Roundabout project delayed until next year

SDG – Monday, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry formally approved its funding agreement with the Federal and Provincial governments for the Morrisburg roundabout and street-scape project. But that project will not begin until 2021.

As first reported last week in The Leader, the Federal government approved its share of the funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, 10 months after the Provincial government recommended the project located at the intersection of County Roads 2 and 31.

SDG councillors decided during their June 15th meeting to defer tendering the project until early in 2021, citing concerns over tendering the project later than normal in the construction season.
Initially, Ben de Haan, director of transportation and planning services for the counties, said that his plan was to tender this summer and begin construction this fall, with the project wrapping up in spring 2021.

“Is this the right time to bid it out,” asked Councillor Steven Byvelds (South Dundas). “I don’t really want a construction ‘disaster’ over the winter of 2020-21.” He added that residents dealt with that when Lakeshore Drive was rebuilt.

“I caution Counties on doing so,” said Byvelds. “A vast majority of contractors have their projects decided. We ran into this with the Ontario Street project.”

South Dundas originally tendered work for the ongoing Ontario Street water and sewer project in mid 2019, with tender bids exceeding the project budget.

“It would not serve our residents well to start now,” said Councillor Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas).

“If we can pick the timing that’s most efficient, that would serve our residents well.”

Byvelds and Gardner found support around the council table for delaying the $2.5 million project until the 2021 construction season.
“We don’t know what is going to be happening with tourist traffic,” said Councillor David Smith (South Stormont).
“I think our colleagues are smart to not spread this project over a couple of seasons,” said Councillor Carma Williams (North Glengarry). “It makes it a much more complex project.”

Funding for the project includes $1.52 million from the Federal government and $1.01 million from the province. The remaining cost of the project is to be split between SDG and South Dundas.

Council voted in favour of deferring the project until 2021 but did back de Haan’s request to contract EVB Engineering to handle finalizing the project design. Much of that work has been on hold at the County as administration tries to recruit a Manager of Infrastructure for the department.

“The challenge is we’re challenged to get that project out the door,” he told council. “There are minor revisions, and a final public review of the design. We don’t have the resources to do it.”
de Haan told council that administration was in the process of filling the Manager of Infrastructure position. Councillors supported a motion to hire EVB at a cost of $2,500 per week for approximately eight weeks, if administration wanted to use the firm to complete the design work.

Communications criticized

During the County Council discussion of the Morrisburg Roundabout project, Byvelds criticized county staff for how it handled announcing the project.

“I think a formal announcement from the Counties along with South Dundas would have served us all well,” Byvelds said. “We only had a little blurb about this last week in the Morrisburg paper because one of their keen reporters figured it out fast.”

He said that both SDG and South Dundas communications departments could have been utilized to make an announcement.

“It’s a big project for SDG and South Dundas, bragging sometimes is a good thing,” Byvelds added. “We don’t get a lot of accolades.”

He said that he is looking forward to the “Golden Shovel” ceremony with Federal and Provincial representatives when the time comes.

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County sees surplus

SDG ended the 2019 fiscal year with a $2.4 million surplus according to auditor Ian Murphy with MNP.

Murphy warned councillors that the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown.

“We anticipate this outbreak may cause reduced customer demand, supply chain disruptions, staff shortages, and increased government regulations all of which may negatively impact the Counties’ financial condition.”

The surplus funds from 2019 were transferred into the capital reserve to be dealt with at a later date. In May, County Council established a $500,000 reserve to help with mitigating the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential revenue hits the county is facing include reduced provincial offences monies and property tax payment deferrals.

Newspaper digitization

The second year of the County’s newspaper digitization project will continue this year as council awarded Image Advantage Solutions from Mallorytown a $76,500 contract for digitizing 90,000 pages.

The project, which began in 2019, is in partnership with the Dundas County Archives, Glengarry County Archives, and the Lost Villages Historical Society. Last year, over 85,000 pages from newspapers including the Glengarry News, Chesterville Record, and The Leader, along with defunct newspapers like the Winchester Press, Mountain Times, and the Iroquois Chieftan were digitized.

The photo collection and records of the Lost Villages Historical Society are also being digitized in this project.

County Council budgeted $100,000 for the project during the 2020 budget process.

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