Agriculture trumps tourism on bridge issue

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Council nips highway bottleneck in the bud

In a 5-4 vote Wednesday, Norfolk council decided it will replace the defective Bailey bridge on Norfolk Road 45 south of Langton with a two-lane prefabricated concrete structure. Some on council wanted something more quaint such as a single-lane metal bridge of the kind that dotted the local countryside 100 years ago.

Agriculture scored a narrow win over tourism at Norfolk council Wednesday.

In a 5-4 vote, council voted to replace the Bailey bridge on Norfolk Road 45 east of Highway 59 with a two-lane concrete structure.

The vote settled a debate over whether the defective bridge should be replaced with a quaint, single-lane pony-truss style structure or a heavy-duty structure that can accommodate trucks, large tractors and their implements, and high-speed traffic.

In December, some on council suggested the installation of an old-fashioned steel bridge. Mayor Kristal Chopp said many find these bridges interesting and attractive and will drive long distances to check them out.

Others on council worried about creating a bottleneck on a county road where busy farmers don’t have time to drive around the concession to get to their fields.

“Single-lane bridges are charming,” said Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus, who tabled the motion for the larger structure. “But we have to look to the future.”

Supporting the two-lane option in a recorded vote were Columbus, Langton Coun. Roger Geysens, Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts, Windham Coun. Chris Van Paassen, and Simcoe Coun. Ryan Taylor.

Supporting the single-lane option were Mayor Chopp, Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin, Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman, and Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele.

Chopp was disappointed with the outcome. As part of her mandate, Chopp intends to boost local tourism.

“I think we need to put our focus on tourism in Norfolk County,” she said.

Consternation was added to disappointment when council learned that staff’s investigation of the single-lane option – as directed by council Dec. 11 – resulted in a 91-page report performed by G. Douglas Vallee Ltd. of Simcoe. New members of council were shocked to hear that the report cost the county $12,000.

Chopp was bewildered that Vallee Ltd. did the investigation when the Dec. 11 resolution directed county staff to do so.

The missing piece of the puzzle is that Norfolk council contracted out its structural engineering work to Vallee Ltd. in 2010.

Norfolk County does not keep a structural engineer on staff because of the high cost and because there is not enough work for them to do.

Norfolk out-sources this work to Vallee Ltd. on a needs basis and that is what staff did in response to the Dec. 11 resolution.

“I’m confused how an engineering firm was hired without the direction of council,” Chopp said.

Martin and Huffman were also disappointed with the expense. They both said they will be more careful in the future to ascertain costs before voting for these investigations.

For his part, Masschaele supported the single-lane bridge option because that is $200,000 less expensive than the two-lane prefabricated replacement.

Wednesday’s resolution came during council’s day-long discussion of the rate-supported water and sewer budget for 2019 and the county’s 10-year capital budget.

Masschaele said council had made little headway Wednesday trimming anything from the capital budget and should take the $200,000 in savings that presented itself.

All budgetary deliberations this week are tentative in advance of Norfolk County’s consolidated, levy-supported budget deliberations at the end of the month.

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