Bat­tle of Bunker Hill con­tin­ues

No Christ­mas cease­fire in war of words be­tween cit­i­zens and coun­cil

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

In its fi­nal pub­lic act for 2009, the Carbonear Town Coun­cil passed a con­tro­ver­sial mo­tion last week, which will ef­fec­tively see res­i­dents of Bunker Hill lose a ser­vice they have en­joyed for years - snow clear­ing of a ser­vice road which gives them ac­cess to the steep and nar­row hill from the top rather than the bot­tom.

The mo­tion passed by a slim 4-3 ma­jor­ity, but not be­fore con­sid­er­able and some­times heated de­bate at a rau­cous Dec. 21 pub­lic coun­cil meet­ing dur­ing which a ci­ti­zen re­ferred to Coun­cil­lor Gla­dys Mercer as “a witch” be­fore storm­ing out of the coun­cil cham­bers.

Coun. Mercer had made the mo­tion, sec­onded by coun. David Kennedy. Coun. Ed Goff and deputy mayor Ches Ash also voted in favour, while mayor Sam Slade and coun­cil­lors Ge­orge Butt and Betty For­ward op­posed it. In part the mo­tion reads: “ Whereas the town of Carbonear does not con­sider the ser­vice road be­yond 55 Bunker Hill to be a town street, and

Whereas the town has re­ceived le­gal ad­vice from the town’s lawyer of the li­a­bil­ity con­cern with coun­cil’s main­te­nance of this sec­tion of road, and

Whereas the town is in re­ceipt of in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the depart­ment of trans­porta­tion re­gard­ing the safety con­cerns of the lo­ca­tion of this sec­tion of road;

Be it re­solved that the town...will not take the re­spon­si­bil­ity of main­te­nance of or snow re­moval ser­vices to that ser­vice road, and

Be it fur­ther re­solved that the town will in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble so­lu­tions with the town’s lawyer and the depart­ment of trans­porta­tion to re­duce the risk of li­a­bil­ity to the town so that the sec­tion of road can be cleared for emer­gency pur­poses only.”

The mo­tion also states the town

“con­sid­ers this mat­ter to be an ur­gent con­cern, and would re­quire a prompt re­sponse from the depart­ment of trans­porta­tion and the town’s lawyer...”

Pe­ti­tion

Coun. Ge­orge Butt, who voted against the mo­tion, also pre­sented a pe­ti­tion on be­half of the Bunker Hill res­i­dents.

Re­fer­ring to the name­less ser­vice road, the res­i­dents pointed out the sec­tion of road is not only used by res­i­dents of Bunker Hill but by many town res­i­dents and tourists wish­ing to take ad­van­tage of its view.

“ The town it­self also uses this road through the win­ter months to make eas­ier ac­cess to Bunker Hill for snow re­moval. Af­ter heavy snow falls of­ten the plough can­not clear the snow up­hill, but has to clear it in a down hill mo­tion.”

Res­i­dents found it “odd that af­ter all th­ese years there seems to be a need to cease the ser­vic­ing of this road.”

Point­ing out, “the town has ser­viced this road for the past 30 plus years,” they noted: “ Through the work of all past coun­cils it has gone from a cart path to a vi­ably used road.” They feel “this sud­den ces­sa­tion of up­grade ser­vice is a sud­den prej­u­dice against us that use the road.”

The pe­ti­tion, signed by over 100 res­i­dents, calls upon coun­cil to “ have up­grade ser­vices im­me­di­ately and without prej­u­dice re­in­stated to this piece of road.”

Coun. Butt who was re-elected to coun­cil in Septem­ber, af­ter a one-term ab­sence, was first elected to coun­cil in 1983.

While he ac­knowl­edged it was never a top pri­or­ity, coun. Butt said it had al­ways been ploughed. “I don’t agree with not plough­ing it now,” he added.

“ That road has been ploughed for the past 26 years, “ coun. Butt told the meet­ing. And we’ve had sit­u­a­tions where am­bu­lances and fire trucks have used that road to ac­cess Bunker Hill.

One res­i­dent who could vouch for that fact was Mrs. Par­sons, who re­lated a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that occurred 28 years ago. Her daugh­ter had been born pre­ma­turely and some­times needed oxy­gen. One stormy night she had to call the am­bu­lance, which could not get up the hill. So it went around, us­ing the ser­vice road and ac­cess­ing the hill from the top. Hav­ing that ac­cess from the road al­lowed the am­bu­lance to make it to her home on time. “If not,” Mrs. Par­sons said her daugh­ter wouldn’t have lived.

No con­flict of in­ter­est

For the first time since the de­bate over the name­less ser­vice road first sur­faced ear­lier this year, Mayor Sam Slade re­mained in the chair, af­ter his fel­low coun­cil­lors de­cided he was not in a con­flict of in­ter­est just be­cause he hap­pens to live at the top of Bunker Hill near the west end of the ser­vice road.

“I don’t think you’re in a con­flict, coun. David Kennedy told the mayor, adding, “if there was a ma­jor up­grade of that road be­ing con­sid­ered, maybe you would be. But this is only snow clear­ing, a ser­vice pro­vided to ev­ery ci­ti­zen.” Deputy mayor Ches Ash and coun. Ge­orge Butt agreed.

Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Cyn­thia Davis told coun­cil when she checked with the depart­ment of mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs she was told some cases of con­flict of in­ter­est are clear and ob­vi­ous. But in this sit­u­a­tion they couldn’t com­ment on whether or not the mayor was in any con­flict.

Deputy mayor Ash sug­gested con­flict is such a se­ri­ous mat­ter, that if in fact the mayor in­volved him­self in an is­sue in which he was found to be in con­flict, it could re­sult in his dis­missal. “I would not want to put the mayor in dan­ger of be­ing dis­missed be­cause we gave him the wrong in­for­ma­tion,” Ash said.

Point­ing out the depart­ment had ad­vised that in this case it was up to coun­cil to de­cide if a con­flict ex­isted, Davis said, she (depart­ment spokes­woman) “didn’t think this would be some­thing the min­is­ter would over­rule.”

Full house

The coun­cil cham­ber was packed with over 30 up­set res­i­dents in­clud­ing two del­e­ga­tions with per­mis­sion to ad­dress coun­cil.

Cyril Win­sor, who lives next door to mayor Slade said, “Gla­dys seems to think it (road) had never been ploughed,” re­fer­ring to coun. Mercer.

“ There is no need of get­ting into a shout­ing match here,” mayor Slade said from the chair.

Hand­ing out let­ters to all coun­cil­lors from four for­mer plough op­er­a­tors, Win­sor said, “if you turn this down now, this is wrong.”

He said, “older cou­ples on the hill are re­ally con­cerned about get­ting this road ploughed. They’re ask­ing, “why are we pay­ing taxes?” I got wa­ter I can’t drink. I’m pay­ing $1,700 a year up there.” Sug­gest­ing he thought this new coun­cil were go­ing to do more for the peo­ple who elected them, Win­sor said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you peo­ple, but we ain’t goin’ to take it. If we don’t get what we want, I’ll form a cit­i­zens’ com­mit­tee,” he threat­ened, “and we’ll be down here ev­ery day to bust your butts. I’m re­ally mad - this is a pile of shit.”

When asked to tone it down, Win­sor replied, “th­ese guys re­ally make me mad - cer­tain peo­ple on this coun­cil make me mad. If you guys think you’re goin’ to get away with this and we’re goin’ to put up with this, we’re not.”

Coun. Gla­dys Mercer asked for­mer coun­cil­lor and works su­per­in­ten­dent Jim Bur­den if that par­tic­u­lar road (ser­vice road) was on the list of roads to be ploughed as part of the reg­u­lar rou­tine.

“It was part of the reg­u­lar rou­tine af­ter all other roads were ploughed,” Bur­den re­sponded.

“ Were you aware it was not a town road but part of the depart­ment of trans­porta­tion’s road reser­va­tion?” she con­tin­ued.

“I wasn’t in­ter­ested in who owned it - since 1980 we ploughed it,” Bur­den replied.

Diane Chubbs has lived on Bunker Hill for 32 years. “I don’t un­der­stand why, all of a sud­den, the tak­ing away of plough­ing of Bunker Hill,” she said

Bologna!

Coun. Mercer said, “I know the road was ploughed. But that’s not the is­sue now. In the last six months we have been given in­for­ma­tion we never had be­fore - that the road be­longs to the pro­vin­cial depart­ment of trans­porta­tion as part of the road reser­va­tion for Vet­er­ans Memo­rial High­way. By plough­ing the road now, we would be putting le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity onto the town,” she ex­plained.

“I’m not against the peo­ple of Bunker Hill,” coun. Mercer tried to as­sure them.

“Bologna! Cyril Win­sor shouted. “ You’re only mak­ing peo­ple mad here.”

Un­be­liev­able ser­vice re­duc­tion

While be­ing de­clared not to be in a con­flict of in­ter­est al­lowed mayor Slade to re­main in the mayor’s chair for most of the de­bate, when it came to get­ting in­volved in the de­bate him­self, he had to take a seat with the del­e­ga­tions and al­low deputy mayor Ash to take over the chair.

In his 16 years on coun­cil, mayor Slade said, “I’ve never seen coun­cil re­duce a ser­vice to its cit­i­zens to this mag­ni­tude.” “ This is un­be­liev­able!” the mayor ex­claimed. Had this road not been ploughed all along up to this point, and the cit­i­zens were ask­ing for it now, Slade said, “I would be the first to say no. But it is con­sid­ered to be a re­duc­tion of ser­vices, a down­grad­ing of ser­vices, which I will not sup­port.”

Point­ing out, “ that road has been ploughed ev­ery year,” the mayor said, “ for some rea­son or other coun­cil don’t seem to be­lieve what I’m say­ing is true.”

Never think­ing he would see the day when coun­cil would ac­tu­ally be re­duc­ing ser­vices to its cit­i­zens, mayor Slade said, “I’m not happy with this and I’m not go­ing to par­tic­i­pate in it. Let’s en­hance ser­vice, not re­duce it!”

The mayor re­minded coun­cil that while this road was be­ing ser­viced (in­clud­ing plough­ing) for a long time, “ the depart­ment of trans­porta­tion didn’t tell coun­cil not to ser­vice this road.”

As for the “so called con­flict­ing head­lights,” Slade sug­gested a guardrail would elim­i­nate that prob­lem.

“If Bunker Hill is get­ting a re­duc­tion in ser­vices to­day, who is it go­ing to be to­mor­row?” the mayor won­dered.

When coun. Mercer sug­gested this is­sue never came up be­fore six months ago, mayor Slade said it did.

“I don’t re­mem­ber it (com­ing up be­fore),” she con­tin­ued.

Worst road

While the crowd were in an an­gry mood, they did give coun. David Kennedy a round of ap­plause when he ad­mit­ted that hav­ing trav­elled the 650-me­tre length of Bunker Hill, “ it is the worst road in Carbonear.”

De­bra Brad­bury, who has been try­ing un­suc­cess­fully to get a per­mit to build a home on the name­less road said Don Bren­nan of trans­porta­tion told her if the town wanted to up­grade the road it needs to be moved back over two me­tres.

She said trans­porta­tion said they “ knew noth­ing about that road be­cause it’s not in their in­ven­tory.”

Brad­bury ar­gued it has been known for three years and saw “no rea­son it can’t be up­graded to the way it was.

“ Do you guys (coun­cil) fol­low your own ( town) plan, or only when it’s con­ve­nient?” Brad­bury asked coun­cil.

When Brad­bury said she had been speak­ing to Brian O’Grady about the road three years ago, the di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions and pub­lic works said that couldn’t be be­cause he has ac­tu­ally been in that job for less than two years.

Brad­bury wanted to know, “ why can you plough 45 feet into that hill, as far as the top of Squibb’s Hill, but not all of it?

At one point dur­ing the de­bate, af­ter coun. Mercer had spo­ken, Cyril Win­sor re­marked, “she won’t shut up! She should leave this g.d. hall, not me!

Ac­knowl­edg­ing he would prob­a­bly be asked to leave any­way, Win­sor shouted at coun. Mercer, “ you’re a witch!” be­fore storm­ing out of the cham­bers.

Un­fair crit­i­cism

Dep. mayor Ash said, “the res­i­dents of Bunker Hill don’t have to con­vince me of the ben­e­fits of hav­ing that road ploughed.”

How­ever he felt the crit­i­cism of coun. Mercer was un­fair. De­fend­ing his fel­low coun­cil­lor, he said, “she’s do­ing noth­ing more than try­ing to take an hon­est look at this is­sue.”

The deputy mayor said, “ I’m very con­cerned with the way Mr. Win­sor con­ducted him­self here tonight. I don’t think he should be al­lowed back in the cham­bers un­til he apol­o­gizes to coun­cil and to coun. Mercer in par­tic­u­lar.”

As soon as the mo­tion was passed, Win­sor came to the door just long enough to shout to the res­i­dents: “I told you you wouldn’t get noth­ing here tonight.”

Dur­ing he meet­ing, coun­cil agreed to plough Ceme­tery Road in the north­east sec­tion of town, es­pe­cially dur­ing this time of year, when peo­ple are home and want­ing to visit fam­ily and loved ones buried in the In­ter­faith Ceme­tery.

That de­ci­sion prompted De­bra Brad­bury to ask The Com­pass out­side the cham­bers af­ter the meet­ing: “ You mean to tell me they’re go­ing to plough a road for the dead when they can’t even plough an­other one for the liv­ing?”

Coun­cil has now re­cessed for Christ­mas and New Year’s. The next pub­lic meet­ing is sched­uled for Jan. 11, 2010.

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