Cost-cutting ditch costs Counties

By Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Cost-cutting ditch costs Counties
United Counties of SD&G building.

CORNWALL, Ontario – A move to save money in a major infrastructure project will result in costing more money.

During its November 15 meeting. SDG Counties Council discussed concerns about changes to the entrance of Strader Motor Sales in Morrisburg made in the construction of the roundabout and street-scape project.

Before construction, the used vehicle business had two entrances connecting it to County Road 2 and lost one due to construction.

“The ditch was one of the ones opened up to save money,” explained Michael Jans, manager of infrastructure for the counties. Jans told council that the ditch between the business and the road was safe and the transportation department prefers open ditches for storm water capacity.

Early this year, the counties had to go back to the drawing board when the original roundabout and street-scape project came in over-budget. SDG staff simplified the project, eliminating some curbing and choosing to keep many of the ditches open along the road.

Jans said that the business owner could fill-in the ditch at their own expense, but owner David Cassell was not happy with that solution, wanting the counties to pay for the changes.

The price-tag to restore the two entrances and fill the ditch is estimated to be about $36K.

Jans said filling the ditch was “Deemed beyond our budget.”

Councillor Steven Byvelds (South Dundas) said that he understood the county needed to save money on the project.

“The project actually looks like you saved money because it doesn’t look very consistent,” he explained. “It shows.”

When asked if Cassell had been consulted when SDG changed the entrance specifications, Jans replied “I did not personally consult with this landowner.”

Byvelds said that the county did “bend over backwards” to deal with other businesses on the north side of the road.  He went on to say that the changes made to the Strader Motor Sales property had reduced the value of the property.

Citing a lack of communication, the councillor said that the property owner should have been consulted,.

“If he had been consulted, maybe a better decision would have been made,” said Byvelds. “I believe this ditch should have been filled in from the start. It shouldn’t have been dug up and left the way it is.”

Byvelds alluded to previous communication issues by SDG. Earlier this year, council had to pass a bylaw to allow some driveways on County Road 18 in St. Andrews West to be returned to the pre-construction width after being altered by the counties.

“Another project where we take things away from people that they’ve had without even talking to them and it causes these issues,” Byvelds said.

Councillor Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas) agreed saying this issue could have been dealt with differently.

“If you are going to have communication at the start to let people know what is going on – then you pull the rug out from them and what they were told was going to be there is no longer there – I think it’s on us to fix that.”

Warden Allan Armstrong said it was disturbing to him what happened.

“To be blunt with you, that you will say that we had discussions with other people who were more vocal with their concerns. Because what that smacks of to people that are on the other side – and it has happened to me – because you didn’t complain you didn’t get your way or you didn’t get what you believed should be best for your business or to even have a discussion on it.”

Armstrong said he was sure what happened was not punitive. “But this gentleman didn’t have a discussion over it, and other people did because they were banging on the door. That’s not how we should do business.”

Council voted to support restoring the second paved entrance and filling the ditch, to be completed at SDG Counties’ expense.

This article was originally written for and appeared in The Morrisburg Leader.

Share this article