty big liability,” Poetker suggested. “I think this MSA is critical.”
The issue will be before council again at their August 28 meeting for a final vote.
Note: A correction was made to this article on July 19 at 2:00 pm. The originial article stated the issue would be before council at their August 24 meeting, however the correct date is August 28. We apologize for the error.