Clearview rejects county’s bridge funds offer
Township councillors vote not to accept $934,000 funding deal from Simcoe County for Collingwood St. bridge in Creemore
By Gisele Winton Sarvis Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin
At an emergency meeting of council Wednesday morning Clearview Township councillors voted 5 – 4 to reject the offer from the County of Simcoe to transfer ownership of the 102-year-old Creemore steel bridge to the municipality with $934,000 in funds.
“We rejected the county offer. We want to have a better number from them on the restoration as well as more time to work on the process,” said Clearview Mayor Chris Vanderkruys.
Vanderkruys and deputy mayor Barry Burton took the motion passed by Clearview Township earlier to ask for ownership of the bridge with the transfer of $1.5 million in funds to Tuesday’s county council meeting.
After about an hour of debate, the motion to transfer ownership with $934,000 was passed. That number represented the tax levy portion to the county of the bridge removal and rebuilding.
“We’ve given them an answer that they wanted by April 30. Everyone was comfortable with the $1.5 million and even that we don’t know the number. It’s hard to consider hitting the tax base with a large sum,” said Vanderkruys about the more than half a million dollar difference.
Vanderkruys said he hopes the motion passed at Clearview Wednesday will delay the project.
The County of Simcoe, which owns the bridge, had originally slated to rebuild it in 2016, but moved that up a year prior to the last fall’s municipal election, for reasons unknown, said Vanderkruys, who is a first term mayor.
“There is so many unanswered questions,” he said.
The previous council was in support of tearing down the single-lane Collingwood Street steel truss bridge and rebuilding it with a two-lane concrete bridge with steel trusses over the top for cosmetic purposes.
Citizens of Creemore have been lobbying both the municipal and county councils to restore the steel structure over the past four years because it makes Creemore unique, is historically significant and is a well-liked tourist attraction.
“People from all over the province have come just to look at the bridge,” said Burton who has been an ardent supporter of the council regaining ownership of the bridge and restoring it.
“We need to put a value on heritage,” he said.
“I defended our position of $1.5 million. We fought to get as much as we could,” he told council during the meeting.
Burton cautioned that the county may transfer ownership anyway after building its concrete plan that has already been tendered and added he doesn’t like the design for a couple of reasons other than the loss of the historical structure.
First, it’s a metre lower than the existing bridge, which leaves it subject to destruction in an extreme weather event, and two-lanes will speed up traffic in a school zone.
Coun. Doug Measures called the issue “frustrating.”
He said the total cost of restoration is unknown and a municipality of 14,000 has a limited ability to collect taxes needed for an expensive project. He also said the aging structure is a “huge liability” for the township to take on and said the township’s insurers haven’t even been notified about the bridge.
“There is a lot of questions to be answered,” he said.
Coun. Deborah Bronée concurred adding that the county is the level of government that should be responsible for the bridge. The township already owns 77 bridges.
The county should have looked at the possibility of restoring the bridge, instead of replacing it with a concrete structure, said Coun. Kevin Elwood.
“They chose not to fully assess the rehabilitation,” said Coun. Thom Paterson, adding that it was not responsible work on the part of the county.
“They knew they did not know how much the rehab would cost. The decision by county was not properly informed,” he said.
Paterson added that the county also ignored the fact that single lane bridges are endorsed by the Ministry of Transportation and the county’s “casual” estimate of the life of both the steel and the concrete bridges were not accurate.
Paterson moved the motion to reject the county’s offer.
“There’s lots of options. We need more time. We should reject the offer and they should do a proper assessment and come back to us,” he said.
Clearview council voted 8 – 1 on April 27 to support a proclamation of Simcoe Pride Week for July 31 to Aug. 8.
At the April 14 meeting, council voted to change the township’s policy, allowing for proclamations and/or flag raising where vetted through the mayor’s office and approved by council. Previous to that meeting the township’s policy was not to recognize any special events or organizations through proclamation.
Coun. Robert Walker was the only member of council to vote against the move. At an earlier meeting he said he didn’t support Pride Week because of his Christian beliefs.
Mayor Chris Vanderkruys said Simcoe Pride Week would be proclaimed through a plaque and not a flag raising “because we only have two poles.”
Poles outside the entrance of the 217 Gideon Street Clearview Administration Centre in Stayner fly the Canada and the Ontario flag.
There is another flag pole on the property adjacent to the parking area which flies the Clearview Township flag.
Clearview Community Radio
Clearview Community Radio which is based in Creemore but serves all of Clearview Township received approval from Clearview council to record and broadcast council meetings.
The non-profit radio station is currently being broadcast online atwww.clearviewcommunityradio.org.
The station being run by Sandra and Steven Green of Creemore are in the final stages of a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing that is expected to result in the station being approved by September.