Road with no name
Debate with no end in sight
Every road must come to an end, even those with no names.
But there seems to be no end in sight to the controversy over a nameless road, which runs parallel to Columbus Drive through Carbonear.
Last week council made yet another controversial decision which could come back to haunt them.
In its wisdom, or lack thereof, council has decided to grade the nameless road. The move effectively means the town is now grading and maintaining a road, which it does not recognize as a town road.
The motion to grade the nameless road squeaked through by the slimmest of margins, and not without some debate.
Be f o r e voting against the motion, deputy mayor Ches Ash raised some legitimate concerns.
Ash suggested correctly the motion is “contrary to a motion council passed earlier this year when we said we did not consider it to be a town road.”
Reminding council the road was to be used for emergency access (to Bunker Hill) during winter conditions only, Ash questioned council’s authority to grade a road that lies partly under provincial jurisdiction. Part of the nameless road lies within the road reservation for Columbus Drive, which comes under the province.
Mayor Sam Slade reminded council the town grades Line Road, Fox Farm Road and Gunners Pond Road once a year, and saw no reason the same couldn’t be done for the nameless service road.
The big distinction Ash saw between those roads and the nameless road is that they are recognized by the town as public roads, while the nameless road is “ not a road,” according to the town’s own earlier motion.
Under those circumstances, Ash said: “I don’t know if we even have the authority to grade it.”
Question: Does council know if it has the authority to maintain a road over which it does not have full jurisdiction, any more than it would have the right to maintain any other provincial road which runs through the town?
If it does, any confirmation of its authority to maintain the road was conspicuous by its absence at last week’s meeting.
By coincidence, Mayor Sam Slade happens to reside at the top of Bunker Hill, conspicuously near the west end of the nameless road.
Throughout the lengthy and protracted debate over the Bradburys’ application to build a home on nameless road - the issue which first brought the road into public focus - every time the issue was raised, mayor Slade would leave the council chambers because of a conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise.
That practice changed last December when, for the first time since the debate over the nameless road first surfaced, Mayor Slade remained in the chambers, after his fellow councillors agreed he was not in any conflict of interest just because he happens to live near the end of the nameless service road.
“If there was a major upgrade of that road being considered, maybe you would be (in conflict),” Coun. David Kennedy was quoted as saying at the time. “But this is only snow clearing, a service provided to every citizen.”
Fair enough, but snow clearing in winter and grading in summer are two different animals.
In giving the green light to council to resume snowclearing operations early in the new year, transportation officials acknowledged discontinuing such a service “ has been perceived as compromising emergency and snowclearing access to the steep sections of Bunker Hill.
“In light of the town’s stated intention to pursue a more permanent solution in the near future, the department views this as an acceptable short term solution for the remainder of this winter season.”
The sign council itself erected at the east entrance to nameless road at the top of English Hill makes its use crystal clear: NOT A PUBLIC ROAD ROAD MINIMIALLY MAINTAINED FOR EMERGENCY USE ONLY NON-EMERGENCY USE PROHIBITED USE AT OWN RISK What part of that sign does the mayor and council not understand?
Our understanding of the term “conflict of interest” is that an elected official is in a conflict when he or she stands to benefit from a decision he or she had a part in making. To avoid such conflict, or even the perception of same, people who feel they may be in a conflict usually not only abstain from voting on the issue, but also from discussing it. They also leave the meeting room during the discussion and debate.
Grading this road may not be considered a “major upgrade.” But even if mayor Slade only travels over that road once a day, every time he does so he cannot deny he is not benefiting from whatever improvement has been made to it — a decision which he himself helped to make.
And every time Mayor Slade or any other member of council passes that sign at the end of the road, unless they are using it for emergency purposes only, are they contravening of their own rules?
NON-EMRGENCY USE PROHIBITED
Does that directive apply to winter months only? If so, perhaps council should consider changing its sign, covering it up or removing it altogether for the summer.
In arguing in favour of grading the road last week, mayor Slade said, “if you’re going to use the road for emergencies, it’s got to be in half decent shape.”
We were under the impression the emergency use only pertained to winter, as per the transportation directive.
What kind of emergency could take place during the summer that would necessitate the grading of this road to allow emergency vehicles to use it?
Even though it has never been recognized as a town road, it’s also true the road has been graded in the past on an ad hoc basis. But it’s interesting to note, as far as can be learned, this marks the first time such work has been carried out as the result of a directive from council.
It’s highly unlikely anybody, especially those who never use it, will ever object to the grading of this nameless road. But citizens need to keep something in mind. Dep. mayor Ash’s concerns are valid ones. God forbid anything should ever happen on or near that road that would cause injury to anyone. But if, for example, conflicting headlights - one of transportation’s concerns - were to cause an accident on Columbus Drive, resulting in injury and possible lawsuits, guess who would be on the hook - the taxpayers of Carbonear.