Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bridge costs infuriates Timmins city council

“Let’s sue the government.”
That comment from councillor Mike Doody was one of the suggestions that came out of heated debate Monday night when Timmins city council learned that the cost of repairing the Barber’s Bay Bridge on Highway 67, is going to be millions more than expected.
When council debated the issue one year ago, the cost of the project was estimated at $2.5 million.
At Monday night’s council meeting, city engineer Luc Duval told council the project is now closer to $5 million.
Highway 67 is the most direct highway link between Timmins and hundreds of shoppers and employees who live in Iroquois Falls, but travel to Timmins each day.
Timmins has only $1.5 million set aside for the project. To move ahead and build a new bridge, the mayor told council Timmins would have to borrow from $2.4 million to $3.5 million.
This infuriated several council members who have argued all along that the road should not be a municipal responsibility. The road was “downloaded” to Timmins in 1999 by the Ontario government.
“Thank you Mike Harris, wherever you are…” Doody muttered with a hint of sarcasm.
Doody said that after reviewing the options, maybe council could consider shutting the bridge down and forcing the province to take notice. Doody said the government had no business downloading that portion of road in the first place.
Doody said there could be a good argument made to sue the province.
“If we think we can make a case to have it uploaded (returned back to the province), we shouldn’t be afraid to go to court,” he told council.
“You know, there comes a point when they (Queen’s Park) ask you do to do certain things that are just not viable to the taxpayers of our community.
“I don’t know how we’re going to pay for this,” said a visibly upset Councillor Denis Saudino.
“We have zilch, nothing,” said Saudino. “When are we going to take a stand with the province and say ‘look, we can’t afford it’,?”
Despite the anger over the growing cost of the project, the consensus at council appears to be to move ahead with the project as soon as possible and to continue fighting the government for additional money.
Mayor Laughren reminded councillors that if Timmins decided to ignore the bridge project and eventually shut down Highway 67, it would force all traffic onto Highway 610. Laughren suggested that large logging trucks would have a serious impact on Highway 610.
Councillor Gary Scripnick was concerned that the cost of the project was inflated because contractors are busy enough with other large projects that they can demand a higher price. In this case, contractors have indicated the price would be $1.5 million higher.
Scripnick said council might consider holding off for a year or two to give the city more time to negotiate a more reasonable contract.
But engineering manager Seguin told council there have been “punch through failures” on the deck of the bridge already.
Council will also have to debate whether to close the road for one whole summer, to allow for the re-construction, or two keep one lane of the bridge open to traffic while construction continues.
The cost of keeping one lane open during construction will cost an additional $1 million.
Mayor Laughren has requested a report from engineering on how a temporary closure of the bridge will affect such community partners as police and fire services in the Barber’s Bay area.

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