By George Brown
Residents along 38th Street on the eastern edge of Ponoka have refused the offer of a local improvement plan to pave their street and want to negotiate a more favourable option with town council.
Council and the residents have been at loggerheads since the street was ripped up and rebuilt in 2006 when Ponoka tied into the regional water system. Before construction the road had some form of sealant applied to it, which satisfied the residents.
“This summer we’ve literally been choked out with dust,” explained Rick Bonnett, spokesman for the delegation of about 16 people who attended the Sept. 22 council meeting.
Not only are the residents fed up with the dust but also they are also concerned with speeding traffic and the volume of vehicles coming off Highway 53 and using 38th Street to go to the sanitary landfill.
One long-range plan would see Alberta Transportation continue to twin the highway and eliminate access from 38th Street. That could be as far way as 2050.
“We don’t see that as a viable option, to say that road’s going to be closed and the traffic’s going to be shut down,” Bonnett said.
Because 38th Street is considered a local road, council says it’s up to the residents who front onto the street to pay to have it paved, not taxpayers at large. But Bonnet said the costs should be shared because of the non-local traffic through the area. Cost varies between $24,000 and $50,000 depending on frontage.
He told council residents have to vacuum and dust their homes daily and many residents have developed respiratory difficulties because of the increased dust due to the dry weather. “It’s been a summer of discontent, let me tell ya.”
Bonnet said the residents want to see the town grow and prosper put wonder why any neighbourhood in town should have an unpaved road. He questioned whether the town is prepared to service the land it wants to annex from Ponoka County if it still has this unresolved issue 20 years after the area was annexed.
Coun. Marg Barr told the residents that at the time their neighbourhood was built, developers were not required to pave roads and install concrete sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
But minutes of a council meeting Nov. 24, 1987 indicate that a specific resolution of town council exempted the developer from providing those improvements on 38th Street. No reason was given.
“Pavement in town in residential areas is not reflected on your taxes, it’s reflected in the cost of your lots initially, that’s all,” Barr said.
Barr said the municipality was obligated to make the residents aware of the cost of the local improvement. “If you wanted pavement you would have to pave for it.”
“Everybody wants pavement, everybody wants sidewalks, everybody wants curb and gutter,” Bonnet replied. “But at those kinds of costs you can’t do it.”
Residents would rather have the street closed off to traffic, he said.
Councillors were receptive to possibly closing the street at either Highway 53 or 40 Avenue but not until it could be determined where the traffic would go instead.
Stan Baliant, director of property services, said depending on the type of dust abatement process is used, “there’s still no guarantee it will last more than a year,” requiring an annual re-application.
Coun. Doug Gill suggested council review the possible types of surfacing that could be applied to 38th Street and the options to control traffic in the neighbourhood and present them to the residents for consideration.
That was acceptable to Bonnet, who is “looking forward to some options and some negotiating.”
Early in the meeting Bonnet asked: “Why can’t we have the surface back that we had before?”
After the delegation left the council chamber, Baliant was asked for an answer. “They never paid for the original surfacing,” he said. “They’ve never paid for any surface on that road.”
It was cheaper for the town to oil the road periodically when oil cost $14 a barrel not $72, Baliant offered.
“Anyway you look at it, it’s going to be a cost to these residents,” Coun. Jack Surbey said. They are going to have to pay for whatever form of road surface they eventually decide they want.